Best Political Comeback (1999)

Merrett Stierheim

Miami-Dade County Manager Merrett Stierheim is living proof that eventually everything comes back in style. During his original tenure as county manager in the early Eighties, Stierheim was seen as something of an anachronism: one of the last of the old Anglo bosses who ruled this county for decades. When Stierheim was originally county manager, commissioners took little more than a passing interest in the day-to-day operations of county government. Since then county government has been remade. Starting in the late Eighties with Joe Gersten, commissioners began taking a more active role in bureaucratic affairs, and with the advent of single-member districts in 1993, the commission itself became more ethnically and racially diverse. Whether the corruption that followed is the result of those changes is debatable, but the impact of the scandals is not. They have had a devastating impact on the image of Miami-Dade County throughout the world. So when Armando Vidal was fired as manager, the mayor and commission tapped Stierheim to bring order to a chaotic situation. He picked up easily where he had left off more than a decade earlier, seizing the reins of power and paying little heed to the desires of intrusive commissioners. As a result morale throughout county offices has soared. How long this trip down memory lane will last is anyone's guess. As each week and month goes by, Stierheim's autocratic style rankles someone new. But for as long as it lasts, we should enjoy and appreciate it.


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