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$200K Publicly Funded Bureaucrat to Make the County Green

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Facing a $427 million deficit, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez promised he would thin out the county executive offices by 10 percent in his proposed budget. The Herald has written a fair amount about this lately. So have we.

What you might not know is that two of them with monster salaries are funded with your federal tax dollars: assistant county manager Susanne Torriente and the county manager's assistant, Margarita Fernandez, who earned annually $206,783, and $108,892, respectively.

Using a $12.5 million federal grant meant for implementing green initiatives such as installing solar panels on government buildings, Alvarez and Burgess found a new home for Torriente and Fernandez. As the Herald reported, Torriente has been named director of a one-year-old county department called the Office of Sustainability. What the newspaper didn't tell you is that she will oversee Fernandez and five other employees in leading the charge to make the county a greener and ecologigically friendlier place.

The federal grant will pay both executives' salaries, which remain the same, as well as the new department's budget, for the next three years.

A 19-year county veteran, Torriente defended her bosses' decision to retain her and Fernandez. "Things aligned where I am going to have an opportunity to do a job that I am falling in love with," Torriente says. "We are going to be a small staff doing a lot of work. I bring my experience of getting things done."

Among the projects Torriente says she will tackle include recycling methane gas from county landfills and rewriting portions of the county code to allow for more green buildings. Fernandez will be mainly responsible for developing a public awareness campaign, Torriente adds.

"Anyone who knows me will tell you I love public service," Torriente affirms. "It's a shame that all this talk of salaries is taking away from some awesome things we are going to do."

Sounds good. But a $200K salary. Wow.

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