The village of Pinecrest has produced a diverse group of candidates, both in age and occupation, this election season.
Former Councilman Joe Corradino is running unopposed for mayor. He is an urban planner with his own planning and engineering firm. Current Mayor Cindy Lerner has reached the end of her second term and, according to the village charter, cannot run for a third consecutive term.
Seats 1, in the city’s northern district, and Seat 3, along the southern boarder, are up for election this November. Each have two people vying for the seats.
James Field Jr. and Anna Hochkammer are running for Seat 1. Field is founder of Dogmadik, a supply chain management company in Miami, as well as the director of business development for Frey Farms, an agricultural company. Hochkammer is a community organizer and Palmetto High School PTSA member. She has been involved in community government, attending every council meeting, for the past two years.
In the Seat 3 race, incumbent James E. McDonald is up against Peter Casablanca, a businessman who has his own design firm and construction firm. Casablanca builds both homes and furniture, and has been featured in several magazines and publications. A person with the same name, address and date of birth in Florida voter registration records lists Casablanca as having the last name “Corredera.” Casablanca said he legally changed his name in 2000.
Corradino, 48, served two terms on the village council starting in 2006 before being termed out. After his mayoral opponent dropped out of this race, Corradino became the only candidate. He has lived in the area since 1997 and said he has worked with the community since its incorporation.
“I like to help people and I think the local level of government is the closest level of government to the people,” Corradino said.
With his planning and engineering firm, he said he helped the village develop its comprehensive plan. Corradino said he decided to run for mayor because he wants to help the village operate through his perspective of a policymaker and leader.
“We have a myriad issues in Pinecrest that we need to deal with,” Corradino said.
The biggest issue he sees involves homes that do not have access to potable water, noting the issues with drainage.
“I think we do things very well and our citizens are very satisfied with what we do, but we always need to look back at those types of things and make sure we’re polishing them and doing them a little better,” he said.
COUNCIL SEAT 1
Field, 28, is a University of Miami graduate and former professional golfer. Field started working in sales at Frey Farms, one of the nation’s largest agriculture companies, and is now the company’s director of business development.
“We’re in all Publix and Fresh Market stores, some Whole Foods regionally throughout the U.S. and we’re in over 2,000 Kroger’s,” Field said. “We believe that good eating habits need to start young for kids.”
Field also founded Dogmadik, a supply chain management company in Miami that does distribution, logistics and purchasing for restaurant brands nationwide. He said he has been involved with organizations in the local community and abroad like Best Buddies, where he helped place special-needs kids in the workforce. In addition he has worked with Charity Vision, which took him to India with founder and future presidential candidate Mitt Romney to build eye centers, and Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that fundraises against child sex trafficking.
“When I was playing professional golf I was lucky enough to travel the world, and in doing so I got more philanthropically engaged,” Field said. “I thought that running here in Pinecrest would be one of the most effective ways for me to use my skills in my community.”
Despite his opponent campaigning months earlier than the qualifying period, he and his campaign believe they can make up for lost ground in time for Election Day.
“I wanted to make sure that I had the time to commit to running for a position like this and do it well,” Field said.
Field said his primary concern is to make sure the village’s money is spent wisely.
“We pay a lot in taxes and for that we should be getting great services and I think our money should be spent on those services,” Field said. “If we spend ourselves into debt and keep raising taxes, not only are people not going to want to live here, they’re going to have a real issue with the services being provided to them.”
Hochkammer, 43, has lived in Pinecrest since 2009. The Michigan native completed her graduate studies in Ecuador and spent 15 years in that country.
Back in the U.S., she said she knew that Pinecrest was the community she wanted her family to live in after her husband’s company moved them to the Miami area.
The community organizer is actively involved with the Palmetto High School PTSA. Hochkammer said she has not missed a village council meeting in more than two years and has also attended every budget hearing and workshop for the past two budget cycles.
“I have a longstanding interest in the welfare of children and families, and I love problem solving,” she said. “Good municipal government is really just good problem solving in the service of children and families.”
When it comes to issues in the community, Hochkammer sees three main issues: infrastructure, public safety and communication.
“The water-main structure has created a Swiss cheese effect,” she said, noting more than 800 homes are well-dependent and not connected to a water main.
“If you don’t have access to a water main, you don’t have access to a fire hydrant,” Hochkammer said.
She said another priority is public safety and providing more resources to the Pinecrest Police Department. She wants to make sure that they are well-funded and that there’s consistency in communication between the citizens and the police.
“Our village will function better if we talk to our neighbors and we like our neighbors,” she said.
Hochkammer said that it is better to be proactive rather than reactive, only coming together in times of crisis. She said her background in education has allowed her to figure out solutions, and create relationships with people who will help her to meet her goals.
COUNCIL SEAT 3
McDonald, 72, currently serves as vice mayor, a ceremonial position passed around the council annually. He is a law school graduate of Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and has his law office in Pinecrest.
“It’s running well and I want to keep it going that way,” he said.
But he acknowledged some projects have taken longer than expected.
“Bringing city water to the east side of the village is an important issue we’ve been working on for the four years I’ve been here, he said. “We’ve gone to Tallahassee to lobby the legislature because it’s a $12 million tab … and we don’t have $12 million so that’s the problem.”
McDonald added that although some east side residents are happy with their wells, he feels that bringing city water to the area is the biggest issue in the city.
The council is working on traffic, he said. McDonald said he is currently pushing for a comprehensive study to be conducted in the village, something he’s been advocating for years. The vice mayor chairs the transportation committee for the Miami-Dade League of Cities.
McDonald said he has always been involved in government and the community. He was inspired by President John F. Kennedy to make public service his trade out of law school and has since served as an FBI agent, counsel to the House select committee on crime in the capitol and came to Florida to be special counsel to then-Gov. Reubin Askew in the 1970s.
“Even as a lawyer, I’ve always been involved in the community,” McDonald said. “I’ve been on the Board of Trustees at St. Thomas University, the Zoological Society, I was president of the Downtown Miami Business Society and I said I might as well get involved locally in Pinecrest since I live here.”
“What I do at the state level or the national level has an impact on Pinecrest,” McDonald said. “We’re not an island.”
Casablanca, 55, has been a Pinecrest native for more than 20 years. He said he has owned three homes in the area, and two of his children have established their own families in the village. Casablanca said he felt the need to help better the neighborhood.
“I love this place. I always feel like anywhere I go in Pinecrest, I know somebody,” he said.
Casablanca has been self-employed for 30 years and has established most of his enterprises himself. His businesses range from construction to design and he’s been featured in Architectural Digest, The Wall Street Journal and CNBC. Casablanca is also concerned about the 800 homes that don’t have access to water on the east side.
“We’re going to have to prioritize our neighbors who don’t have water,” Casablanca said.
Safety is another issue that is important to Casablanca. He thinks that the city manager and the police chief should maintain a healthy and open dialogue to be able to make the best decisions for the residents of Pinecrest. He notes that it’s important for neighbors to watch out for each other.
“There’s still petty crime; there’s still break-ins,” he says, noting that crime watch not only helps curb these issues, but is something that he hopes will bring the community together.
He said that his creativity aids him in problem solving and coming up with solutions.
This piece was also published by the Miami Herald on Oct. 5, 2016.