Like any big city, Miami has its power-player mainstays — it's hard to imagine Dade County without Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Xavier Suarez, for instance. But it's also the kind of town where people's influence can come and go quicker than Justin Bieber's Ferrari on South Beach.
Here's a look at the newly minted power players who pulled themselves up to the big kid's table in 2015 and are certain to shape the city in 2016.
City of Miami Commissioner
A little more than a year ago, Russell was simply a man concerned about toxic soil in his local park and upset with his city commissioner's reluctance to do anything about it. That civic involvement led Russell to run for the Miami Commission against Teresa Sarnoff, the well-funded and über-connected wife of term-limited Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who had disillusioned Russell in the first place. In a crowded race in District 2, Russell pulled off an upset victory fueled by grassroots efforts. Though he failed to initially reach the 50 percent to avoid a runoff, his huge lead over Sarnoff caused her to drop out of the race. Russell has already pledged to pursue an agenda covering everything from environmentalism to more responsible development and even an end to predatory parking lots.
Owner of a Stadium Site, Finally
Beckham has been a worldwide power player for most of his adult life, but after announcing his plans to bring a Major League Soccer team to Miami two years ago, he started to look like a chump. Beckham and his business partners chased potential stadium site after potential stadium site, only to see each plan go up in smoke. The group has finally now settled on a site in Overtown near the Miami River. The stadium's construction will obviously alter the fabric of the neighborhood.
At the same time, we're glad Beckham can finally concentrate on some of the other aspects of the team — like, what is the team's name and are you or are you not going to try to sign Ronaldo and/or Zlatan?
Miami-Dade Count Mayoral Candidate
The daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, Raquel has been quietly growing her influence throughout his tenure. She won a seat on the county school board in 2010 and also hosts a local Spanish-language radio program and a television show. She set her sights on issues beyond the school board by becoming a key figure in opposition to the proposed Skyrise observation tower and announced her campaign for Miami-Dade County mayor earlier this year. With auto magnate Norman Braman funding her campaign, she's sure to be a serious threat in the election.
President, University of Miami
Donna Shalala may have been a person of physically small stature, but the shoes she left to fill as president of the University of Miami couldn't have been bigger. She raised the academic profile of the institution to new heights while also raising tons of money.
Frenk, who officially took office before the fall semester, has already begun to better address the needs of minority and LGBT students on campus and also played a big part in hiring the next guy on this list.
Football Coach, University of Miami
Richt is now the third coach tasked with reviving the once-storied University of Miami football program in the past decade, but if there's more pressure on him to succeed, it's only because he has a better pedigree. The Hurricanes brought Richt, a former Canes player, back home after he parted ways with the University of Georgia. In his 15 seasons there, he won the SEC Championship twice and finished seven seasons ranked in the top ten. He's already assembled an enviable staff at UM. We'd be lying if we said we wouldn't be disappointed if the Canes didn't at least win the ACC Coastal division in 2016.
Now if only the Dolphins could make a similar touchdown of a hire.
Mana, a New York-based developer, has been steadily assembling a huge swath of Wynwood land over the past few years. The center of the site, Mana Wynwood, has ingratiated itself to locals by hosting cultural events such as the III Points Festival, but Mana surprised everyone earlier this year when he unveiled a massive master plan full of high-rise towers for the site. The plan would require an exception to zoning codes, and a vote to do so has been delayed into the next year. He faces opposition from other developers in the area, so it won't be an easy fight.
If he succeeds, he'll change Wynwood forever. If he doesn't, we expect a back-up plan that would still have major repercussions for the city.
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Director, Pérez Art Museum of Miami
Still the most frequent quip about Pérez Art Museum of Miami is that the building itself is the most impressive thing on the premises. The implications are that the art on display all too often fails to live up to its setting. Sirmans is now charged with fixing it. The former head of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was named PAMM's new director in September.
Triple Five Group
The owners of the Mall of America in Minneapolis, the nation's largest mall, have decided to outdo themselves. This time, they're doing it in Miami. They pretty much shocked everyone when they announced plans to build the continent's biggest mall on a 200-acre site near I-75 in Northwest Miami-Dade. They've assembled most of the land but will spend 2016 fighting to get zoning codes changed to build the mall.
The Chinese Elite
May or May Not Exist
Brazilian investment in Miami is
Those developers realized they need to find a new market to crack — a market with plenty of wealthy people looking to make some American real-estate investments. Throughout 2015, several local developers have amped up their efforts to market to the Chinese elite. In 2016, we should see if that marketing bears any fruit. A major problem: There are no direct flights between Miami and China.