Meet Miami-Dade County’s first female mayor

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava takes the oath of office. Photo credit: Twitter, @MayorDaniella
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava takes the oath of office.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava takes the oath of office. Photo credit: Twitter, @MayorDaniella

Daniella Levine Cava won a historic election by defeating her opponent Esteban Bovo in the mayoral race. Levine Cava received 54% of the vote in her victory as Miami-Dade County’s first female mayor elected to office.

Levine Cava’s mayoral campaign ran on a message of togetherness.

“It’s time to have a leader at the helm of our county that can bring people together, which is a trademark of Daniela’s, who’s a collaborator,” said Senior Campaign Advisor Christian Ulvert. “When she sees a problem, she runs to it and brings people together to solve it together. That’s how she started Catalyst Miami.”

Under her message of togetherness, Levine Cava plans on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic by providing safety net investments for working families, such as rent relief, food assistance and the expansion of unemployment benefits from Tallahassee. She also calls to make mass testing widely available until a vaccine is approved. Levine Cava plans to bring business owners large and small together with science and medical professionals because, as Ulvert said, “to have a thriving economy, we need a healthy population.”

The mayor-elect sees the rising cost of living in Miami-Dade as a problem she hopes to tackle. She plans to establish the Mayor’s Office of Equity & Inclusion, which will expand summer work programs for young people to ensure equity in county policies that improve economic disparities.

“The price of living is getting higher and higher, but wages aren’t keeping up and that is a growing problem,” Ulvert said. “And she appreciates that. She sees it in a deeper way from a community level.”

University of Miami junior Zach Muleta, a 21-year-old political science major, voted for Levine Cava because of her progressive policies.

“She was a big proponent of the minimum wage [increase], pro-choice, all that stuff,” said Muleta. “We’re in South Florida – fifteen dollar minimum wage, that’s kind of all I’m really asking for.”

Levine Cava is a staunch advocate for the protection and restoration of the environment, where she earned the moniker “Water Warrior” during her time as county commissioner.

“She’s going to make sure that the decades of damage done to our water ecosystem not only stops but that the damage is reversed,” Ulvert said.

Paola Martinez, a 25-year-old second-year UM medical student, voted for Levine Cava.

“It’s really important to start thinking about the environment because I think we’re going to be underwater in 50 years or something if we don’t do anything about it,” said Martinez. “Having somebody at the policy level who’s able to believe in the environment and work towards it, I think that’s really important.”

Martinez is excited for Miami-Dade’s first female mayor. “I think it’s about time. I love seeing women in power,” Martinez said.

As a person outside the political scene, Ulvert said “Daniela is someone that will always bring tears to my eyes because she is someone that inspires [another] who cares deeply.”

To demonstrate her character, Ulvert shared a moment during an NBC debate in which the moderator asked each candidate to compliment one another. Levine Cava’s opponent used the moment as an opportunity to further attack her character. Levine Cava responded graciously by acknowledging her opponent as a loving father and family man with a sense of humor while defending that it is not funny to call her a radical.

“And that speaks to Daniela because she was able to correct the record, but also injecting that moment of levity,” Ulvert said. “And that’s who she is. She’d rather collaboration versus confrontation, she’d rather positive synergy than negative friction…She will always look for the good in people and she will put the noise to the side and focus on that personal connection.”

Levine Cava was born on Sept. 14, 1955, in New York City. She went on to graduate from Yale in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology where she served as president of the Student Council. Levine Cava also earned her J.D. from Columbia University in 1981 and a master of social work in 1983.

No stranger to historic benchmarks, Levine Cava was first elected in 2014 as a commissioner representing Miami-Dade’s District 8. She secured a rare victory over an incumbent county commissioner by 688 votes over Lynda Bell. Levine Cava retained her title as Miami-Dade commissioner after being re-elected four years later in 2018, where she continued to serve District 8.

With her husband Robert Cava, Levine Cava first arrived in Miami in 1980 where she worked as an attorney with Legal Services of Greater Miami. She began her work as a public servant as the legal director of the Guardian Ad Litem program, a child welfare program led by the courts. She also served on the Florida Bar Committee on Legal Needs of Children as the Miami-Dade County program manager for the Florida Department of Children and Families, and as the founder of Barry University’s outreach program for youths. Levine Cava also founded Catalyst Miami, a financial advice program for lower-income families that assists with increasing wages and savings.

Mayor Levine Cava assumed office on Nov. 17.