A sitdown with Mark Samuelian Miami Beach Commission Candidate Group II
- “Why do you think you are the most qualified candidate?”
My candidacy is based on the core principles of a “Residents-First” philosophy, impeccable ethics, smart problem-solving abilities and respectful leadership. To those guiding principles, I bring specialized engineering and business expertise and a proven track record of achievement.
I graduated cum laude with a degree in engineering from Georgia Tech. I then earned an MBA from Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania. From there I became a Partner at the renowned business-consulting firm Accenture. When leading international giants like Pepsi or Johnson & Johnson had major problems, they hired my company and me to implement creative solutions. Here in Miami Beach, I have spent years successfully advocating for residents’ rights and placing the community’s well being ahead of special interests. I am a consensus builder who likes to work in a collegial atmosphere that promotes inclusion, respect for others and professionalism at all times. My background, skill set and insistence in promoting the highest level of ethical behavior make me the best choice for voters in November.
- What inspired you to run for City of Miami Beach Commissioner?
Miami Beach faces serious and urgent challenges. I am running for office to help the City we all love to meet these challenges. My professional experiences and expertise, as well as my leadership skills, are perfectly suited to address the issues that our residents are concerned about. The residents of this City expect and deserve results. I know I can deliver the best solutions to our most critical problems, and that is what I am going to do.
- How does your background and expertise qualify you to serve as Commissioner of Miami Beach?
While some of the most urgent and serious issues our City faces have to do with flood risk, the City Commission currently holds no engineers. My industrial engineering degree
will prove to be an invaluable tool in dealing with some of our most pressing issues.
Whether it’s a more climate change resilient city, or better preparing the City to withstand the devastating effects of a Hurricane like Irma, or confronting out of control development that could weaken our city’s character, or develop meaningful traffic solutions, I am committed to the principle of making “Miami Beach Strong.”
- Can you tell us about some of your leadership experiences and successes that you think will make you an effective commissioner?
I am proud of a wide-ranging set of interests and successes with civic affairs in Miami Beach. I am a proud Board Director of the Belle Isle Residents Association. I am also a current Board Director and former President of Miami Beach United, a leading residents group, which I helped make a stronger voice for residents while doubling its membership in six months. I led MBU’s first public forum on the “train to nowhere” proposal, where community outrage led to the ill-conceived project being shelved within about 90 days. Over the years I have tirelessly promoted the rights and interests of residents over those of special interests: Earlier this year I appeared before the City of Miami Commission and successfully advocated against a disastrous development plan for Watson Island that would have had enormous traffic implications for the Macarthur Causeway. The Commission voted unanimously (5-0) against the project. And I led the fight for the Residents’ Right to Know initiative, granting Miami Beach residents new rights to engage on items impacting their neighborhood and quality of life and which the Commission unanimously passed in July 2017. Now, these accomplishments were achieved as a volunteer so I hope you see the potential once I am a Commissioner.
- How can residents be sure that you will put their interests first?
Residents can be assured I will work for them because I am not taking any campaign funds from lobbyists, prohibited developers, and companies that do business with the City. Moreover, I have no business interests in Florida, meaning that all my energies are focused exclusively on the needs and interests of the residents and the City I love.
- Having been a leader and advocate for many essential causes, and therefore being keenly aware of the central function that community participation serves in the policy-making process, how will you as Commissioner make yourself available to the residents of Miami Beach?
Community participation is essential to sound, responsible government. I highly support and will proactively encourage greater civic engagement. I want the people to have a greater voice. Toward that end, being accessible to residents is extremely important to me. As your commissioner, I intend to make my office as available and accessible as is reasonably possible. I also plan on being out in the community by attending regular Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club meetings and regularly attending community meetings per week. I will also be available consistently and frequently to the press.
- What are the most pressing concerns that Miami Beach residents have expressed to you during your grassroots campaign?
Indeed, I qualified on the ballot with almost 1300 certified petition signatures because my campaign has been structured around door-to-door access to residents. This allowed me to interact on a personal level to better understand their concerns. During my time out in the community the message I heard over and over from our residents their concern about flood risk. They are discouraged by the fact that the system currently in place is not sufficiently dependable to alleviate flood risk and that it is in dire need of improvement. Again, I will bring my engineering skills to bear in dealing with what is nothing less than an existential threat to our city.
- What are some of the long-term objectives you seek to accomplish as Commissioner of Miami Beach?
Based on what I have learned in speaking with residents all across Miami Beach, I have developed and will diligently promote 4 key points that will benefit the entire community:
- Traffic/Parking – we need to reign in overdevelopment and find creative ways to keep people moving. Expanding the trolley across all of Miami Beach is a good first step
- Flooding/Rising sea levels – we need to protect our community with dynamic strategies that keep us dry and are environmentally friendly. As an engineer, I can contribute much to this important challenge.
- Quality of life – We need to put “residents first” and deliver on issues including education, green space, safety and preserving our historic homes and neighborhoods.
- Raising the bar at City Hall – Our City government must learn to do more with less and we must limit the influence of special interests. We will bring an Independent Inspector General to address issues of waste, fraud, and abuse.
- What are your family ties to the City of Miami Beach and life experiences that make this city such a special place for you?
My ties to South Florida began to take root as a young child as my grandfather lived in Coral Gables. Later in life, I purchased my first home here in 2003. I have since lived in three different homes in Miami Beach, and have experienced incomparable happiness and joy in the richness and diversity of the different neighborhoods.
- What do you believe is an essential element of strong and effective leadership?
I am convinced that strong effective leadership requires high ethical standards and the right temperament to embrace a respectful leadership that focuses on solutions.
I am extremely proud of my clean record, which stands as a testament to my strict adherence to the highest ethical standards. I am proud of my involvement with Commissioner Katy Sorenson’s Good Government Initiative at the University of Miami where I have lectured, and I am very honored to have her endorsement. I am equally proud of the leadership style I have exhibited throughout my career. Community building, like the Commission, is a team sport and the last thing we need are individuals grandstanding for their own good. I always have and always will place the residents of our community before those of special interest groups. role
- Do you have any specific proposals that you believe are particularly needed to ensure that the interests of residents are placed ahead of special interests or personal agendas?
One of the first things I will do as City Commissioner is propose the establishment of the office of Inspector General to address issues of waste, fraud, and abuse.
- Who is supporting your campaign?
I am proud to have the support of over 100 community leaders. I am especially proud to have received the endorsement of nine current/ former Commissioners: Ricky Arriola, Joy Malakoff, Matti Bower, Jorge Exposito, Saul Gross, Nancy Liebman, Jose Smith, Ed Tobin, Deede Weithorn. In addition, I have earned the endorsements of current County Commissioner Xavier Suarez and State Rep. Joe Geller, as well as former County Commissioner Katy Sorenson.