ampaign season is getting rolling, and Key Biscayne residents will see a lot more of the seven residents running for Village Council over the next couple of months.
Leading up to Election Day November 4, The Islander News will provide full coverage of how the candidates stand on the important issues facing Key Biscayne.
Thursday, October 23, The Islander and the Key Biscayne Chamber of Commerce will sponsor a Candidate Forum in the Council Chambers from 7-9 p.m.
Here’s an introduction to the six men and one woman who’ve offered to serve: current Mayor Frank Caplan, Luis de la Cruz, Dwight Hewett, Alex Lipzer, Brett Moss, H. Frances Reaves and current Council member Jim Taintor.
Mayor Frank Caplan
Caplan graduated with honors in government and sociology from McDaniel College, a small liberal arts school, where he developed an interest in how lobbyists influence policy and wrote his thesis on the tactics used by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He would go on to earn his law degree from Western New England Law School.
Although his degrees have already been earned, Caplan describes his education as “ongoing,” something he accomplishes by working through a list of meaningful books developed with the aid of a favorite professor and through his work as a volunteer and Key Biscayne Mayor.
Caplan has practiced law since 1981, starting with a judicial clerkship with the state appeals court in Massachusetts. After clerking, he spent a few years working with a law firm in western Massachusetts, writing contracts, litigating and learning about negotiation; then went in-house to work nationwide with a Barclays Bank affiliate based in Hartford, specializing in complex transactions involving institutions, professional firms and entrepreneurs of all stripes.
He then joined Morgan Lewis & Bockius for eight years, before starting with his current firm, Berger Singerman, which he described as his “extended family” for the past 20 years.
Caplan, a Baltimore native, has lived in Key Biscayne since 1987, and has extensive volunteer experience on the island. Prior to incorporation, he worked with a preparatory zoning committee and chaired the interim master plan committee. After incorporation, he chaired the then Council-established Master Plan committee.
Later, Caplan served on the Art in Public Places Board and 2020 Vision Committee, chairing the latter’s Evaluation and Appraisal Report subcommittee; he also chaired the Key’s most recent Zoning Ordinance Review Committee and Land Acquisition Committee. He is currently ending his second term as the Mayor of the Village of Key Biscayne. Through his role as Mayor, he serves as a director of the Miami-Dade League of Cities and on the South Florida Regional Planning Council, the statewide Regional Council Alliance and the Coastal Oceans Task Force.
Other past and present efforts include volunteering legal services via the Bar’s “Put Something Back” program, and working with a Cystic Fibrosis board, the American Cancer Society, Planned Parenthood, the Jewish Federation, the Maryland Historical Society, his law school’s Alumni Association and the Miami Design Alliance, which he founded with friends to sponsor lectures and socials around the topic of design in public life.
Caplan said there are both specific and general issues facing the next Council.
On the former, he listed Key Biscayne Community Center expansion, shared use of public spaces, 530 Crandon Boulevard and dog park solutions, boating incursions offshore, budgeting, changes in Calusa and Crandon parks, causeway safety, control over and protection of Crandon Park, MAST Academy evolution and space challenges at the Key Biscayne K-8 Center, library improvements, a needs assessment, the entry block, parking, traffic, road and storm water improvements, beach issues, planning and advocacy to deal with rising seas, and early planning for a new Bear Cut Bridge.
Meanwhile, Caplan said there are three fundamental issues facing the Key: adapting to change while maintaining existing values, cohesion among Council members and between residents and government, and building off-island relationships.
Luis de la Cruz
De la Cruz, a Coral Gables High School alum, earned his bachelor of science in civil engineering from the University of Florida.
After graduation, he spent two years with a real estate development firm and with the City of Miami as a Public Works Inspector, before returning to UF for law school.
Since earning his law degree in 1978 and joining the Florida Bar in 1979, de la Cruz has been an active practicing attorney in Miami-Dade County.
He partnered with Jeff Cutler in 1989 to form De La Cruz & Cutler, through which he focuses on real estate law. De la Cruz has been active in a number of professional organizations: he is a member of the Florida Bar, American Bar Association and Dade County Bar Association; and is a past member of the Coral Gables and Cuban American Bar Associations.
A Key Biscayne resident for over 35 years and previously a Coconut Grove resident, de la Cruz has been active in the former Key Biscayne Athletic Club as a Director, Sports Commissioner, Coach and mentor to other coaches.
Through his work with the KBAC, he helped start the travel baseball teams that compete with the top talent in the County; he also worked closely with St. Agnes Catholic Church to allow Village use of church playing fields and sports courts. On the latter, he helped to generate public support for lighting at the fields so they can be used for additional hours.
He is currently on the Board of Governors of the Key Biscayne Yacht Club and is a past chair of the Dock Committee at the KBYC; he also handles a number of pro bono legal cases and serves as a lector at St. Agnes.
While de la Cruz said his belief is elections should not be about one or two issues, and all issues before the Council are important in their own right, he said several topics stand out to him during the current campaign season: the continuing fiscal health of the Village; beach maintenance, re-nourishment and beautification; the dispute over the entry block; the MAST Academy high school; and finding the best site for the proposed dog park.
Hewett, who earned his bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida State University, is a commercial real estate broker and developer with an emphasis in adaptive re-use of existing and historic properties.
He has been a Key Biscayne resident since 1981, having moved to the island right after college. Hewett is a Florida native, growing up in Kingsley Lake.
Hewett’s volunteer experience started before incorporation when he worked with other activists to limit the size and scope of the Crandon Park Tennis Center, halting developers’ plan to build a stadium above the tree line and mow down much of the lush median separating the facility from the parking lot across the street.
After being closely involved in promoting the referendum for incorporation, Hewett helped organize the election for the first Council. He was also a candidate, ultimately losing in a run-off to Dr. John Handwerker.
More recently, he is immediate Past Commodore of the Yacht Club and still serves on the board.
Off the Key, Hewett is a past executive committee member and current board member for the American Red Cross, and worked closely with ARC military liaison to hire returning veterans. He is a founding board member of Main Street Florida, which promotes and preserves the charm, character and vitality of Florida’s main streets, having been appointed by the Secretary of State.
Hewett said several issues stand out to him this election season.
His top goals include making sound decisions related to Key Biscayne’s entry block, developing an outstanding dog park, burying local utility lines, partnering with the Key Biscayne K-8 Center to reduce or eliminate overcrowding, and ensuring efficient municipal operation while promoting a customer service-oriented staff.
Lipzer is a graduate of Jesus en el Huerto de los Olivos, a private high school in Buenos Aires. From there, he went into the real estate business, and currently owns his own agency as the Chief Executive Officer and a Realtor-Associate with Key Biscayne Realty Group.
The company is a member of the Key Biscayne Chamber of Commerce.
Lipzer and his company specialize in current marketplace trends, using the latest statistics to keep clients informed. They have a reputation for exceptional service and a track record of being leaders in the real estate industry.
Key Biscayne has been part of Lipzer’s life for nearly two decades.
He has been a resident for 10 years, but has been visiting Key Biscayne on a near weekly basis ever since he moved to Miami in 1987.
Lipzer said he sees a number of issues that will top the next Council’s list.
First, he hopes to see the Council improve the process of approving projects and getting them underway, noting he feels there should be a smoother process from approval to commencement.
Seniors are another top priority: Lipzer said retirees need more activities and attention.
Lipzer’s real estate experience also factors into his priorities, as he believes the Council needs to improve its knowledge on real estate, the highs and lows, and what affects the market.
Finally, he said the Council needs to improve the process on a variety of issues, including the dog park and parking access to the beach, both of which he described as pending issues that need to be followed up and acted upon.
Moss is a Florida Licensed Architect, a LEED Accredited Professional and a Florida Licensed General Contractor.
Currently, he is a practicing architect with Moss Architecture + Design Group, which he founded in 2010. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor at Florida International University, teaching graduate level design studio in the School of Architecture.
Moss earned his professional bachelor of architecture and master of architecture degrees from Virginia Tech, specializing in sustainable architecture and design; his master’s thesis, the 2005 Virginia Tech Solar House, earned numerous awards.
He also has an MBA and a Master of Arts in human resource management and is working on completing his Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Missouri’s College of Human Environmental Sciences with a focus in Architecture Studies, looking into sustainable community design and the relationships between people’s behavior and their cultural, social, environmental and economic environments.
A Key Biscayner since 2005, Moss was born and raised in Pittsburgh and lived in Blacksburg, Virginia; Bethesda, Maryland; Switzerland; and Venezuela.
Moss currently chairs Key Biscayne’s Education Advisory Board; is an active member of the Key Biscayne K-8 Center PTA, where he serves on the Facilities Committee; and belongs to the Key Biscayne Chamber of Commerce, serving on the Good Neighbor Award Committee. He also volunteers as a lecturer and critic, holds free architecture seminars for FIU and University of Miami students, is an acting member of the Masters Oversight Committee for Millennia Atlantic University’s MBA program, and serves on the Hospitality Committee for CREW (Commercial Real Estate for Women) Miami.
Focal points for Moss include improving Key Biscayne as a sustainable community and neighborhood for all ages; ensuring access, quality learning and excellent facilities at the K-8 Center and MAST Academy; reducing automobile traffic long-term and improving pedestrian access, walkability and public transportation; creating a cultural center with an auditorium, senior center and possibly a museum; and maintaining fiscal responsibility while addressing residents’ needs.
H. Frances Reaves
After spending her elementary and high school years in Brazil, Libya, Singapore, The Philippines, Colombia, Argentina and Peru, Reaves graduated from Texas Christian University and then UM Law School.
Reaves has practiced law for 10 years in Florida and Maryland. She started her career with the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development before moving onto ADP Mintax in their tax credit service department.
She was called back to MDBED as Assistant Secretary of Business and Economic Development, then returned to South Florida to start Latin America Connection.
Reaves first lived on the Key from 1985 to 1991, and she and her husband, Tom Koch, have had a home on the island for 15 years, visiting in the summers and winters while living in Baltimore. They have been back on the Key fulltime since 2010.
In South Florida, Reaves volunteers with the Key Biscayne Woman’s Club, the Christmas Fair, Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade County, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, and Key Biscayne Women’s Fund. She is secretary of the condominium board for Key Colony Phase II, Committee Chair for the Organization of Women in International Trade, and on the Coral Gables and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s International Committees.
She also maintains her volunteer work in Baltimore. She is a member of the Circle of Excellence in Maryland’s Top 100 Women and CORENET, an economic develop group; and Scholarship Committee Chair at Signal 13, which provides college scholarships to children of officers killed in action and children of Baltimore Police Officers.
Reaves volunteers with Planned Parenthood of Maryland; serves as president and chair of several committees of Network 2000, an invitation-only executive woman’s group; and is a Designated Master of Corporate Real Estate.
Reaves said several issues stand out for Key Biscayne this election season.
She looks to preserve and improve the Village’s “unparalleled” safe, comfortable lifestyle; keep government efficient without compromising citizens’ goals; address overcrowding and underfunding at the Key Biscayne K-8 Center; and keep local beaches clean, accessible and safe.
Council member Jim Taintor
Council member Jim Taintor is a product of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, graduating from Miami Edison High School. Taintor went on to earn his bachelor of arts from Emory University in Atlanta, and then obtained a Chartered Property & Casualty Underwriters insurance designation in 1974.
He has been a Miami-based insurance agent for over 48 years.
Taintor has lived on the Key since he got married in 1968, and has owned his Harbor Drive home since 1974. Born and raised in Miami Shores, he has lived in South Florida his entire life save for four years in college and post-college service in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.
Taintor has been involved in community service in Key Biscayne for over four decades, and has served on the Council for the past four years.
He served as Commodore of the Yacht Club and was a member of the incorporation committee, Village Insurance Committee and KBAC.
Taintor also works with the 4th of July Parade Committee, helps with the Key Biscayne Anglers Club, volunteers for the Chief Harmon Kids Fishing Tournament organizing group and serves as a Jr. Warden/Treasurer at St. Christopher’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.
Some of the issues Taintor hopes to pursue include creation of a local senior center; protection of the Mashta Flats and local beaches; deciding the future of properties including 530 Crandon, the parking lot behind the police station, the entry block and Calusa Park; addressing issues at the K-8 Center and MAST; and conducting a traffic study to help ease local traffic congestion.