Alex Penelas is a proven leader, experienced public servant, and successful businessman, who has dedicated his life to giving back to the community and advancing worthy causes to benefit all Miami-Dade County residents. He has the leadership skills and extensive background necessary to govern the County effectively. Penelas is running for Miami-Dade County Mayor hoping to bring his experience, integrity, and bold vision to solve our community’s issues focusing on mobility, affordability, resilience, and social equity.
Born in Miami
The son of Cuban immigrants, Penelas learned from an early age the importance of family, hard work, and determination. After earning his law degree from the University of Miami School of Law and getting his first job as an attorney, he saved enough money to buy his parents their first house. Focused on making a difference and being a change agent, Penelas embarked on his successful career of public service, becoming a City of Hialeah Councilman at the age of 25.
As councilman, he revamped ethical guidelines in the City, requiring lobbyist registrations and disclosures of conflicts of interest. In 1990, Penelas became the youngest person ever elected to the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, where he led the charge to create the Commission on Ethics and Public Trust. Motivated by the lack of leadership that was holding the County back, just six years later, he ran and was elected Miami-Dade’s first Executive Mayor. A position he held for two terms from 1996 to 2004.
Eight years as mayor
Alex Penelas guided a community of 2.3 million people and oversaw a $6 Billion budget. His mayoral tenure was categorized by bringing people together and building consensus to address the myriad of issues faced by the community he led. As mayor of one of the most diverse communities in the United States and the largest county in Florida, Penelas had the vision to champion the effort to modernize the name of Dade County, and by adding Miami, putting it on the map.
He made it his mission to reduce crime and clean up the County at a time when it was considered one of the crime capitals of the world ran by gangs, drugs, violence, and corruption. Penelas implemented policies that significantly lowered the crime rate and mandated that all County employees undergo ethics training. His focus on preparing us for the future set the County on a path to economic prosperity, including investments into PortMiami and Miami International Airport, the County’s two largest economic engines.
Penelas’ impressive record of successful leadership for positive change includes among his most notable accomplishments: the approval of a dedicated funding source to expand public transit, universal Pre-K, gun control legislation to close the “gun show loophole,” a property tax reduction for seniors, and the creation of the Homeless Trust, among others.
A dedicated family man
In his fifteen years out of public office, Penelas raised his children in Miami-Dade and maintained his commitment to community service, while also applying his extensive experience in economic development to build a successful business.
Penelas runs a real estate investment firm that has provided private-sector affordable housing to thousands of families in the community. He is the former President of the Miami Lakes Optimist Club, where he coached young athletes playing basketball, baseball, and soccer for almost a decade, serves on the Finance Committee of his parish, Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church, and is currently a member of the Board of Trustees at St. Thomas University in Miami, where he was also a Government professor.
Penelas, his wife of 25 years, Lilliam, and their three children, William, Christopher, and Alexandra Maria, live in Miami Lakes.