17 of South Florida's elected officials head for Good Government Initiative classes
By Robert Grattan
The Good Government Initiative, a forum for training and discourse among South Florida's elected officials, announced an inaugural class that boasts 17 of the region's prominent political leaders.
The initiative, founded by accomplished former county commissioner Katy Sorenson, was created to help "early-career elected officials to learn the simple mechanics of how government and the legislative process operate," according to its purpose statement.
It also aims to develop a conversation that will expose politicians to a range of opinions and information. The program costs $1,500 and scholarships are available, Ms. Sorenson noted.
Starting Aug. 26, the program is to bring together mayors, commissioners and state representatives from South Florida who enrolled in the program.
Among them is promising attorney Raquel Regalado, newly-elected board member of the School Board of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She comes from a lineage of public service, with her father, Tomás Regalado, now serving as Miami's mayor.
The inaugural class also includes more veteran figures in South Florida politics, such as District 118 State Rep. Dwight Bullard, Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers and Miami Beach Commissioner Jorge Exposito.
"Anyone, no matter their point in the process, can always learn more about efficiency and about being a responsible leader," Mr. Bullard said.
The initiative is to train representatives through instruction on a range of topics. Programs include mock media interviews, where representatives will critique their own recorded statements; ethics panel discussions; examinations of public-private partnerships, and budget presentations, Ms. Sorenson listed.
"I'm excited about this first crop of students who represent the future of leadership in our community," she said. "They have demonstrated that they are interested in improving their skills in governance and in working with their peers to improve government throughout South Florida."
Ms. Sorenson's curriculum draws both on the experience of past government representatives and those with expertise in various fields.
The University of Miami is a partner in the initiative and will provide faculty members along with classroom space and other support services.
"We are grateful to the University of Miami and the Knight Foundation for their support," Ms. Sorenson said.
One of the program's major focuses is to open an effective political dialogue between different parts of government in Florida, she said.
"I hope to have a regional impact," she added, "to include officials from Monroe to Palm Beach and to forge a collaborative approach."
Taking classes together is intended to foster more collaboration amongst these leaders and the governments they represent.
"There is a need to have this type of discussion," Ms. Regalado said. "We're all interconnected, but we rarely get the opportunity to sit down in a group setting and really talk about these issues. This is an opportunity to discuss these issues on a large scale."
The remaining inaugural class consists of Patricia Asseff, Hollywood's vice mayor; Jennifer Ator, Miami Springs council member; Daniel Dietch, mayor of Surfside; Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez; Jupiter Council Member Wendy Harrison; North Miami Beach Council Member Barbara Kramer; Hallandale Beach Council Member Keith London; Coral Gables Commissioner Frank Quesada; Miami Gardens Council Member Felicia Robinson; Biscayne Park Mayor Roxanna Ross; Broward County School Board Member Nora Rupert; Monroe County School Board Member Robin Smith-Martin; and West Miami Commissioner Elsa Vazquez.
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