Mayor of the Village of Pinecrest, Cindy Lerner

From left to right: Nancy Brown (Club President), Cindy Lerner (Pinecrest Mayor), 
and Stuart Goldstein (Club Member)

On Monday, May 7th, the Mayor of the Village of Pinecrest, Cindy Lerner, spoke to our Rotary Club. Cindy has been a long-time resident of Miami and Pinecrest, having moved here when she was a child in 1960. She attended Palmetto Elementary, Junior and Senior High schools. After graduating from Palmetto Senior High, she went on to get a BA degree from Tulane University, and and a law degree from Emory University in Atlanta.

Cindy had a long legal career as a Child Advocate, as senior attorney for the Guardian Ad Litem program in Miami Dade's Juvenile Court and overseeing hundreds of volunteer attorneys involved in that program. The abused and neglected children involved in the County's juvenile court system were from dysfunctional families who needed services and treatment. However, she soon recognized that the governmental systems that were supposed to be helping children and their families were as dysfunctional as the families they were supposed to be helping. This is what spurred her to get involved in the political process, as she become a system advocate. She led not-for-profit and civic organizations, and organized community initiatives to improve access to healthcare, education, and social services. In 2000, she ran for and was elected to serve as State Representative for District 119, which included all of Pinecrest and south to Homestead.

In her years as a legislator, Ms. Lerner served as Vice Chair for the Child and Family Security Committee, where she often lead the fight for comprehensive changes that would positively impact children and families. She also served on the Education and Innovation Committee, the Council for Healthy Communities, the Agriculture Committee, and the Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee. When her Representative District was dissolved by the Florida legislature, she returned to her community work in Pinecrest, and began a consulting business called Grassroots Connections. She worked for a wide range of local organizations, including Friends of the Everglades, National Council of Jewish Women, Pace Center for Girls, Community Gardens Charitable Fund, and Temple Beth Am Sisterhood, and she continued to volunteer with various Juvenile Court projects. Ms. Lerner has won numerous awards and accolades,including the Florida Chapter of Sierra Club Legislator of the Year Award, Outstanding New Legislator award from Human Services Coalition, Women Pioneer Award from Miami-Dade County, and Woman of Valor Award from National Council of Jewish Women.

Cindy said that the Village of Pinecrest is alive and well, although many challenges and problems remain to be solved, partly as a consequence of the current economic recession. She is particularly concerned about funding for the public schools in Pinecrest, and is actively engaged in raising funds to to provide better support in maintaining the outstanding reputations held by its 5 public schools. Most recently, she organized a drive to raise funds to provide smart boards in all classrooms of these schools. In 2002, Pinecrest Gardens, the former site of Parrot Jungle, was purchased by the municipality. In 2011, it became listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Built in the 1930s, Pinecrest Gardens features more than a thousand varieties of rare tropical and exotic plants and palm trees in a native tropical hardwood and cypress hammock setting. After the closing of Parrot Jungle, it was reopened 2003 as a municipal park. One of the innovations Ms. Lerner has initiated is a system of advisory groups, designed to encourage civic engagement for the benefit of the Village of Pincecrest. Six of these are currently in operation representing such areas as education, transportation, the operation of the Village's 5 public parks, the Village's Community Center, Pinecrest Gardens, and Pinecrest's Youth Development Program. Ms. Lerner said one of her latest struggles has been with Florida Power and Light (FP&L), which wants to build high electricity transmission lines along South Dixie Highway in southern Miami-Dade County. She and other advocates have suggested an alternative route that is already being used for other transmission lines, so no new neighborhoods would be affected. However, the administrators of FP&L are not receptive to this idea. She also has been one of the leaders in the fight to keep FP&L from building its proposed two new nuclear power stations in addition to the current facility at Turkey Point. The cost estimates for building these two new facilities have increased from an initial estimate of $8 billion to a more recent figure of $20 billion.

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