The wait is over. Today, the latest edition of our Best of Miami issue goes live, packed with hundreds of our choices for everything from the finest smokey dive bars to the greatest elegant craft cocktails, from the greatest spots to kayak to the coolest thrift stores -- and, of course, all your readers' choices for the tops in town.
Psyched yet? To whet your appetite, here are a few of the people we've honored in this issue, from the best politician to the most satisfying criminal conviction of the year. You can pick up the Best of Miami issue in newsstands on Thursday.
See also: Best of Miami 2014
Best Politician: Alberto Carvalho
Back in 2008, Alberto Carvalho inherited the top job at Miami-Dade Public Schools under doubly unenviable circumstances. One one hand, the system was in turmoil - his predecessor, Rudy Crew, had just been forced out, teacher morale was plummeting and sharks were circling around his position from the start. On the other hand, just before getting pushed out Crew had earned the highest recognition ever for a Florida schools chief, becoming the first from the Sunshine State to win National Superintendent of the Year.
Five years later, Carvalho had already surpassed his predecessors achievements. Graduation levels had spiked across the board. Test scores were also on the rise. His system won the 2012 Broad Prize, a prestigious award for urban districts. And then this February, Carvalho erased the only remaining distinction from Crews' tenure when he became the second Floridian to nab honors as National Superintendent of the Year.
It's all a testament to a fine turnaround job in one of America's most historically troubled districts, but also to Carvalho's unmatched political skills. Not many leaders could have moved into such a toxic job and not only survived but thrived. Carvalho even managed to finagle voter support last year for $1.2 billion in bonds for new construction and technology projects at the height of Marlins Stadium anti-spending fervor. A politico who can escape the Jeffrey Loria effect? Now that's a miracle.
Best Local Boy Made Good: Jeff Bezos
Futures in Arctic ice shelves. Horse and buggy stock. Donald Trump hair care products.
There are some things that conventional wisdom dictates smart businessmen in the early 21st Century simply should not invest in. Sadly for ink-stained scribes everywhere, "daily newspaper ownership" falls squarely into that category.
So it's a measure of just how far up the visionary business genius charts Jeff Bezos has rocketed in recent years that when he bought the Washington Post last summer for a cool $250 million in cash, investors reacted with cautious curiosity instead of sprinting for the exits while pointing and laughing at the poor buffoon stuck with a print dinosaur.
It shouldn't have been a surprising reaction, though, considering that Bezos' Midas touch has created one of the great post-Steve Jobs business empires in America. It's a path to glory that started right here in Dade County, where Bezos graduated as valedictorian from Miami Palmetto Senior High School and won a Silver Knight Award to boot.
In 1994, after graduating from Princeton, Bezos founded Amazon.com, and has rarely stopped wrecking expectations for what an online bookstore can do. As his personal fortune has ballooned to more than $20 billion, he's revolutionized web shopping and shown few signs of stopping - including his latest plans to deliver orders by drone.
Can he reboot the similarly moribund daily newspaper business? Time will tell, but based on his track record, Bezos is one Miamian the dead tree business should be thrilled to have in their corner.
Best Local Girl Made Good: Lauryn Williams
"I didn't come here to make history," Lauryn Williams told the NBC crew in Sochi, Russia. But the silver medal gleaming around her neck told a different story. It's a tale of speed, transition, perseverance and - yes - ultimately, of history.
The Pittsburgh native came to South Florida in 2001 to run track at the University of Miami. Williams is just 5'3", but - as competitors on the field soon learned - there's a nuclear power plant worth of energy is stored. Williams turned her collegiate career into a shot at the Olympics, and just after graduating in 2004 snagged a silver medal in Athens in the 100 meter dash. Eight years later in London, she added a gold medal to her collection as a member of the four-by-100 meter relay team. And then a curious thing happened. In the airport on the way to a track meet, a fellow star mentioned a curious idea to Williams: The Winter Games were coming up. Why not give bobsledding a try? Sure enough, after just six months of training Williams' sheer power earned her the job of brakeman on a qualifying team.
And on the course at Sochi, her sled nabbed second place, earning her another silver medal. In the process, the pride of Coral Gables became the first American woman ever to medal at both the Summer and Winter games. But as the soft-spoken speedster told NBC, all that was subtext to the thrill of competing - and winning - at a new sport. "Making the history part is just an extra bonus," she said with a grin.
Best Criminal Conviction: Former Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño
For a decade, Manny Maroño ruled over the quiet suburb of Sweetwater, an enclave of 14,000 people in western Dade County previously most notable for being founded by a troupe of circus midgets looking for a tropical retirement locale. Maroño tried to force his way into local headlines with a loud crusade against bath salts and synthetic marijuana, despite the fact that there was little to no evidence that the stuff was anywhere to be found in his municipality. If it was headlines Maroño craved, though, he finally got them last August. That's when an FBI sting nabbed him taking up to $40,000 in kickbacks for getting bogus grant applications through the city bureaucracy.
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The Sweetwater mayor wasn't alone -- in fact, Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi was caught up and arrested in the same sting. Two other Dade mayors, in Homestead and North Miami, have also been arrested this year. What makes Maroño's case sweeter, though, is that his arrest was followed by a swift conviction and a hefty sentence, penalties all too rare in dirty Dade politics. In January a federal judge whacked the ex-politico with 40 months in the slammer - months more than even prosecutors had recommended - while calling cases like his a "cancer" on South Florida. Dade's honest residents can only hope that Maroño's sentence is one step toward curing the disease.
Read the full Best of Miami 2014 issue here.