‘I am the American dream’: Tomas Regalado reflects on storied career

MIAMI (WSVN) - City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado has plenty to reflect on, including his storied career, but like all things, his career is coming to an end.

“This has been a roller coaster for me,” said Regalado. “I have lived the best and the worst of the City of Miami.”

The 70-year-old mayor immigrated to the United States from Cuba more than 50 years ago. “I am the American dream,” he said. “I came to this country alone with my small brother, but my parents were in Cuba. I came to a shelter.”

A fast-paced career as a journalist paved the way to politics. He started in radio, then went on to become an international correspondent and later a White House press corps reporter.

“It gave me a world perspective. It gave me a national perspective,” he said.

Famous faces are now framed on his office wall, from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan. “I always say, you know, ‘What is this Cuban that came here alone, doing here sitting in this press room?’ You know, I could not imagine that ever.”

Regalado made the transition to city commissioner in the 90s. His first day on the job was rocked by scandal as FBI agents handed out indictments across City Hall during an economic crisis.

“There was a fiscal emergency, and for five years we were under the watch of the State of Florida, and the we moved on,” said Regalado.

He helped steady the ship and was elected Mayor in 2009 with the biggest success coming after the housing market collapse, he said.

Regalado said the city was in bad shape. However, instead of filing for bankruptcy, he made the controversial decision to file for fiscal urgency, which allowed the city to cut employees salaries even if they were under contract.

“For the past seven years we have reduced property taxes, and that has brought to the City of Miami billions of dollars,” he said.

In his final months in office before retirement, he has one regret. “We should have started many years ago a conversation about sea level rise, climate change, nature and how to protect it.”

Now he has a message for the residents he has served for more than 20 years. “My hope is that we welcome those who just want to do better and that just want their children to be better than them.”

Regalado is also leaving the new mayor with one piece of advice: get out of City Hall. He said the real work is on the streets and meeting the people you serve.

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