Miami Lakes Councilman Tony Fernandez declared his candidacy for town mayor on Tuesday.
Fernandez, 38, owner of an internet technology firm, won his first election in 2020 to the town council. He holds Seat 1, and the term ends Nov. 5, 2024.
Fernandez had previously filed to run again and retain his council seat.
He stopped by the offices of The Miami Laker to share why he wants the top job, as a ceremonial mayor of the town of nearly 31,000 residents.
He’s the first candidate to announce a campaign for that office; later in the day, Councilman Josh Dieguez also filed paperwork to run for mayor. Dieguez will be profiled in a separate story.
“I am running because I think I can bring my leadership skills to the town,” Fernandez said. “We’re at a point where the next mayor is going to have to make some difficult decisions. For example we have a recommendation coming up with our police department and whether or not to start our own police department or continue with the county services under the new sheriff.”
Fernandez’s company, Layer 8 Solutions, is an internet technology firm that serves K-12 schools and colleges.
The company is a supporter of town events that focus on education or serving underprivileged kids, such as the Miami Lakes Food & Wine Festival whose proceeds fund Town Foundation grants, and recent events put on by the Giving Gators charity such as a backpack giveaway.
Fernandez said another reason he is running for mayor is that he wants to bring “my experience from the private sector to find ways for government to operate more efficiently.”
He and his wife Pilar Fernandez, the principal at Mater Gardens Academy and their French Bulldog Petunia have lived in town since 2016 and reside in the Lake Elizabeth neighborhood.
Fernandez attended Hialeah High School and graduated from Miami Sunset Senior High. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in information technology from Barry University and a Master of Science degree in information systems from Florida International University.
Fernandez said among the accomplishments of his first term was helping some elderly homeowners pay lower taxes to the town.
“One of the things I’m particularly proud of is I spearheaded the senior property tax relief program,” Fernandez said. “For most of those low-income citizens, 391 households, it wiped away their municipal tax bill, most of what they would pay to the town of Miami Lakes.”
The funding to make up for those lost tax revenues came from excess money the town carried forward during the past two years, Fernandez said.
Among his goals as mayor would be getting two more police officers to patrol in town, despite budget constraints after the council, including Fernandez, voted to roll back the property tax rate.
Fernandez said he brought forth an item for the council to reconsider the rollback vote during its last meeting, “but that was not heard because it required a waiver of the rules with a super majority,” he said.
Taxpayers will save approximately $87 under the rollback rate compared to what they paid in the last fiscal year, the town said.
Collected taxes under the rollback rate are estimated to be $8.9 million, less than the $9.8 million budgeted last year for police services.
The town presented potential spending cuts to the council during a workshop on Aug. 29. The first of two budget hearings is scheduled to be held Sept. 14.
Fernandez said he has met twice with town staff about the proposed budget.
“I was able to identify places where we’re going to have savings that I’m bringing forward during the first budget hearing,” Fernandez said.
“The exercise also forced staff to go back and reexamine line items and try to find efficiency in line items that were being overallocated,” Fernandez said. “Forgoing the update to the tree management software was cut, eliminating some unused and underused software platforms that were seldom used. We cut off the evening security guard [for committee meetings] at town hall, which made it into budget without going to council first.
“I don’t think it will get us all the way there, but it’ll get us closer” to adding two police officers, he said.
Overall, his goal is one that many of past candidates and current office holders share: “Keeping true to the reason why people decided to make Miami Lakes their home,” Fernandez said. “Keeping the charm of the tree-lined streets and making sure that the parks in general and the pocket parks are adequately maintained. Making sure our infrastructure, sidewalks, streets, signage are all in good order.
“I think it’s the aesthetics, the schools and the community feel, the small town feel within a very urban area is the charm,” Fernandez said. “The reason we chose to live here is this is the place we wanted to start our family and have kids.”