Longform

The Thrill of the Hunt

Page 8 of 8

Given their strongly expressed sentiments favoring a local developer, it's unclear how commissioners would react if HABDI were to sell its privileges to outsiders. But that potential problem is minor compared to a situation that could scuttle Herrera's plans altogether.

This past March, after much concerted lobbying by local officials and civic leaders, the Department of Defense announced that the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) would relocate to Dade County from Panama. If SOUTHCOM's commanders decide they want to set up shop at the Homestead Air Force Base, they undoubtedly will be given the property, which is still controlled by the federal government. (SOUTHCOM officials are expected to announce their decision within days.)

In the face of that threat, Herrera has been active in Washington as well. He has met with Air Force officials and has struck up a friendship with Sen. Edward Kennedy. (The two have met on several occasions recently and Herrera attended a private fundraiser in Kennedy's honor.) The senator is a Democrat and Herrera is a Republican, but Kennedy is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and could prove to be a powerful ally as Pentagon officials decide precisely where SOUTHCOM will be located.

That Herrera is mounting such an all-out effort should come as no surprise. "You have those who try hard," he says, "and those who try hardest. I'm not a brain surgeon. I'm not a super-intelligent guy. I never have been. But I always believed that if you work hard, you will succeed. I've not failed so far. So I don't see why I would fail now.

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Jim DeFede
Contact: Jim DeFede