The Miami River is the stuff of a James Michener novel -- ancient Indian home, settlers' trading post, 1920s boomtown waterfront, World War II PT boat manufacturing center, drug runners' haven, gritty port for Caribbean-bound ships and now luxury condo backdrop.
The most recent two identities -- those of the working river and condo tower hot spot -- aren't co-existing comfortably, and Irela Bagué, 36, has the task of engineering a detente. Bagué last year was named chairwoman of the Miami River Commission, a Legislature-created policy clearinghouse.
The Miami native entered public life as a county commissioner's scheduling secretary. She later worked in public affairs for the South Florida Water Management District and Audubon before running in 2002 for a state House seat. She lost but attracted attention. The following year Gov. Jeb Bush appointed her to the water board, and she became its designate to the river commission. (In private life, she's a vice president with Miami public relations firm Gordon Reyes & Co.)
Bagué comes to the fore at an interesting time. The federal government last year launched a river-dredging project, the first in 70 years. Sediment buildup made the river so shallow that cargo vessels couldn't be loaded to capacity and could only navigate the river at high tide. Meanwhile, condo developers hungry for waterfront lined up to build.
That worries marine interests. They fear losing space and drawing complaints over noise from future condo owners.
"I think there is a place for everybody," Bagué says. "The condos are not going away, and the marine industry is not going to go away, so we have to all get along."
The commission is updating its wish list for river development. "Hopefully, we'll all be able to get some good public input," Bagué says. "It's probably going to end up being a very interesting working river."
Chairwoman / Miami River Commission
On her water duties: "Water, water everywhere. They call me the water princess."
Once an actress: Bagué acted in high school and community college theater. She played in comedies. At 4-foot-9, she wasn't the leading lady type for dramas.
Home: Coral Gables, where she lives with her 4-year-old son, Alberto.
Quote: "I can't call myself a tree-hugger, but I am sensitive to environmental issues and growth issues. It's just trying to keep a balance."
Pensacola Community Redevelopment Agency
From the temporary offices in a port building he's been using since Hurricane Ivan trashed City Hall, Pensacola Community Redevelopment Director David Bailey outlines the physical destruction: 2,000 city buildings and apartment units uninhabitable or destroyed, turn-of-the-century commercial structures crumbled, half of the city's sticks-and-bricks investment in sidewalks and other infrastructure in its redevelopment area damaged.
So what does Bailey see? Opportunity. Before the storm, the timeline for redeveloping downtown and inner-city neighborhoods stretched out years. Property owners one at a time would rip out the old to upgrade apartments, homes, offices and stores. Ivan compressed the timeline. The resulting flood of disaster relief and insurance proceeds makes possible a leap forward. "It's all going to happen at once now."
A Navy offspring, Bailey arrived in Florida in 1981 with his father's transfer to Pensacola. He studied architecture and urban design in college, took up the profession and worked on redevelopment projects in the city's 250-square-block Community Redevelopment Agency area. Bailey joined the CRA in 2003. The long-term goal is to increase the CRA area's residential population of 4,000 by "many thousands" to support further commercial expansion. He sees strong sentiment now from property owners to push those plans forward -- thanks to the hurricane's destruction.
"A couple weeks ago it was tough for someone to say that or even think that," Bailey, 35, said in November. The emotional blast from Ivan was still too fresh. Six weeks after the storm, he still was struck in particular by the sight of the city's stunned business leaders coping with the loss of their homes and property and damage to their businesses. "You're talking about people who felt powerless who had never felt that way before," Bailey says. "That was a scary couple weeks."
Director / Pensacola Community Redevelopment Agency
Education: Bachelor of design in architecture, University of Florida, 1991; master of architecture, urban design, 1999, Virginia Tech University.
Unscathed: Relatively speaking, Bailey's home came through Ivan all right, though he was without power for three weeks.
A Matter of Policy
Matt Doster's job doesn't carry the profile it had four years ago when the tech bubble still had plenty of gas, but he has hopes for ratcheting up his organization's profile.
Doster, 29, took over in October as executive director of ITFlorida, the state-created shepherd of the industry in Florida. The group was founded in 1999 to advise the governor, Legislature and Enterprise Florida on tech issues and to coordinate the building-out of a tech infrastructure in the state. Its life as a government-funded task force expired in 2001. Since then, it's lived on member dues and concentrated on two annual events, a high-tech summit and an awards gala/tech forum. Major sponsors include Disney, military contractor SAIC, AT&T and Idea Integration.
Doster started in the association business with Associated Industries of Florida. He spent the last six years with the Engineering Workforce Commission, a Washington group that focused on engineer labor supply issues for its corporate and university membership. His background fits well with his present goal of involving ITFlorida more heavily in policy issues.
The agenda for Doster and ITFlorida includes repealing the state tax on local area networks and other non-traditional communications systems, organizing with regional tech groups around the state and ITFlorida's annual High Tech Summit next month in Orlando. Doster says we can expect more policy work ahead. "That's what we're trying to re-energize now," he says.
Executive Director / ITFlorida
Education: The Citadel
Quote: "I have never read 'The Lords of Discipline.' I think I'm one of the few Citadel graduates who didn't. I intend to someday."