Two days before becoming Miami-Dade mayor, Daniella Levine Cava and aides pulled up to a Liberty City gathering of campaign workers and local Democratic Party leaders.
Sunday’s thank-you gathering turned into a small rally against gentrification when a man wheeled a wireless speaker to the lawn and handed the mayor-elect a microphone.
“We can’t just be building new things. We’ve got to be helping people who live in the homes right now. I’m all about neighborhood planning at the neighborhood level,” Levine Cava said, standing before a backdrop of herself, a campaign mural featuring the candidate. “We’ll find a way. With your help. And with God’s help.”
Elected after a campaign centered on her status as a Democrat in a blue-leaning county, Levine Cava, 65, now faces the challenge of scoring victories on the governance side of county politics as she succeeds Republican Carlos Gimenez as the government’s top administrator.
An environmentalist who donned a sequined “Water Warrior” cape for campaign ads on climate change, she inherits the nearly $900 million Water and Sewer budget that’s at the center of her plan to accelerate converting septic tanks to the municipal sewer system before sea-level rise swamps them.
An outsider during her two terms on the county commission, Levine Cava was left out of leadership posts and committee chairs by the board she now must corral for legislative wins.
“I think the pandemic does make it difficult to build relationships with new commissioners,” said Raquel Regalado, a former school board member and one of five incoming commissioners elected to seats left open by the first wave of retirements required by term-limit rules voters approved in 2012. “In a normal world, we’d all be sitting down and having coffee with her. And she’d be building a coalition.”
A former nonprofit executive and social-work administrator, Levine Cava has staked much of her success on building consensus.
Gimenez spent most of 2020 in a public feud with local mayors over COVID orders and CARES Act funding. The day after she beat fellow commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo Jr. by eight points in the mayoral election, Levine Cava joined Miami Mayor Francis Suarez for a Miami food-distribution event. (Miami Herald)