October 31, 2014

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Life After Politics for Former Miami Mayor

Once touted as the Democratic Party's next wunderkind, former Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas left politics abruptly after losing the 2004 Democratic primary for U.S. senator. Many expected him to return to government, but nearly six years later he says he's happy in the private sector.

Alex Penelas
Former Miami Mayor Alex Penelas: Life after politics has been "a lot less stressful." [Photo: Donna Victor]

"There's definitely life after politics, and at least in my case, it's been much more enjoyable, a lot less stressful," Penelas says, adding that he particularly appreciates being in control of his own time and spending more of it with his family.

His main business is AP Consulting, which counsels companies — mostly foreign firms that have never done business in the U.S. or domestic firms that want to penetrate the south Florida market — on everything from business development to government consulting (but not really lobbying, Penelas says). He also has his own law practice, is a political analyst for Univisión and teaches politics occasionally at St. Thomas University.

At night, Penelas, 49, coaches his sons' baseball teams. "That's my real passion," he says, although with his older son in high school he has one less team to coach until the summer.

It's all a far cry from the man whose political career began at age 24, when he was elected to the Hialeah City Council. The son of Cuban immigrants, he next became the youngest person elected to the Miami-Dade County Commission in 1990, at age 29. In 1996, he was elected the county's first executive mayor, serving two four-year terms. In 2000, he announced he wouldn't aid federal authorities in returning 6-year-old Elián González to Cuba and fell out of favor with presidential candidate Al Gore and other party leaders after refusing to campaign alongside Gore in the wake of the controversy. Then he lost the Senate primary, and he says now he's out of politics — for the most part.

"Everything associated with the relaunch of a political career — I just don't see that on the horizon," Penelas says.

Tags: Miami-Dade

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