By Michelle Marchante & Rodrigo Miragaya
The Miami Herald published this piece on Sept. 24, 2016. It was also published by the South Florida News Service on Sept. 27, 2016.
A half-dozen Key Biscayne residents, motivated by issues from sea-level rise to high school choice, are seeking three open Village Council seats.
The candidates include: Violette de Ayala, the founder of FemCity; Allison McCormick, a former teacher; Brett Moss, the principal architect of Moss & Architecture Design Group; Katie Petros, a law office administrator; Ignacio J. Segurola, an attorney; and Rosemary Thornton, a media consultant.
With the exception of Moss, who ran for Village Council in 2014, all are first-time candidates.
The three candidates who get the most votes will join Mayor Mayra P. Lindsay on the dais, rounding out the seven-member council. Lindsay won her reelection for mayor earlier this year and will be serving her fifth term on the council.
The three seats are currently held by Edward London and Theodore Holloway, who decided not to run for reelection, and Michael Kelly, who has reached his eight-year term limit.
When Brett Moss, 36, and his wife graduated from Virginia Tech, they immediately set about moving to Key Biscayne, a choice they still delight in 12 years later.
“I do sailing,” Moss said. “I like to take my kids on the sailboat and take them around the bay and teach them how to navigate and work with different things on the sailboat, like the ropes.”
Moss has been active in the community as well, serving on boards such as Key Biscayne’s Chamber of Commerce and the Historical & Heritage Society and is the chair of the Education Advisory Board.
“We need people on the council that are involved and understand what is going on inside our village,” Moss said. “This is a good time where we are now transitioning to another generation that really needs to respect [Key Biscayne’s incorporation 25 years ago] and continue those good efforts.”
As an architect, Moss said he is no stranger to reading zoning codes, working with attorneys or seeing how to get things approved. In addition, since he lost his race for a seat in 2014, he said he’s been learning how the Village Council works.
“I go to 90 percent of the council meetings,” Moss said. “I really wanted to learn about how the process is looking and understand who is sitting up there and how they operate and all the different personalities.”
According to Moss, the way Key Biscayne is set up doesn’t motivate people to walk. He said he would like to explore how to make the village more pedestrian friendly. While Moss said he is concerned with what is going on with Marine Stadium and Virginia Key, he believes that sea-level rise is the true priority.
“We’re on a barrier island and water is an issue for us,” he said, adding the sooner a solution is reached, the less expensive it will be in the end.
Kathleen M. Petros
Kathleen Petros, 48, said she is running to be more involved in her community. Her work on the community dog park — she served as chair of the committee that facilitated it — sparked her interest in joining the Village Council.
Petros said she wants to help prepare the community for long-term issues, such as securing power lines underground, preventing beach erosion due to rising sea levels and working with other municipalities to regulate traffic off the Rickenbacker Causeway.
She said she also wants to continue the work the council has done to acquire land for public and green spaces.
A mother of three, Petros has served as the president of a parent-teacher association and as a local school board member. She also said she believes her work as a law office administrator has given her unique insights into the legal system.
Petros believes that given the high tax base, the Village Council should be able to not only balance budgets and maintain baseline facilities such as fire and police departments but also enhance the community and improve people’s lives.
“Trying to keep that small-town-community feel with first-rate services right next to a big growing metropolis like Miami is a global challenge for the village,” she said. “Everybody wants the benefits of growth without the aggravation.”
Ignacio J. Segurola
Ignacio J. Segurola, 42, has lived in Key Biscayne for 17 years and said he has seen it change tremendously.
“Key Biscayne is really a great place for families and kids because it’s in the Miami metropolitan area so you have all the benefits of Miami — a big city — but it’s separated enough that it has its own small-town feel,” Segurola said. “It’s definitely the best of both worlds.”
His law background, he said, is something he would bring to the dais, especially as the village is taking several municipalities to court over the Marine Stadium.
“Unfortunately, unless you’re a lawyer or dealing with it on an everyday basis, you can’t really get a grasp for it unless you have that knowledge specifically,” Segurola said.
While he agrees with the proposed renovation of Marine Stadium because it’s a unique “architectural gem,” he thinks its use as an entertainment venue could lead to a very dangerous problem both for residents and visitors.
Booking events every weekend — or even every other weekend — will cause traffic and safety issues on the Rickenbacker Causeway and in the village itself, he said.
“[T]he more traffic you add, there will be more accidents whether it’s car on car, car on cyclist or pedestrian, whichever way … more traffic will bring more danger,” he said.
Violette de Ayala
Violette de Ayala, 44, grew up in Miami but had long dreamed of the city south of the Rickenbacker Causeway.
“I was always obsessed with that island,” she said.
During high school, she said she would drive to Key Biscayne whenever she could. When she and her husband found a chance to move in 2007, they jumped on it.
In addition to running FemCity, a woman-focused networking and entrepreneurial business, de Ayala has served on the boards of directors of various organizations, such as the Angels of Mercy Hospital, the Dade Heritage Trust, Friends of Miami Marine Stadium and Bayfront Park’s Management Trust.
While this would be her first time as an elected official, de Ayala noted she has worked with government entities in the past. She worked with former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz’s office on a bicycle initiative and with current Mayor Tomás Regalado on various environmental campaigns.
De Ayala said she hopes to bring the community closer together, in part, by giving people more places to gather. In particular, she supports restoring the Calusa Playhouse and starting a trolley service.
“There are pockets of our community that stick to their pocket, and that’s not community thinking. Whatever your age group is, whatever your background is, this is a community and we should be together,” she said.
Her biggest concern though, is the traffic caused by the Marine Stadium and Virginia Key. Even though the areas are out of the village’s jurisdiction, de Ayala thinks residents should be more involved.
“Things in life are better when you have stronger relationships, and the less bureaucracy the better,” she said. “[But] we should have a seat at the table.”
Allison S. McCormick
Allison McCormick, 45, has a lengthy resume of community service. While this is the first time she has run for elected office, she has held positions on the Education Advisory Board and K-8 Center Parent Teacher Association in Key Biscayne as well as on the Community Involvement Advisory Council for Miami Dade County Public Schools.
Serving on these boards, she said, helped her learn about the inner workings of village politics and sparked her interest in joining the council. Her work as a teacher gives her a unique insight into the issues related to the school system as well as a passion for education, she said.
As a mother and an active community member, McCormick said she sees aspects of the community others don’t.
“I am concerned with the preservation of Key Biscayne,” she said. “We’re at an important point in our history. We must all work together to preserve the environment and the unique culture of Key Biscayne.”
McCormick has worked on initiatives with the Key Biscayne Community Foundation as well as the Chamber of Commerce to educate the citizenry on the history and culture of the area.
She said her experience, drive and enthusiasm combine to make her a strong candidate.
Rosemary Thornton, 48, said she is running to heighten awareness of overlooked issues. As a mother of two, she said she is worried about the lack of activities for teenagers and young adults in the village.
Thornton said the community center is a great resource, but added that many basketball teams and other activities only accept kids under the age of 14. With about 800 teenagers in Key Biscayne, Thornton said she wants the Village Council to provide more services to engage these residents.
If elected, Thornton said she would advocate for a new high school to give residents choices beyond long school commutes and Mast Academy.
“Coming from Nicaragua, I am a big proponent of education,” she said. “It is the only thing that nobody can take away from you.”
Having held a variety of media-related jobs for more than 20 years, Thornton said she understands the first step in solving a problem is bringing awareness to it.
“When you put an issue on the table, you start tackling it,” she said.
In particular, Thornton wants the Village Council to take up sea-level rise issues.
“The erosion of the shoreline worries me. We have to implement a plan to restore it now,” she said.