By Dacia Ochoa - Contributing Writer
The beauty of Miami Shores lies in the diversity and the humility of the vibrant village. Today, Miami Shores is one of the smallest municipalities in MiamiDade County that contains about 11,500 residents integrated in a modern residential community. In essence, the village of Miami Shores is the perfect paradise that is embellished with a pure azure sky with clouds as white as cotton. When driving through the streets of the village, one can admire various well-maintained homes and freshly mowed lawns.
In Miami Shores, there is a an active civic life and a responsive local government who advocates for the growth and livelihood of its people. The Miami Shores Village local government is operated by a manager system and a five-member council: the mayor, vice mayor, and three other council members, who are responsible for enacting local laws, setting policies, and appointing managers to oversee daily operations.
In the spring of 2021, the residents of Miami Shores, by majority vote, elected Sandra Harris to be the face of the city, to be a “servant” to their day-to-day communal needs. She was appointed to be an instrument of encouragement to the community by generating involvement with the local government in order to strive for social justice.
Just by looking at Mayor Harris, one wouldn’t know that she wakes up every morning to go to CrossFit, four times a week for the past ten years. She strives to stay healthy and to take care of herself. Most days, she is in the Miami Shores Village Hall, with her workout clothes, ready to help the residents of Miami Shores one council meeting at a time. Mayor Harris is an attractive woman with chocolate brown skin as smooth as moonstone, and short, black hair that is curled into small, tight ringlets. She has a kind smile with bright, coffee-colored eyes. Her gentle voice exposes an extroverted personality that is laced with charisma, wisdom, and modesty.
“I don’t find myself that exciting. I don't have a worship story. [I am just a] girl who became [the] mayor of a small municipality,” said Harris.
In her entire professional career, Harris has sought to help people in the community. Before becoming mayor, she worked with the Miami-Dade Transit at a senior level, where she commissioned traffic studies on speed bumps, roundabouts, sidewalks, trollies, and pedestrian walks until her 2019 retirement.
Soon, she questioned what her next step in life was. Harris sought to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a city manager. According to the mayor, with lots of determination and through “the will of what God wanted for her,” she campaigned and “ran on transparency” for the 2021 Miami Shores Village Council Election. As the second woman of color to be the mayor of Miami Shores, Harris is living evidence that professional workforces have evolved by setting aside the stereotypes surrounding governmental positions—namely that government employees are expendable or that they have a hidden agenda.
In her election and campaign process, she ran for mayor/councilwoman with no agenda and no ulterior motive. She simply ran to become mayor, to give back to her community. As a resident of Miami Shores for 18 years, Harris has witnessed the growth of the village firsthand.
“I’ve been blessed. It’s historic for this council here in Miami Shores. There’s a sense of black girl magic,” said Harris.
In fact, after the 2021 elections, the village is now comprised of four women, three of which are black. “I don’t know if its racism or the sign of the times,” said Harris. The world is evolving, and women are becoming more and more involved in government and politics. When asked about how to advise women to seek governmental roles, Harris said: “Do it. We need it. Women bring about a different perspective to anything. Women could grow and have opportunities.”
As mayor of Miami Shores, Harris tries to engage the will of residents, but her job is also much more than this.
“The work is not really in being a mayor. I legislate in the council. We set the rules, policies, and ordinances. But the real work is done by the staff and the directors. That’s where the real magic happens,” said Harris.
Ultimately, the communal needs are satisfied by the work of government employees like Harris who voluntarily work to make Miami Shores the “Village Beautiful.” With discipline, passion, and modesty, Harris leads Miami Shores towards communal value and growth. She also brings about the perspective that government is everywhere.
According to Harris, “As soon as you wake up in the morning, you encounter government. You turn on your water, you brush your teeth, you flush the toilet. You drive on the road. Government is everywhere.”