Longform

The Commish

Page 8 of 9

As she tried to make a fast exit, several people came up to shake her hand and offer words of encouragement. She hadn't expected the event to run as long as it had, and as she walked outside she muttered to herself: "It's a little after nine. I might be able to catch the last inning."

Her nine-year-old son, Arnie, was playing in the season's first Little League baseball game and Sorenson didn't want to miss it. Employing a lead foot and a healthy disregard for stop signs, the commissioner raced to the parking lot of Suniland Recreation Center at 128th Street and South Dixie Highway. Emerging from her minivan, she announced, "Now I get to be mom." Her husband had dropped off Arnie for the beginning of the game, but because he had been in surgery all day, he was exhausted and had gone home. When Sorenson arrived, the game was a little more than half over.

The election campaign had been roughest on her children, she recalls later. Brutally long hours. But even today, as she tries to settle into a routine, she is still separated from her family more than she would like. "I had a dream the other night that I forgot the names of my kids," she says, smiling uncomfortably, "and I began to wonder if maybe there is a message somewhere in there."

Still, Sorenson is lucky to have had the financial independence to run for office and the time to actually perform the job. A housekeeper comes by four hours per day, five times a week; and for the past few months her mother-in-law has been staying at the house. But Sorenson's hours are still a source of concern. "The kids don't like her not coming home for dinner," says Janis Dzelzkalns, her husband. "They are resentful of the time she's away. We don't get as much of her as we used to, so we have to make the most of the moments we're together."

Dzelzkalns doesn't seem to be enjoying his new role as political husband. The campaign, he says, was exciting and introduced them to a lot of new friends, but taking part in public events or being interviewed by reporters is not something he relishes. "I'm not the public figure and I don't like the attention or the questions," he confides. "I'm just in the background."

"When I was running for office, I always heard about the commission in animal terms," Sorenson recalls. "That it was a snake pit, a shark tank, a lion's den. In some ways it seemed to be so...so...animalistic," she laughs. "My impression was that some people were trying to do the right thing and that some people were just totally political animals posturing for themselves and whatever gain they could get out of it."

Since joining the commission, her impression hasn't changed much. "I don't want to come across as grandiose or above everyone else at all," she says. "I just think I am someone who wants to add a voice of reason, the voice of someone who wants to do the right thing, because that's what people want. But more than people wanting it, it's what we need. We need people who have integrity, who have ethics, who really want to move things forward for the greater good of the community.

"I'm so tired of all the cynicism. And I think everyone is. People are looking for leaders who aren't cynical. I think there are those of us around, and maybe there can be a renaissance. There are certainly a lot of things to solve in this community."

So far Sorenson has publicly addressed only a few of those problems, but already she says she is amazed that some commissioners assume her actions are motivated by something personal. For instance, following the debate about the contingency fund, Bruce Kaplan grabbed a member of Sorenson's staff in the hallway and demanded to know why Sorenson would personally attack him by challenging the Art Deco funding. Was this the start of some South Dade-Miami Beach feud, he wanted to know.

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Jim DeFede
Contact: Jim DeFede