How She Made It: Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson
MEET Mayor Shirley Gibson: This visionary leader is the First Mayor of the City of Miami Gardens, a municipality boasting more than 100,000 residents. Prior to current role, Mayor Gibson served on the Miami Dade County Community Council Three for two consecutive terms. She also chaired the North Dade Municipal Advisory Committee. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry. In her role as mayor, she leads the largest Black municipality in the state of Florida.
WMI: You worked for the Miami Dade Police Department for 16 years. What position did you hold while on the force and in what specific ways has this working experience helped you to connect with the community you serve?
MSG: The position I held was as a police officer for 16 years. I worked for 9 years as a detective within the department. Some specific ways in which that helped: I understood how to handle difficult situations; how not to escalate a volatile situation; the dynamics of the African American minority community; understanding that there is a certain amount of distrust of police officers; and that it was necessary to conduct myself in a professional manner at all times. I also understand that my purpose was to make the community safer, and to develop a much better community working relationship.
WMI: Tell us about some of the details that go into incorporating a city, and how do these details impact a city’s ability to grow economically?
MSG: The initial details that create a city, from forming a committee to reviewing all aspects of incorporation and the forming of a new city are written rules that must be strictly adhered to. The process includes gaining permission from the Miami Dade County Board of County Commissioners upon approval of the initiative. Then it is presented to residents within the geographic location in the form of a vote on whether or not to create a city. Other details include forming a charter committee, to draft and develop the charter, which is actually the working documents of a city; this also needs to be approved via vote by residents on the charter. The details that impact economic growth – is not so much the incorporation process, but what values the community has, values that can be developed economically, and certainly the value of the community and the residents who live there, become a driver. Quality of education becomes a very powerful driver as well as the city and its initiative and understanding the things that need to be done. The code must be enforced as well as changing the image of the city through code enforcement, clean up and beautification efforts, so residents feel a connection and ownership. Eventually people became proud and economics begin to grow. In the future, there are definitely opportunities for economic development, with more things being in place. There are still numerous things needed for a city this size and in such a prosperous urban community.
WMI: When was the city of Miami Gardens incorporated and what inspired you to run as the city’s first mayor?
MSG: The city was incorporated in 2003. I was involved in the incorporation process both in 1996 and 2003. I did not feel there was anyone more passionate about this city, or who had gone through all the process; I felt like I had the capabilities, I was qualified and wanted to see the city grow and prosper.