Rasco, Gomez, Petros gear up for Village mayor’s race

August in South Florida usually tends to be scorching hot and politically speaking, it’s about to get muy caliente on Key Biscayne this summer.

Veteran politician, and Miami-Dade County government official Joe Rasco became the first resident to jump into the 2022 Key Biscayne mayoral election pool last week.

And, it didn't take long for a couple of other well-known figures on the island to dive in, forming what is expected to be a sizzling Aug. 23 primary election.

Fausto Gomez, president of the Key Biscayne Condominium Presidents' Council, and Katie Petros, who served on the Village Council from 2016-2020, officially qualified within the required period.

It will be the first mayoral primary on Key Biscayne since Oct. 1, 1998, when Rasco collected 735 votes to win a three-way race against Michele Padovan (now Estevez), who collected 478 votes, and Jim Peters, who had 287. Rasco went on to defeat Padovan in the November primary election.

In the previous election, in 1996, John Festa emerged in another rare, three-way primary race. The other two candidates at that time were Raul Llorente, who gave up his Council seat for the mayoral race, and Ed Meyer.

Rasco, who has lived on Key Biscayne for more than 40 years, has been representing District 7 on the Virginia Key Advisory Board, and is the Director of Internal Governmental Affairs for Miami-Dade County.

Gomez, 68, although not a stranger to politics, having served as chief of staff for legendary City of Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre, this will be his first public office election. He was born in Cuba, came to South Florida when he was 6, and has owned property on Key Biscayne for 22 years.

Petros , a Senior Financial Account Manager for Pilot.com, won enough votes in 2016 to gain a Council seat despite having no previous public political experience.

She was part of the Protect KB Paradise political committee supporting the General Obligation Bond referendum that passed in 2020, designed to protect the Village from sea level rise, storms and climate change.

Islander News asked each of the three candidates to provide a “Why Me for Mayor” statement outlining what motivated them to run and their vision for Key Biscayne. You will find their statements below.


Gomez aims to keep the Village focused, safe, respected, respectful and financially strong

By Fausto Gomez / Special to Islander News

Fausto Gomez

I want to explain why I know my qualifications and vision make me best suited to be our next mayor. I trust you will agree.

For thirty-eight years I helped create legislation that changed our state and local communities for the better. My career gave me unique insight into how government works and how we can make it work for us. I represented some of Florida’s leading companies and cities, as well as groups like the March of Dimes and Goodwill. On behalf of Key Biscayne, I won the fight to keep our Fire-Rescue Department from being absorbed by Miami-Dade County. I also helped our Village secure over $15 million in state support to fund Crandon Boulevard improvements, stormwater and wastewater projects, maintained our share of county transportation dollars, and enacted bicycle regulations.

At the age of 6, I came to this country from Cuba and was raised by my mother and grandmother. My father, a veteran pilot at the Bay of Pigs, was killed in combat in the Congo fighting an attempted communist takeover.

I have a degree in Political Science from Florida International University (FIU). As an alumnus, I received the Torch Award, the University’s highest recognition for graduates who have made a positive impact in their fields. I started my career working for Mayor Maurice Ferre at the City of Miami and from there was recruited to head FIU’s government affairs efforts. I then founded my own public affairs firm which was considered amongst the best in Florida.

I have been blessed with professional success and feel strongly about giving back to my community. That is why I endowed a permanent scholarship for high-achieving low-income students in the political sciences at FIU. It is also why I serve on the board of an organization that has awarded $1.2 billion in support to small businesses. Thanks to my successes, I am able to self-fund my campaign. I am not taking contributions. The residents of Key Biscayne are my only special interest.

So why am I running?

I’m running because the Rickenbacker Causeway is the driveway to our homes and we need to preserve the free flow of traffic while respecting its multi-modal character. When the privatization of the Rickenbacker was being considered, I helped organize and lead a citizen-driven process that prevented it.

I’m running because of traffic congestion in our community. In my professional life, I represented many transportation entities, including the US Department of Transportation, and am familiar with strategies to improve traffic and how to implement them.

I’m running because we have important infrastructure priorities, which, if all projects are undertaken, exceed our financial capacity. We need staggered, targeted investments that will sustain the life of our island and not massive increases in the amounts we pay to our local government. We will supplement our dollars with federal and state resources. And I will bring home funds for these projects.

I’m running because we need more police visibility. Our police are top-notch, but there is a lack of presence in our neighborhoods. Other communities enjoy the volunteer services of certified police officers. I will work with all stakeholders to get additional manpower at little cost to us.

I’m running to promote respect and civility between our government, residents and neighbors. I will foster a customer service culture at our Village Hall. Someone will answer your call or you can expect a call back within 24 hours. I will also propose a “Street-by-Street” strategy where I, along with staff and neighbors, will walk each street to identify deficiencies and have them fixed. I will also have office hours so that anyone can show up and talk to me. I call that “Get me the Mayor.”

I’m running to successfully address external threats to our Village from other governments. Often, our residents and local government are an afterthought or we are regarded as simply a revenue source. Many of the folks making decisions downtown or up north care little, for example, how events on Virginia Key impact us. I have no fear of the external forces that try to cloud decision-making. Key Biscayne will not be ignored.

Finally, I’m running with a commitment to not grow the size of government, but I will make sure services are appropriately funded. Because of new property valuations, others will be tempted to spend money on items that are not mission specific. You have my guarantee that, as your Mayor, I will make sure that every dollar spent is directly benefiting Key Biscayne and that we will continue to have the lowest tax rate in Miami-Dade County.

My wife and I have enjoyed Key Biscayne for 21 years. We have two daughters and four grandchildren. I am your neighbor and with your support look forward to serving as your Mayor. Let’s work together to secure our future.


Petros aims to rebuild trust in government by using her council experience and listening respectfully

By Katie Petros / Special to Islander News

Katie Petros

The citizens of Key Biscayne, consistent to some degree with our nation as a whole, are increasingly disillusioned with the political process. In my conversations with many residents, I am struck by one prevailing sentiment: distrust. Though we have a common interest in finding the best solutions to our island's needs, we seem to have lost the ability to freely and respectfully exchange ideas in the public forum. I am running for Mayor because I believe our residents deserve and expect something far better than that.

I am not running at the request of or on behalf of any group or faction of people. Nor am I running against any particular interest group. If you elect me as your Mayor, you can be assured I will always keep an open mind, even as I consider ideas that, initially at least, may be contrary to my own. Finding solutions where there are heartfelt but competing views is never easy, but consistent with my recent service on the Village Council, I fully intend to listen and be responsive to all residents and act in the best interests of the community as a whole.

Those of you who are familiar with my recent service as a Village Council member know that I invested the time necessary to fully understand the issues that came before us. I spent four years absorbing the details required to make informed decisions on a myriad of Village issues including our current storm system, outdated utilities, beach renourishment, water quality and sewer concerns, landscaping and beautification, and pedestrian and resident safety, in addition to the annual demands of budgeting and setting a millage rate. All of that work, some of it quite complex, has prepared me to serve as your Mayor.

Consequently, I have a recent record on which you may properly evaluate my candidacy. Virtually every project on which I have taken the lead – both large and small -- has produced positive results for the Village. Some of these initiatives may seem modest to some – creating a dog park or banning gas leaf blowers for example – but they matter to people, and positively impact our daily quality of life.

Larger collaborative initiatives have included successfully advocating for tougher state laws on texting while driving and taking positive strides towards securing long term federal funding for our beaches through the Army Corps feasibility study. I have also remained in close contact with the County Library Director to advocate for the new library that will soon be constructed in our Village, and that will be funded completely by the County.

Today we face significant challenges, and I am motivated to find the right solutions. Living on a barrier island, we are keenly aware that continually rising sea levels threaten our ability to navigate around the island even after tropical storms, not to mention hurricanes. Though property values have risen recently, we need to remain vigilant: sea level rise not only affects insurance rates in the short term, but threatens the long term quality of island living. Additionally, the operation of Rickenbacker Causeway – with regard to both safety and access -- is an area of immediate concern. Rather than being placed in a position in which we must react to a plan presented by the County, we need to be proactive. Being a participant in the conversation and having a plan that demonstrates our needs and interests before decisions have been reached will ensure a better outcome. I pride myself on being a consensus builder with the proven temperament necessary to successfully navigate these and other challenges that lie ahead.

After getting married in 1993, my husband and I first lived in the Island Breakers on Ocean Lane Drive. For almost 30 years thereafter, we have made this island our home, raising three children (the youngest of whom is a rising senior at MAST Academy). We have never once taken our good fortune for granted. Now, for me, it is time to give back. With the enthusiastic support of my family, I am prepared, focused and motivated to serve as your Mayor.

I believe my leadership style and experience make me the right candidate for this role, and respectfully, I ask for your vote. I look forward to personally speaking with as many of you as possible between now and August 23rd, to hear your concerns and collectively create our vision for the future of Key Biscayne.


Rasco believes respectful, experienced leadership holds the key to a safer, brighter future for Key Biscayne

By Joe Rasco / Special to Islander News

Dear Fellow Key Biscayners,

JOSE RASCO

Last week I announced officially my candidacy for Mayor of our Island Paradise. This island and Village mean a great deal to me and I am always ready to do my part to preserve it and make it an even better place.

My wife, Ana, brought me to the Key over 44 years ago, where her family had made their new home. This special place is where Ana and I raised a happy and united family. It is where we have celebrated our children’s achievements and milestones in life, and where we now have the privilege of doing the same with our grandchildren, the next generation of Key Rats. This community is the source of many of my life’s blessings and I’ve always known that I had to work to keep it that way.

My community involvement started with volunteer work in my church, the kids’ little leagues, and the incorporation movement. This led to serving on the first Village Council and, later, as Mayor from 1998 to 2002. While serving in Village government, as a team, we made significant achievements, making a lasting impact on our community. During my time as Council Member, we completed the acquisition of the Village Green and the creation of our own Key Biscayne Fire and Police departments. Under my leadership as Mayor, we built state-of-the-art facilities to house the fire and police departments, which were previously operating out of trailers, as well as a new administration building and public chambers. I also secured funding and completed plans to build the community center.

My time in public service has been among the greatest accomplishments in my life, second only to my family. I’m now ready, willing, and able to be of service again.

We’re facing new challenges and opportunities. Most importantly, we need to re-build Bear Cut Bridge and upgrade the Rickenbacker Causeway. This will require collaboration and not fist pounding with Miami-Dade County. Having worked many years in Miami-Dade County has provided me credibility and extensive working relationships with Mayor Levine Cava, our own County Commissioner Regalado, and County Chairman Diaz. I will continue the work commenced by the Council of opening productive lines of communication with these elected officials.

As Mayor Davey can attest, I was both vocal and effective in advocating for Key Biscayne’s interests on those two critical issues during my time as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and as Key Biscayne’s representative on the Virginia Key Advisory Board for the past six years. My work in these areas ensures and facilitates Key Biscayne’s seat at the table when any important decision that affects our residents is being made.

We need to address key issues such as street flooding and sea level rise. We must work with experts to find sustainable solutions to mitigate flooding, protect our shorelines, upgrade our stormwater systems, and improve our streets. We should also begin to implement the Village’s resiliency plan for our infrastructure. We need to find ways to improve traffic and safety, particularly on Crandon Blvd. and school intersections. We need to work collaboratively with the superintendent and school district officials, mandating that our two public schools are among the highest performing schools in South Florida. We need to focus on ways to prevent crime as well as how to respond to them by expanding our community policing program, where there is increased police presence on our streets. As Mayor, I will listen to our residents, get input from our law enforcement and business community, and work with Village Council members, manager and staff to find long-term solutions to all of these critical issues.

Our community deserves ethical, effective leadership with an eye toward the future while honoring what was envisioned some 30 years ago when we incorporated our local government. Our Village has thrived because the public servants that served on the Council have done so with only one goal in mind, the betterment of our community.

As your Mayor, I will work tirelessly with your interests and well-being as my greatest priority. My character, experience, deep-rooted understanding of the issues, and longstanding commitment to Key Biscayne make me uniquely qualified to serve as your Mayor. I look forward to getting to know as many of my neighbors who I have not yet had the pleasure to meet and hope I can earn your friendship and your vote to be the next Mayor of the best community in the world.


Also, and as it has done for decades, Islander News will partner with the Key Biscayne Chamber of Commerce to host a Mayoral Debate before the August primary. Stay tuned for date and time.

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