Alex Rey reviews his legacy for Miami Lakes

Thursday, January 3, 2019 0 Comments

Alex Rey reviews his legacy for Miami Lakes
At the pinnacle of his career as a top executive administrator for Miami-Dade County, Alex Rey left his position to become the new town manager for Miami Lakes, which incorporated a year earlier, for less pay.
In 2002, he took over the day-to-day operations of the newly-minted town with a skeleton staff, where he saw his opportunity to turn a ‘Hidden Gem’ into one of the best known cities in Florida.
Rey, who spent 19 years at Miami-Dade, was part of the county’s transition team that helped Miami Lakes’ through its incorporation movement and knew the town was embarking on a special journey.
“When I started here in the community, I liked the vision they had for the community and I liked the people,” said Rey, who replaced Dennis White, who was fired in 2002. “It’s something I felt that I could do, guide and implement that vision. I enjoyed doing it and we succeeded in the end because you put your life and heart in to it.”
Rey is leaving behind a legacy full of accomplishments for Miami Lakes, as he’s retiring this month to take advantage of the government Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP), and taking some time off to spend with his family, capping a 36-year government career.
Rey worked with every single Town Council since incorporation, worked out of a storefront on Main Street and the Chase Bank building near N.W. 67 Avenue and Bull Run Road and eventually Miami Lakes’ government center, which was built in 2013.
He led his team into action in turning Miami Lakes into a full-fledged city, taking over the streets and recreational parks, and the special taxing districts for street lighting, pocket and picnic parks, security guard gates and lake maintenance from Miami-Dade.
After Hurricanes Wilma and Irma left South Florida in the paths of destruction, Miami Lakes arguably had the fastest clean-up and recovery efforts in the county, as Rey, his staff, council members and residents helped remove heavy debris and downed large trees blocking the roads. They also distributed ice and water to residents who were without power.
But Miami Lakes experienced perhaps it most darkest day in 2013, when federal agents led then-Mayor Michael Pizzi away in handcuffs after he was indicted on bribery and kickback charges but was later acquitted.
Rey held the town together and resumed achieving Miami Lakes’ goals and objectives, which led to multiple awards such as the Tree City USA, Playful City USA and GFOA, and secured millions of dollars worth of grant money.
The grants were spent on the master plans for transportation, more greenways, beautification, drainage, road maintenance and information technology.
Rey said all of the drainage from the original Miami Lakes community has been upgraded.
“We got a lot of money from grants,” he said. “They give you the money because they know you will deliver the projects. They hate to give you $1 million and not do anything with it.”
Among Rey’s top priorities as town manager was creating a cooperative culture between elected policy makers and his administrative staff.
He said the rapport led to the town’s major accomplishments since incorporation that included converting a tot-lot into Royal Oaks Park and building a new community center, rebuilding a new clubhouse for the Optimist Club of Miami Lakes and renovated two community centers.
Rey said his staff has developed a partnership with residents and volunteers and community groups to provide recreational programs for more than 1,000 and over 100 special events created by the town’s various committees.
“When we first started, we only had the Veterans Day Parade,” Rey said. “Now we have over 100 events.”
Miami Lakes’ founding Mayor Wayne Slaton once called Rey a budget genesis because “that’s where he shines the best.”
He always kept Miami Lakes in the black with surpluses that secured the town’s economic health, especially during the 2008 economic downturn and four major hurricanes that required millions and millions of dollars for clean-up and recovery efforts expenses.
In addition, Rey has reduced or maintained the rate for property taxes over the past 16 years, and established and maintained a credit rating of AA plus for the town’s first bond issue.
But the most impressive statistic was developing the town’s transportation master plan and funded it with $25 million without borrowing a penny.
“It’s the result of working agreements with the county and the state,” he said. “We did it without borrowing any money.”
One challenge Miami Lakes faced was developing its own land development code to mirror the living standards of the town, which took three years to complete.
The town incorporated the deed restrictions for the various homeowners associations and architectural control committees into its new code, while other areas without HOAs were initially left out.
But the town eventually included them in the code with some modifications to appease all residents. “Some were grandfathered in the new code,” Rey said.
Rey left his position in 2008 to become the building director for his hometown in Miami Beach but returned to Miami Lakes less than a year later and picked up where he left off.
He said the town’s next big achievement is the new Seniors Village, which would have a “good” financial and economic development for Miami Lakes.
The facilities include age restricted apartments, an assisted living/skilled nursing center and activity/community center.
The project is a partnership of The Graham Companies, Miami Jewish Health Systems and Miami Lakes, which would operate the 6,000 square feet community center.
During his time in Miami Lakes, Alex Rey has created a managerial tree, where most of his employees have landed town manager-like positions for other entities.
His former assistant town managers, Ralph Casals and Andrea Agha, are the city managers for Cutler Bay and Key Biscayne, respectively; Nicole Trench, former executive development director for Miami Lakes, is now the executive director for the Coconut Grove Business Implement District; and former planning and zoning director Darby Delsalle is now the assistant director for planning and development management for Broward County.
Rey’s protégés learned their skills under his tutelage.
“We emphasized personnel development, two went on two become city managers, one executive director and one community development director, while still leaving behind a strong team of highly qualified employees,” Rey said
Mayor Manny Cid said Rey poured in heart and soul to make Miami Lakes the town that it is. "Alex has worked hard to help take the Miami Lakes brand to new heights,” Cid said. “16 years of his public service career have been in Miami Lakes as our top administrator. On behalf of all 33,000 Miami Lakers, I thank Alex for his dedication to our community"
Rey’s replacement, Edward Pidermann, has some big shoes to fill.
Rey said he’s a “great” guy who he has known for many years and cares about the community.
“The big challenge he has is people are used to my style and he has his own management style,” Rey said. “Residents will have to adjust to his style.”

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