Current Cohort

Hamad Alhajeri

First Lieutenant in the Bahrain Ministry of the Interior (MOI)


Hamad Alhajeri has been working for the Ministry of the Interior for 8 years and has excelled well in the diplomatic areas of his field. Hamad received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a minor in Criminal Justice from The Citadel, The Military School of South Carolina. During his time there, he was rewarded the top honor reward for his achievements in his studies. Also, Hamad was sent on a scholarship and will be graduating from a dual master’s program by 2017 in Criminal Justice and Public Administration from Florida International University in Miami, Florida. His areas of interest are in diplomatic affairs, how public administration can become corrupt, and public administration in the field of managing resources.

Mohamed Saad Alnoaimi

Command Center’s Branch Manager in the Bahrain Ministry of the Interior (MOI)


Mohamed Saad Alnoaimi was born in The Kingdom of Bahrain, where he lived most of his life. Mohamed has attended Al-noor International School and graduated with IGCSE certificate. He then joined Modern Knowledge Schools to enhance his English and graduated with honors and a GPA of 3.8 in American High School Diploma. In 2008, he joined The Ministry Of Interior (MOI) and started serving as a private. Due to his outstanding performance and academic success, he was qualified to be on a full-sponsored scholarship to attend a foreign university. In 2009, Mohamed was accepted at The Citadel, the military college of South Carolina where he graduated in 2012 with Magna Cume Laude and a GPA of 3.8. He also earned other honor certificates, such as The Phi Kappa Phi in Physics and Beta Gamma Sigma in Business Administration.

In 2012, he was given a distinguished promotion from H.M. King Hamad Al-Khalifa and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. Post the promotion, Mohamed’s job specification has changed from human resources assistant to being an administrative officer at the MOI Head Quarters in Manama. In 2013, he was selected by The Chief of Public Security to work as an Administrative officer at The Chief’s Command Center. He was then given the position of the Command Center’s Branch Manager. Mohamed has developed skills in strategy implementation, administration of the 26 branches that follows the Headquarters, investigation in police misconduct, and rioting statistics. Mohamed speaks Arabic, English, and Italian.

Wilgienson Auguste

Police Detective Sergeant and Internal Affairs Investigator, Office of the Chief of Police in Fort Lauderdale


Wilgienson’s, a Fort Lauderdale native, law enforcement career started with his enlistment into the United States Navy as a military police officer. While in the Navy, he quickly advanced through the ranks achieving the rank of Petty Officer, 2nd class. As service member, Wiligienson held critical positions as a Dignitary Protection Specialist, providing strategic protection strategies for high ranking dignitaries and government officials. Wilgienson also served as a adminstrivative aide for detainee operations and security overseas in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Upon concluding his military service, he joined the Fort Lauderdale Police Department in 2006 as a patrolman. Wilgienson quickly ascended through the ranks and achieved the position of Narcotics Detective assigned to the Special Investigations Division, Street Crimes Unit. In June 2013, Wilgienson was selected to join the South Florida Money Laundering Strike Force (SFMLSF) and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) group. His duties with the elite group included strategic investigations into domestic and international drug cartels in Latin America.

Additionally, Wilgienson is currently a member of the Florida Hostage Negotiation Association, as well as a team member of his agency’s Hostage Negotiation Team. In January 2015, Wilgienson was promoted to the rank of Police Sergeant, where he supervised the day to day road patrol operations. Wilgienson has a Bachelor’s degree in Homeland Security and Public Safety from Vincennes University.

Maribel Balbin

President of the League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade County


Maribel Balbin is a professional public administrator with an impressive record of volunteer service with multiple civic organizations. As the President of the League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade County, she is dedicated to engaging local citizens in the democratic process. Balbin is also a Board Member of the Florida League of Women Voters, the principal voice for election reform in the State of Florida. She has an unwavering commitment to increasing the participation of women in elected office at all levels of government and is active with a national program known as Latinas Represent.

Ms. Balbin is recognized professionally for her involvement with environmental protection and water conservation. Following her service as an environmental policy advisor for the Miami-Dade County Commission, she joined the South Florida Water Management District’s Everglades Restoration Team. Her capacity to effectively communicate the importance of this project through media outlets, in Eng-lish and Spanish, proved critical to increasing awareness among elected officials and the citizens of South Florida. Balbin later served as the first Water Conservation Manager for Miami-Dade County, where she developed an award-winning program that is currently saving millions of gallons of water. The benefits of this water conservation program have saved the ratepayers of Miami-Dade County mil-lions of dollars, as the demand for new production plants has been delayed or eliminated. She has published several articles in science journals on water use efficiency and has been a speaker at con-ferences throughout the United States and South America. Her most recent notable project was the development and implementation of a Green Business Certification Program for Miami-Dade County.

Her community service includes membership on the Miami-Dade College School of Continuing Educa-tion and Professional Development Board, the Cuban Museum, the Nominating Committee of the Citi-zens Independent Transit Trust, the Greater Miami Hotel Association Sustainability Council, and the American Association of University Women. She's a former Chair of the Miami Dade County Commis-sion for Women, former president of Latin Business and Professional Women, and has served on the Community Relations Board and Art in Public Places Trust of Miami-Dade County. She has also worked to assist women inside her native country Cuba through various organizations such as Red-Fem and Conciencia Cubana.

She has received various awards and recognitions for her community and professional service. The City of Miami Commission for Women recognized her with the 2012 "Trail Blazer Award." The Wom-en’s History Coalition named her a "Woman of Impact" in 2012. She was honored by "In the Company of Women" in 2005. The American Society of Public Administration recognized her with an Excellence in Public Administration Award. She’s also a Cuban Women’s Club Floridana.

Ms. Balbin received an Associate’s Degree from Miami Dade College and a Bachelor of Public Admin-istration from Florida International University where she’s currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in the same discipline. She lastly holds certificates in Project Management and Executive Development from Florida International University and is accredited as a LEED Green Associate by the USGBC.

Nahyoh F. Bashui-Goffe

Federal Agent, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement


Nahyoh is a native of Miami, Florida. She graduated from Florida International University in 2002 with a B.S. in Criminal Justice. She has held numerous positions within the Criminal Justice field to include Correctional Officer and Probation Officer with the Florida Department of Corrections, and Law Enforcement Officer with the Village of Key Biscayne and Florida Atlantic University Police Departments. In 2009, she began her career with the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Office of Enforcement and Removal. Due to her commitment and performance, Nahyoh was the recipient of the agency’s most prestigious award, the 2014 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director’s Award. With a Master of Public Administration degree, Nahyoh strongly believes that she can contribute to public service in the best way possible while ensuring that her contribution, no matter how big or small, enhances the community and its people.

Laura A. Borgesi

Town Engineer for the Town of Davie, Florida


Laura A. Borgesi is a Licensed Professional Engineer and Surveyor and Mapper with over 25 years experience in land planning and development and 10 years in municipal engineering. She has extensive experience in traffic engineering and roadway operations and is also proficient in working with multi-jurisdictional agencies and local entities to provide the best level of service and project management.

In her current role, she leads the engineering division and provides engineering support services to the administration, other town divisions, and to the residents within the municipality. She is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Institute of Transportation Engineers, and Engineers without Borders. She is a graduate of Florida State University with dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering and also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

Lenna Borjes

Commission Aide for Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr.


Lenna Borjes has been working as a Commission Aide for Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr. since 2012. She works directly with Department Directors on constituent casework, board appointments, street designations, and allocation of monies. In addition, she functions as the scheduler and supervisor of interns and volunteers for District 13. Prior to joining Miami-Dade County, she interned for State Senator Rene Garcia, where she implemented a new constituent case virtual filing and handled concerns for District 38. In 2013, Lenna received her Bachelor’s degree from the Florida International University, with a Double Major in Political Science and International Relations, a Minor in Economics and a Certificate in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. She is fluent in English and Spanish. Lenna is of Cuban origin and has been living in Miami for 12 years. Presently, she is an EMPA student of Florida International University.

Ryon Coote

Philanthropy Director for the Children’s Home Society of Florida’s Southeastern Division


Ryon Robert Coote is a graduate of Florida International University. He has over 10 years of experience in the non-profit and government sectors. In his current role, he leads the philanthropic and advocacy efforts for Miami-Dade County. Ryon is recognized by his peers as a respected, self-motivated, high performing, and strategic professional with experience simultaneously managing multiple projects. Ryon works on projects involving community leaders, state, and local officials that impact social service issues affecting underserved children and families. Ryon is an advocate for abused, neglected, and abandoned children. He champions efforts to improve education for children living in underserved communities. He aspires to be the CEO of a non-profit that provides resources and quality of life services to the community. Ryon was born in Montego Bay, Jamaica. He and his family moved to the United States when he was nine years old. He is the father of a four year old and enjoys dragon boating, out-rigger canoeing, and spending time with his family.

Gustavo Cruz

Director of the Miami-Dade Military Affairs Board


Gustavo Cruz is actively involved within the local military community and veteran causes, acting as a liaison between federal, state, and county governments. Mr. Cruz is a highly decorated United States Marine who has served multiple tours of combat in the Middle-East under the Special Operations Command. Previously to his current position, Mr. Cruz worked for a local law enforcement agency, serving as a SWAT Operator and a Marine Patrol Officer/Diver. Mr. Cruz received his Bachelor’s degree from FIU in Criminal Justice. Gus is a proud and dedicated father of two young children.

Christopher Cotton

Harbor Master for the Mooring Field, Marinas’ Division in the Public Facilities Department


Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Christopher is accustomed to the Magic City. Growing up in Miami, Christopher is very familiar with the sun and fun capital, its historic and rich history, and the positive changes that have led Miami from a sleepy small town to an international vibrant and diverse city. It was a natural career path for Christopher to join the City of Miami in 2008. He works at the Marinas’ Division under the Public Facilities Department. He deals with every aspect of operating city marinas from the operational ground level to the upper administrative levels with an emphasis on local government and public sector operations. The Marinas’ Division includes three different marinas, Miamarina at Bayside Marketplace, Dinner Key Marina and Mooring Field in Coconut Grove, and Marine Stadium Marina located on Virginia Key. He graduated in 2012 from Florida International University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration. Striving for a higher education and employment opportunities, Christopher is currently enrolled at Florida International University in the accredited Executive Master’s Public Administration. If he is not working at the Marinas or studying for classes, Christopher is going to the beach, biking, and enjoys his bayside view in downtown Miami where he lives.

Rebeca Garcia

Assistant Director of Advisement & Career Services, Miami Dade College Medical Campus


Rebeca Garcia, an FIU alumna in Political Science, has over 25 years of experience in higher education. She has worked at Florida International University, the University of Miami, and Miami Dade College. She has dedicated herself to following her passion of empowering others to pursue their own passions, and has done so in capacities ranging from Alumni Coordinator, Marketing & Outreach Specialist, Business Program Manager, District Director of Student Employment Services, and presently Assistant Director for Advisement & Career Services at MDC Medical Campus. Rebeca is a Leadership Miami graduate who has served in MDC’s Strategic Planning Committee. While serving as an administrator, she has taught courses in Human Resources, Marketing, Customer Service, Human Relations, and Employability Skills. During her years of service at these institutions, she has been proud to help students, alumni, and businesses compete, grow, and succeed. It is Rebeca’s aspiration to use her experiences in the EMPA program to shape public policy at MDC, for the betterment of her students and colleagues.

Alfred Lewers Jr.

Member of the Police Foundation in Washington, DC


Alfred Lewers Jr. is a Senior Law Enforcement Project Manager with the Police Foundation, joining the Foundation after a 30-year law enforcement career. He recently retired from the Miami Gardens Police Department (MGPD) as the Assistant Chief of Police and holds the unique honor of being the first person hired at the agency in October 2006. He was instrumental in forming the 300-member force from the ground up.

During his tenure at the MGPD, he focused on ensuring that the department was situated to take full advantage of technological advances in policing, ensuring that the appropriate policies, training and technical solutions were in place. He co-authored the City of Miami Gardens’ public safety technology project and self-initiated the deployment of several innovative tech solutions. He was a thought leader in multiple areas of organizational improvement and revamped the Operations Patrol Division to focus on problem-oriented policing and trust building, as opposed to their past traditional policing model.

While at the MGPD, he held the ranks of Captain and Major, being assigned to all divisions within the department. He is skilled in grants acquisition as well as gun violence reduction through technology and multifaceted social services and non-traditional approaches.

Prior to his service with the MGPD, he was a Lieutenant at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, overseeing the Recruiting, Background Investigations, Training and the Alarm Units. While in that capacity, he focused on process improvements and enhanced training benchmarks for the entire agency.

He also held positions as the Recruiting Unit Supervisor, where he perfected his skills in diversity recruitment and retention. He was the Public Information Officer for the Department, a Patrol supervisor, an Officer in the Patrol Division, and an investigator in both the Criminal Investigations and Special Investigations Divisions. He was on the agency’s SWAT team as a Hostage Negotiator and a member of the Department’s Honor Guard.

During Mr. Lewers’ early career he was a Coral Springs Police Officer and is a proud veteran of the United States Army, where he served as a military policeman. Throughout his career, he has been the recipient of over 60 department, citizen, and military awards and commendations.

Mr. Lewers is pursuing his master degree in Public Administration at Florida International University’s Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs and holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Union Institute & University. He also holds a Graduate Certificate from the University of Virginia in Criminal Justice Education and is a graduate of the 259th Session of the FBI National Academy.

Mr. Lewers is professionally engaged and civic-minded, holding memberships and executive board positions in numerous professional law enforcement, civil rights, and civic organizations.

Solange Olivera

Fulbright Scholar from Honduras


Solange Olivera is an international student from Honduras who was awarded the prestigious Fulbright scholarship to obtain her second Master’s Degree in the United States. In the Honduran Government, she worked as a public official for over eleven years, particularly in the Superior Court of Auditors. She worked as the head of the follow-up audit recommendation department overseeing public institutions in Honduras, suggesting recommendations, and making sure policies were being carried out correctly. In addition, Solange also worked with the National University of Honduras as a professor where she taught Project Management.

Solange atended the Catholic University of Honduras and studied industrial engineering. She also earned a Master´s Degree in Project Management and obtained honors distinction. She has attended a variety of courses, particularly in the Certificate Programs on Procurement and Contracting. She was chosen as only one of two officials from a total of 300 public servants to help teach the second Certificate Program; she assisted the creators of the Law on Government Procurement course. She accompanied Dr. Edmundo Orellana Mercado (former Attorney General of Honduras and former member of the National Congress) in teaching this course. She was similarly requested to assist with the creation of the law on making purchases through the online catalog, along with the members of the Regulatory Office of State Procurement and Contracts (ONCAE).

She lastly loves community service, particularly with her Christian Group “Las Uvas” (Abundant Life Christian Church) in which she has been a leader since 2010.

Heather Osorio

Compliance Specialist in the Office of Disclosures & Conflict of Interest Management, University of Miami


Heather Osorio supports and enforces UM’s mission in maintaining objectivity in research and upholding the highest scientific and ethical standards to assure the integrity of all sponsored work. She is an alumna of Smith College where she received her Bachelors in Arts with a concentration in Neuroscience. Heather also attended the Honors College of Miami Dade College, where she graduated with her Associate in Arts degree with a concentration in Biology.

Randall Overton

Federal Permit Agent with the Department of Homeland Security, Coast Guard


Randall has over 35 years of public service in the Federal Government: 23.5 years on active duty in the Coast Guard and 12 years as a civil servant with the Department of Homeland Security, Coast Guard. Randall has served in a plethora of positions and his career highlights include: Chief of Operation, Loran Station Lampedusa Italy; Engineering Department Head, Communication Station, Kodiak, Alaska; Director of Electronic Schools, Coast Guard Training Center Petaluma California; Command Advisor, Electronic Support Unit Miami, Florida; Director of District Bridge Programs, Seattle, Washington; Bridge Management Specialist, Federal Permit Agent, Miami, Florida In his current position as a Federal Permit Agent with the Department of Homeland Security, Coast Guard, Randall manages permitting for multi-million dollar transportation infrastructure improvement projects within Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Randall interacts directly with: local, state and national politicians; and national, state, county, and local transportation departments; as well as engaging directly with the public. Randall received an Associate of Art from Miami-Dade College (1994) and Bachelors of Science from Thomas A Edison State College, New Jersey (2002).

Evelyn Roig

Town Clerk, Town of Davie


Evelyn Roig has been with the Town of Davie for over seven years, ascending from Assistant Town Clerk to Town Clerk where she is responsible for a wide-range of legislative duties. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies and also obtained her paralegal certification from Florida International University. Evelyn has been in the public administration field for over 22 years serving at the county and municipal level. She has held upper management positions, from the interim city manager, assistant city manager, director of zoning and enforcement, and building department administrator. Her tenure in public administration is a testament to her commitment and dedication as a public servant. She has been married to her husband for 21 years who works for Miami Dade County and serves as Lieutetant Colonel in the Florida Army National Guard. Together they have two sons ages twenty and eighteen who also serve.

Talmage Thornhill Carrillo

Contract Manager at The Children’s Trust


Talmage Thornhill Carrillo serves, creates, and inspires through her work in the public sector. As a public servant at The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County, she manages contracts representative of a vast array of initiatives, including After School, Early Childhood, Parenting, Service Partnership, and Youth Enrichment. Prior to joining TCT, Ms. Thornhill managed a comprehensive family support program, helping the community's most vulnerable residents improve their lives through empathy and empowerment. Ms. Thornhill ensures excellence through strong administrative, fiscal, and grant writing skills. Accountability, ethical standards, performance measurement, and a strength-based approach are the driving principles that inform her decision-making skills. Ms. Thornhill's passion for community involvement drove her to serve at an early age, volunteering while in high school as a Head Start program assistant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Ms. Thornhill earned her Bachelor's in Fine Arts degree from Florida State University, where she also studied business and journalism. As a passionate animal advocate, Ms. Thornhill's commitment to protecting the innocent extends to all living creatures. She spends her free time serving on her condominium association board and pursuing optimal health through nutrition and movement. Ms. Thornhill's focus on action and legacy drove her to pursue her Master's in Public Administration at the esteemed Florida International University, where she is setting the stage for a bright and impactful future.

Graham Winick

Film and Event Production Manager for the City of Miami Beach, FL


Since 2002, Graham Winick has served as the Film and Event Production Manager for the City of Miami Beach, FL, where he recruits and oversees all feature film, television, photography and special event productions held within the city. Notable projects have included Magic City, Burn Notice, Pain and Gain, Art Basel Miami Beach, South Beach Wine & Food, and Super Bowls XLI and XLIV. Winick is the Past President of Film Florida, the state’s non-profit marketing and legislative support association, having served as President for three years and as Vice President for two. During his term as President, Winick helped lead the collective initiative to engineer the state’s first entertainment industry tax credit, a $242 Million program, which was made law in June 2010 and is poised to attract over $1 Billion in new entertainment spending to Florida over the next five years. Previously, Winick was the Director of Development for Outlaw Productions in Los Angeles, where he helped usher several features into production, including Breach, The Santa Clause 2, and Training Day. Winick is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch Film and Television program.

Marisol Zenteno

Income Evaluation Specialist, Miami-Dade County Office of the Property Appraiser


Ms. Zenteno has been a commercial property appraiser for over fifteen years. She worked as an independent contractor for Waronker and Rosen, Inc. in the city of South Miami, Florida. While there she became a State-Certified General Appraiser designation in the State of Florida in 2007. She has experience in a variety of commercial properties, including, but not limited to office buildings, industrial buildings, retail stores, restaurants and apartment buildings. Ms. Zenteno joined the public sector as an Income Evaluation Specialist at the Miami-Dade County Office of the Property Appraiser.

She attended Miami Dade College in Miami, Florida, where she received a Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management and is enrolled in the Executive Master in Public Administration (EMPA) at Florida International University. The expected graduation is in Spring 2017.

Marisol is active in her community and has volunteered with the Boy Scouts of America serving in positions ranging from Committee Chairman to Cub Master. She also serves as an English and Spanish interpreter at her place of worship.

A native of the Dominican Republic, she is the proud mother of two sons, Thomas and Scott.

Melissa Barrett

Supervisor of Payroll in their Finance Department, City of Miami


Melissia Barrett is employed by the City of Miami as a Supervisor of Payroll in their Finance Department. She oversees the payroll operations for over 4,000 employees. She is a graduate of Florida International University with a BA in Accounting. Prior to joining the City of Miami, she worked in the Private Sector, and has held numerous positions in the Accounting Industry.

She is currently a mentor with Take Stock in Children. Outside of professional interests, she likes travelling, baking, reading and going on long walks.

Vicky Checo

Administrative and Finance Manager, Miami Homes for All, Inc


As a product of the system, Vicky prides herself in having attended and eventually gone on to work for the public school institutions within the City of New York. A native of the concrete jungle, she attended CUNY Hunter College and was awarded the Public Service Scholar Fellowship in 2010 and worked as a “special assistant” to the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Safety and Youth Development. In this role she worked within the Students In Temporary Housing Program, a national program funded by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act aimed at supporting youth and families who experience homelessness. At the time, the Mayor of New York City just launched his Inter-Agency Task Force on Chronic Absenteeism – a pilot program involving fifteen family shelters and twenty five public schools with the common goal of increasing student attendance and reducing chronic absenteeism through data sharing and collection of best practices. Vicky supported the initiative and eventually became an integral part in planning the first ever annual Parent Summit by designing the logo, preparing logistics, and choosing the venue for the citywide event.

Soon after graduating with her Bachelor’s in the Arts Degree in Sociology, Vicky was hired by the NYCDOE as Citywide Program Coordinator, going on to support over 117 shelter-based school personnel ensuring appropriate implementation of policy and efficiency wherever possible for over 70,000 youth identified has having experienced homelessness within New York City. While in this role she was tasked with the development and monitoring of the program’s Inter-Agency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the NYC Department of Homeless Services. Prior to leaving her role, Vicky was able to successfully transition all shelter-based staff from fax systems to electronic communications as well as secure remote access to the student database for shelter based staff – thus eliminating delays and offering real time guidance in relation to student performance and attendance.

Vicky’s desire to help others and her love of beautiful weather brought her down to the vibrant City of Miami two years ago. While pursuing other interests she always remained faithful to her longtime passion of supporting youth who experience homelessness. She worked part-time as a Community Liaison for Miami Dade’s County Public Schools’ PROJECT UP-START supporting youth who experience homelessness across the county. In this role she met with families directly; offering services and educational support during their difficult housing transitions. Before leaving this role, Vicky created an internal student database aimed at maintaining electronic records of the office’s activities and service delivery.

In November of 2015, Vicky joined Miami Homes for All, Inc formerly known as the Miami Coalition for the Homeless as the Administrative and Finance Manager. A non-profit dedicated to advocating for the rights of those who experience homelessness, Vicky oversees all administrative and financial components as it relates to the organization. In this role, she is able to ensure appropriate oversight of the organization’s operations to support its county wide initiatives: increasing the amount of affordable housing in our community and creating a system of care ready to respond to the needs of unaccompanied youth who experience homelessness.

As an EMPA candidate, Vicky hopes to move forward in her career supporting the needs of youth experiencing homelessness.

Patricia De La Cruz


Patricia De La Cruz is a United States Navy veteran serving during the Operation Iraqi Freedom era. Fervent about public service, Mrs. De La Cruz has been an integral member of several governmental entities as well as non-profit organizations such as Baptist Health South Florida. Mrs. De La Cruz began her academic career receiving her Associate in Business Administration from Miami Dade College. Realizing that her passion was within the public administration field, she earned a Bachelor in Public Administration from Florida International University. Desiring to gain a comprehensive background, Mrs. De La Cruz has received several certifications including Leadership Studies and Marketing and Financial Analysis.

Mrs. De La Cruz involvement in the community includes volunteering for various organizations such as Burn Camp and Jackson Memorial Hospital. She currently serves as treasurer of the Student Veteran of America chapter at Florida International University.

Mrs. De La Cruz is happily married and enjoys books by Oliver Sacks. She is an ardent podcast listener as well as engaging in the culinary arts.

Barbara Hernandez

Parks and Recreation Director, City of Doral


Barbara Hernandez currently serves as the Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Doral Parks and Recreation Department. The City of Doral was incorporated in 2003 and at the time, the city did not have any developed parks, but merely acres of land. In 2004, the Parks and Recreation Department was established. Ms. Hernandez began to work for the department in 2005; simultaneously the first park was almost completed. Back in 2005, the City of Doral had an estimated population of 30,000 people and has grown to over 55,000 residents. Ms. Hernandez’s passion for recreation and working with people was very transparent as she, along with the team of recreation aides, began the first Youth Basketball League for the residents of the City. She began in the City as a part-time employee and worked her way up the ladder going to a full-time position in 2006, as a Park Service Leader. In 2008, she became the Recreation Facility Supervisor and in 2009 the Special Needs Programs Coordinator, where she started the first senior citizen’s group called the Silver Club. Also as the Special Needs Programs Coordinator, she began the first Special Olympic team for the special needs population in the City. In February 2011, Ms. Hernandez became the Recreation Superintendent for the department where she oversaw the entire recreation division. December 2011, Ms. Hernandez was promoted once again for her achievement and dedication as the Parks and Recreation Director. She currently oversees the entire department and prepares, administer and execute the Parks and Recreation six million dollar operating budget and a 15 million dollar capital project.

Ms. Hernandez also serves as a Commissioner for the Hialeah Housing Authority Board of Directors. The Hialeah Housing Authority is dedicated to providing eligible, low income families in its community with quality, affordable housing that is decent and safe. The Hialeah Housing Authority's portfolio includes: 545 Affordable Housing units and 402 Conventional Housing units, 1,117 Public Housing units and 4,543 Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. Ms. Hernandez was appointed on the board in 2009, and was elected as Vice-Chairwomen in 2010. She received her Associates of Arts in 2009 from Miami-Dade College and her Bachelors in Public Administration in 2012. Ms. Hernandez also received her Certified Parks and Recreation Professional Certification in October of 2012.

Ms. Hernandez was born in the City of Hialeah on August 6, 1984 and graduated from Hialeah High in 2002. She worked for the City of Hialeah Parks and Recreation Department from 2003-2005. Parks and Recreation are a BIG part of her life. Ms. Hernandez has been public servant for 14 years, focusing on the community’s quality of life through parks and open green spaces. Ms. Hernandez believes that with her realism and passion to make things right, it will guide her in the path to be part of something extraordinary.

Rene Lazaro Hernandez


Mr. Hernández has more than 13 years of professional experience, and has extensive leadership and operational abilities in large and complex environments. Mr. Hernández has held leadership positions since 2011, with the most recent being Regional Activity Manager, overseeing some of the most critical operations in the U.S. for a global mining and manufacturing outfit based in Athens, Greece, focused on engineering, production, and distribution of building materials.

Mr. Hernández holds an Associate’s degree from Miami Dade College and a Bachelor’s degree from Florida International University in Public Administration, and is a 2000 graduate of Miami Senior High School. While earning his degrees, he worked full time and raised a family, developing valuable work and life skills to prepare him to lead.

In October 2003, Mr. Hernández received a Certificate of Appreciation from Miami-Dade County for his contribution to the Arts and Culture of the community, cementing his passion for public service. The honor was presented by the Office of Commissioner Bruno A. Barreiro, District 5, on behalf of the Office of the Mayor and the Board of County Commissioners. The honor was the product of having contributed extensively to cultural events throughout South Florida while earning his diploma at Miami Senior High School and after graduation, performing with local music bands to enhance quality of life for residents and visitors–especially for the elderly. Among Mr. Hernández’s early accomplishments, at age 15, Mr. Hernández was appointed Music Director for the local band Union Cubana. With exception of his brother, which was 13 at the time, the band was composed of Cuban musicians between the ages of 24 and 70.

Mr. Hernández is a proud Cuban-American and the first college graduate in his immediate family. In his spare time, Mr. Hernández enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, exercising, volunteering, and participating in professional associations. Mr. Hernández is a member of the American Society for Public Administration, the Project Management Institute, past member of the American Society of Safety Engineers, and a licensed Florida Real Estate Sales Associate.

Mr. Hernández’s long-term career goal is to be appointed City and County Manager in emerging Metropolitan areas throughout the United States, where he will use his industry experience and academic training to establish a thriving environment and advance the well-being and prosperity of residents through strategic initiatives in public safety and health, economic and social development, infrastructure investment, improved transportation and mobility, and fiscal fitness. In support of this vision, Mr. Hernández is furthering his education through the Executive Master of Public Administration Program and is actively seeking roles in local government where he can grow into a chief executive officer and make major contributions to the communities he serves.

A native of Missouri and raised in South Florida, Mr. Hernández is the proud father of two sons, René Tadeo and Branden Valentine.

Erica Jones

Impact Manager at City Year Miami


Erica Jones was born and raised in Hookerton, North Carolina. Erica attended Winston Salem State University where she received her Bachelors in English, minor in Dramatic Arts. While in college she became a member of Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society. Erica has always had a passion for children and education. After graduating from college, Erica decided to join City Year Miami where she served as an Americorps member at Miami Northwestern Senior High School and committed her second year as a Team Leader at Miami Northwestern as well. As an Americorps member Erica had the privilege to speak at the 2014 Women’s Luncheon, where she had the opportunity to share her testimony with others. Erica also was a City Year Ambassador and also represented the Miami site on the Future Educators Task Force while serving as a Team Leader. Through her years of service Erica realized her passion for education and helping young adults increased. She enjoys teaching, mentoring and advising students that she committed to continue another year as a Program Manager at Carol City Middle School. As an Program Manager Erica was asked to participate on a panel for Univision production, with Pamela Silva Conde. Erica had the opportunity to provide information to others on how to get involved in the community an how to find the right non-profit to fit their personal goals.

Erica’s favorite value is Service To A Cause Greater Than Self because she knows the service she does every day is not about her but for our students and community. Because of Erica's love and passion for public service, she has decided to seek her masters degree in Public Administration. She knows no matter what her next steps are in life, she will put her all into the enhancement of the community and our people. She is the oldest of her brother and sister, who she adores. She is very family oriented and loves spending time with friends. Erica enjoys learning about different cultures, dancing, playing with ears and inspiring others.

Mac-Kinley Lauriston

Chief of Staff for the Office of The Chair, Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners


My name is Mac-Kinley Lauriston, born and raised on the beautiful island of Haiti. For the last thirty years, I have made South Florida my home because I love the sunshine and I hate the cold. I am a father of three wonderful boys and I can truly attest that they are indeed a gift from God. I have had various experiences in my professional life and I must say that I have been and continue to be blessed with the opportunities that I have been afforded.

For sixteen years until 2010, I worked as a Sr. accountant and financial analyst for Ryder System, a fortune 500 company in Miami-Dade County; then I made the leap into the political arena. I worked on a campaign in 2010 to elect the first Haitian-American Commissioner in Miami-Dade County and subsequently joined his staff as Administrative Director for the next four years. I left in January 2015 to manage a very successful campaign to elect the first Haitian-American Commissioner in Broward County. Shortly after the election, she was subsequently selected by her peers to become the Vice-Mayor. I then joined the staff to become the assistant to the to the Vice-Mayor until I was offered the position of Chief of Staff for the Office of The Chair for the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners in November 2015.

I enjoyed working in Corporate America and the corporate environment helped prepare me to function more efficiently in government; but my preference is to remain in government in some capacity for the near future.

Tamecka McKay

IT Supervisor/Manager, Town of Davie


Tamecka McKay is an industry certified Professional with over 17 years of experience. She currently serves the role of IT Manager for the Town of Davie’s IT Department responsible for supervising the design, implementation, maintenance and support of all information systems and services. Additionally, oversight of Help Desk support services for the organization including Civilian and Public Safety Personnel.

Tamecka started with the Town of Davie in 2001 as an Information Systems Specialist and was promoted to Information Systems Specialist II before accepting the role of IT Supervisor/Manager. Tamecka received her Bachelor’s Degree from Broward College in Technology Management after obtaining dual Associate Degrees in Computer Information Systems and Psychology, graduating with honors.

In addition to the role of IT Professional, Tamecka served as chair of the Customer Service and Process Improvement Committee before serving as chair of the Strategic Planning Committee for the Town of Davie. Tamecka has been recognized for her community service and commitment by both Town Administration and Employee Recognition committee including the award for Dedication and Leadership in 2015, Employee Spirit Award in 2010 and Employee of the Quarter in 2003. Currently, Tamecka serves on the Broward College Computer Science and Engineering Advisory Board. Previously serving on the ITT Technology and Computer Science Advisory Board, Women in Technology (WIT), Broward Schools Technology Advisory Committee (TAC) and Take Stock in Children Mentoring Program, Tamecka aspires to use her knowledge and experience along with the Executive Master of Public Administration to advance her career in Public Service.

Kisha Murray

North Region Supervisor of the Code Enforcement Division, Department of Solid Waste Management


Kisha Simone Murray started her career in Public Service immediately following high school in 1999. She was hired as a courier for the Miami Dade County Administrative Office of the Courts, delivering interoffice mail to Judges' chambers located in the multiple courthouses throughout Miami Dade County. After holding various positions in the Court system, Mrs. Murray transitioned to Code Enforcement in 2002. She obtained a position with Miami Dade County Aviation Department enforcing County code and ordinances at Miami International Airport. In 2007, Mrs. Murray progressed to the Department of Solid Waste Management, enforcing violations related to Chapter 15 of Miami Dade County Code where she currently is the North Region Supervisor of the Code Enforcement Division.

In addition to her extensive experience with Miami Dade County, Mrs. Murray holds a certification with the Florida Association of Code Enforcement (F.A.C.E.) and serves on the membership committee for the organization. She has volunteered with Kids and the Power of Work (KAPOW), collaborating with teachers in Elementary and Middle Schools to teach lessons directly related to the workforce to students. Mrs. Murray is also passionate with giving back to the community as she is a Leadership giver with United Way of Miami Dade County, donating $1000 or more annually to charity.

Scholastically, Mrs. Murray excelled during her undergraduate studies, receiving a Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management with highest honors from Miami Dade College. She was inducted into the honor society, Phi Theta Kappa, and made the Dean's list numerous times. Mrs. Murray's ambition has lead her to FIU, where she hopes to continue to excel scholastically in receiving her Master's in Public Administration. She is confident her degree will allow her to continue in Miami Dade County's vision of "Delivering Excellence Everyday".

Pennie Ochipa

Law Enforcement Lieutenant, Office of the Attorney General, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit


Pennie Ochipa joined the Office of the Attorney General, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, as a Law Enforcement Investigator II in 2005. She was assigned as the Intelligence Officer Liaison for the Miami office. She was also a member of the Miami (Pharmaceutical) Drug Diversion Team. Pennie was promoted to her current position of Law Enforcement Lieutenant in 2013. She supervises a team of sworn and non-sworn personnel, investigating allegations of provider fraud, waste and abuse within the Florida Medicaid program. She also oversees the evidence section in the Miami office.

Prior to joining the OAG’s Office, Pennie was a member of the Florida International University Police Department. She started her career as a Police Dispatcher. She eventually obtained her police certification and continued her employment as a Police Officer and later a Police Corporal.

Pennie has an Associate of Arts and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice. Her expertise is in healthcare fraud investigations, however, she has a broad range of training and experience in various types of investigations involving fraud and white collar crimes. She has been a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners since 2006. In 2012, she earned her credentials as a Certified Fraud Examiner.

Pennie plans to continue advancing her career in law enforcement and she plans to continue being instrumental in combating fraud in the South Florida area and nationwide.

Aileen Requejado

Advanced Certified Paralegal, Greenberg Traurig, P.A.


Aileen F. Requejado, M.B.A., is an Advanced Certified Paralegal at Greenberg Traurig, P.A. Aileen has eight years’ experience with public finance transactions and extensive prior work experience in corporate transactions, real estate and litigation. Aileen’s experience includes assisting with the full range of activities involved in municipal bond financings, including the drafting of ordinances, resolutions, offering documents and closing documents, preparation for bond closings, filing state informational and federal tax forms. Since joining Greenberg Traurig, Aileen has assisted with Florida public school education financings, charter schools, community development district and housing financings.

Erik Rodriguez

Office of the Inspector General, Miami Dade County


Erik Rodriguez received his Bachelor of Accounting from Florida International University (2005). He has over 10 years of audit and investigation experience, including over four years specific to the government sector. In his current role with Miami-Dade County’s Office of the Inspector General, he audits and investigates claims of fraud, waste, mismanagement, and abuse of power in areas concerning Miami-Dade County. In addition, Erik is experienced in auditing areas concerning construction, mortgage, and title services. He is the father of a five year old and enjoys working on his classic Mustangs, ATVs, and spending time with his family.

Terence Thouez

Captain, Internal Affairs at Hallandale Beach Police Department


Captain Terence Thouez began his law enforcement career with the Hallandale Beach Police Department in 2001 and currently oversees the Internal Affairs Unit. Captain Thouez has worked as a Patrol Officer, Detective, Patrol Sergeant and a Hostage Negotiator. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from University of Concordia. Captain Thouez is also a graduate of the Southern Police Institute, Command Officer’s Development Course, FDLE’s Florida Leadership Academy and Police Executive Research Forum Course in Executive Strategic Management.

Sara Walkup

District Supervisor in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Grants Administration, and Community Engagement, Miami-Dade County Public Schools


Sara Walkup has been working to provide innovative and inspiring programming to young people for more than ten years. Originally from East Lansing, Michigan, Sara attended Western Michigan University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish. From there, she took her love of government to Washington, DC where she began working for the Close Up Foundation and spent four years working directly with students and teachers to provide engaging programs to participants from across the country and around the world. Sara spent her last six years at Close Up managing partnership programs with the US Department of the Interior, US Department of Justice, Bank of America, and various other corporate and foundation partners. In 2015, Sara moved to Miami and joined Miami-Dade County Public Schools as a District Supervisor in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Grants Administration and Community Engagement. Sara is responsible for securing and managing external funding designed to enhance the educational experiences of students. Through the Master of Public Administration program at Florida International University, Sara will use her experience and knowledge to make a positive impact on the world around her.

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