Mayor Carlos Gimenez started his career as a government employee in 1975. He's still one today, but with a very different perspective. From a firefighter to mayor of Miami-Dade County, he now leads over 25,000 full-time public sector employees.
That's a big drop since 2008. In the five years since county employment topped out, the county payroll has dropped by almost 14 percent. The fall off in public sector employment has been the biggest drag on the South Florida job market even as private industry job growth has returned.
Now Gimenez is gearing up for another round of negotiations with the county's labor unions. He has warned the unions not to expect to gain back everything they gave up during the Great Recession. Gimenez also thinks the county can do more to trim its administrative staff, although he concedes three departments are close to what he considers appropriate staffing: parks, fire and police.
Talk to many county employees and you'll hear how low morale is among the public sector workforce. The mayor acknowledges that, but he argues county salaries and benefits, in some instances, are better than what the private industry offers for similar work. He claims he's doing what county voters elected him to do: make tough, financially sound decisions.