With eyes on 2024, four candidates already seeking council seats

Government By Alexandra Herrera, Reporter Friday, December 2, 2022


The ballot machines used in the Nov. 8 Miami Lakes election have barely cooled and campaign signs are gone from lawns, but already four residents have started the process of running for town council in 2024.

Council seats 1, 3 and 5 will be open in 2024, along with the Mayor’s seat.

Those who have either filed paperwork or are in the process of doing so are Juan Carlos Fernandez, Mario O. Pinera, Jr.; Hector Abad and Steven Herzberg.

No one had filed as of Dec. 2 for Seat 1, currently represented by Tony Fernandez, who is serving his first term.

The other office-holders are term-limited.

All of the candidates are following in the footsteps of previous elected officials by volunteering on various boards and committees in town before launching campaigns.

Two candidates are seeking Seat 3, currently represented by Councilwoman Marilyn Ruano: Juan Carlos Fernandez, 51, a Realtor who serves on the planning and zoning board, and Mario O. Pinera Jr. who owns an auto parts business and chairs of the Education Advisory Board.

Pinera Jr. could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Fernandez previously served on the Neighborhood Improvement Committee.

He filed his paperwork two years before the next election after speaking with council members, and said he drew support from the incumbents.

“I have a passion for the town,” Fernandez said.

He said he loved what the previous leaders have done to maintain the town and that it’s his duty as a resident to be civically engaged.

He’s lived in Miami Lakes for over 20 years and said he has always loved it.

“I just want to give back,” Fernandez said.

Candidates’ behavior during prior races discouraged him from running for office, he said, but he decided to file for 2024 because, “I want to continue to move the town forward. I believe that most residents want the best for the town.”

During the 2022 election, Fernandez had been a vocal supporter of the proposed $19.5 million Miami Lakes Optimist Park bond referendum that voters denied.

“I think as a real estate agent there is value [in having a refurbished park]… If we want to be the star, the premier neighborhood in Miami-Dade County, we have to step it up,” Fernandez said.

He said he wouldn’t pursue raising $19.5 million again, because it’s not what the residents want.

Seat 5 is currently held by Luis Collazo and Hector Abad, 52, and Steven Herzberg, 33, are seeking it.

Abad is the vice-chair of the Education Advisory Board and works at Miami-Dade County Schools as a social worker. He’s also involved with Giving Gators.

Like Fernandez, he felt the time was right to run since his youngest child has graduated from high school.

“I’ve been working for many years as a volunteer,” Abad said. “I’ve been very involved.”

He said serving others is rooted in his faith.

“I figured this is the right time,” Abad said.

On the failed park bond, he felt it shouldn’t have fallen squarely on town residents to pay for it.

“Am I in favor of improving the park?” Abad said. “Yes. Do I think it needs significant improvement? I do.”

He said that all the stakeholders in the park – residents and the school district and perhaps state funding -- should participate in paying for the refurbishment.

Steven Herzberg serves as secretary for the Blasting Advisory Board and is a lawyer at Vazquez and Associates in Miami. Town Clerk Gina Inguanzo, who is also the supervisor of elections for the Town of Miami Lakes, said Friday night that Herzberg began his paperwork but had not yet finalized it and expects to do so next week.

“I have been a member of the blasting board for two years and being part of public office is something I have wanted to do for a long time now,” Herzberg said.

Like the other candidates, he wants to serve the town he lives in.

 “It’s an opportunity to really affect and change for the better of the community,” Herzberg said.

Despite controversial changes made or proposed for the town, such as opening the Northwest 170 Street bridge and the park bond, he said robust public discourse is a part of politics.

“I don’t think we have it that nasty,” Herzberg said. “I don’t think things get personal.”

For the bond, he felt that voting for it was a personal decision to make and while he was for it, he understood residents did not want to pay more taxes.


Abad and Herzberg’s photos were not immediately available. Their images will be added to the story as soon as we receive them.