“Know that change is inevitable.” Words of heartfelt advice to the leaders, residents and visitors to The City of Miami Gardens from the young city’s first Mayor, Shirley Gibson. As our community marks an historic birthday milestone – the 10 year anniversary of the creation of Miami Gardens, the woman who played a pivotal role in facing the challenges of building a new city and forging an unchartered path for success is reflecting on her years at the helm, what comes next for her and what she hopes to see evolve for her beloved City of Miami Gardens.
“The city has a short history and that history has been wrapped up in the last ten years. The challenge now is whatever the vision is, to take it into the next ten years and not be afraid of making decisions that might be different; decisions that might not be the norm and not be afraid,” says Gibson.
I recently caught up with former Mayor Shirley Gibson on a brisk South Florida Spring morning. A rare occasion while she was in-between community events and meetings with enough time to chat about her renewed interest in and love of gardening.
“I’ve embraced the change of not serving as Mayor. This change has given me the opportunity to relax in ways I’ve never been able to. I can relax, do some gardening, watch my butterfly garden and spend time with my new granddaughter. It’s a great freedom. It’s a time of transition.”
Transition is the word also now facing the new leadership of The City of Miami Gardens. It’s something Gibson speaks of with hope yet a hint of caution. Drawing on her tenure as a guide and personally understanding the challenges leadership faces in creating new opportunities, ideas and visions for a city, Gibson says she is excited to watch the next chapters unfold for the City and its residents.
“I want to be able to direct them to what feels like a real “hub” of the city; the HEART of the city and that is what the future, new leadership will focus on. The city has done tremendous, but it doesn’t have a heart – the center – where you have a cluster of businesses, entertainment, cultural opportunities. Every city has a heart and that is what I see next for Miami Gardens; the real heart for economic development that defines this city. That’s what I see. That’s what I hope for.”
Hope for the future of our children is also near and dear to Gibson’s heart. Since handing over the reins of the city, Gibson has remained active in pursuits to raise awareness on the importance of education and cultural learning. She sits on the board of Miami Gardens Excellence and Education Council which she championed to start several years ago. Gibson is in the midst of planning the Council’s first big recognition celebration and fundraising gala set for June 1, 2013.
“What we’re doing is honoring traditional and non-traditional individuals in the community who have worked in education. I’m hoping to get the issues of education to the forefront and in the media; showing how education takes a positive role.”
For Gibson, it seems positivity and being a role model are attributes she will be remembered for and what spark the most emotional memories of serving as the first Mayor of The City of Miami Gardens.
“When people stop me and introduce themselves and say, ‘I live in Miami Gardens. I just want to tell you when all of this started of trying to get a city, I didn’t like it, support it or want it. But I want to thank you for staying the course and how proud I am of our city. I want to thank you because I couldn’t see the vision’ – that has been the most heartwarming thing for me. It says to me, my time as Mayor was all part of a process that went to the larger sense of community. Our success happened because people were able to see and touch change and it worked for them. I’m no longer Mayor but that’s still my mission: to give people better.”