Behind every great man is a great woman. Or in the case of Miami mayor Francis Suarez, 3 great women.
Suarez, who sailed into office in November of 2017 with 86% of the vote, is a true renaissance man. He has been called “Kennedy-esque” because of his good looks, prospects for a bright political future and connections to a political family committed to public service. Suarez’s father is Xavier Suarez, the first Cuban-born mayor of the city of Miami who served in local government over three decades. But perhaps more relevant to the younger Suarez’s meteoric rise in the political world are his relationships with three other key figures in his life – three strong and accomplished Latina women – his mom Rita, his wife Gloria and his communications director Soledad.
Meet The Chief Madre in Charge
Rita Suarez, Mayor Suarez’s mother, is a Cuban immigrant who came to Miami in 1961 at the age of seven. She remains a central figure in the current mayor’s life, speaking with him most mornings on his way to work and frequently popping into City Hall to give her eldest son a hug. She says she has two guiding principles by which she raised her children:
First, the importance of working hard and being resilient. “Cuban people that came in the 1960s could only bring three pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks, a shirt and a pair of pants. They had to use their brain to be successful.” That mentality served her well as she balanced raising four children and teaching full time for 25 years in the Miami schools.
And she’s proud to see Francis has the same strong work ethic, while still prioritizing his role as husband and father. He abandoned his first run for mayor when he found out his wife Gloria was pregnant. After dealing with years of infertility issues they chose not to take on the challenges of a pressure-filled campaign. Now, he finds time in his chock-a-block full schedule to drive his two young children to school.
Second, Rita feels passionate about being of service to others. “Service is something that should be mandatory for everyone – service to the community and to those in need.” She’s known for such acts as taking the homeless to shelters during Hurricane Andrew, creating assimilation programs for immigrants and working to improve conditions in Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood.
Francis is following in his mothers service-focused footsteps, even taking his son to continue the family tradition of serving the homeless. They help out at Miami’s Camillus House shelter each year on Thanksgiving.
Gloria, The Modern Day Political Wife
Gloria Font Suarez, the wife of the mayor, is the glue that holds the family together. Like her husband, she too was raised in Miami by Cuban immigrant parents who instilled in her values of faith and family.
Gloria is a master juggler, raising two young children, running her own small business and supporting her husband’s efforts by managing their home life and assisting his staff with scheduling and logistics.
It’s not uncommon for Gloria to show up in the Mayor’s office for some one-on-one time. “My visits serve two purposes,” she explains. “It’s good for morale because it gives us little moments to reconnect and I can also help his staff fill in the blanks because I have the bigger picture of his life,” she says.
Gloria’s commitment to serve her community, both on her own and by supporting her husband’s 24/7 efforts as a public servant, stem from seeing the sacrifices her parents and grandparents made as immigrants to this country. “Seeing what they went through has done a lot for our family. We are more grateful for what we do have, and we want to give back to the community that our families have built from the ground up.”
Gloria, who Mayor Suarez calls his “secret weapon”, enjoys being an active participant and sounding board in her husband’s career (don’t worry, she leaves the advising and decision making to the experts.) “We have a lot of mutual respect,” she says. “He’s a very harsh critic of himself so my main role is to keep him grounded.” And she does this by creating a sense of normalcy at home. On weekends, the family likes to take trips to the park, go swimming, ride bikes and have scavenger hunts. “Having a normal life is important,” she says.
Soledad Cedro is Always Thinking Big
Imagine your first day on the job and your boss becomes the first elected official in the United States to test positive for Covid-19? Well, that’s exactly what happened to Soledad Cedro, Mayor Suarez’s communications director. And she hasn’t had a boring day since.
Soledad is the driving force behind the mayor’s public relations and communications strategies. And immediately after his March 13, 2020 diagnosis, we all learned just how important those strategies can be to the ascent of a political figure. The mayor’s bout with Covid, and his subsequent video journal, catapulted him from a local mayor to a national figure regularly seen on CNN and Fox News. And Soledad was there to guide him.
“My job is to advise him and train him on everything that is related to creating his brand,” she says. She attributes their synergistic relationship to their high energy personalities. “In our minds, everything is possible. There has never been a time where I’ve come to him with an idea, and he’s said no.”
These ideas include Cafecito Talks, more than 150 discussions between the mayor and industry and other leaders on topics that impact the Miami community, all posted on YouTube. Or an ambitious initiative to partner Miami’s charter schools with Miami Dade College to offer underserved high schoolers opportunities in fast growing sectors like artificial intelligence, coding and cyber security.
Soledad finds the mayor easy to work with. “He is very personable and approachable,” she says, quickly adding that he gets these traits from his mother. She praises his desire to collaborate for the greater good. Even when he disagrees with other politicians, like his often publicized disputes with Florida’s Governor DeSantis, he is always willing to work together to find a solution. “We are servants here,” she says.
To what does Soledad attribute the mayor’s popularity and success? Clearly the women in his life. “He has a strong mother, a strong wife and three strong sisters,” she says. “His ability to care comes from these women. And he truly cares about the people of Miami.”
As we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s hard not to wonder if perhaps Francis Suarez is destined for higher office? In January, he will become President of the US Conference of Mayors, for which Cedro already has some big plans. And what does his family think?
Like all mothers, Rita just wants him to be happy. “Whatever he chooses, I will always be by his side,” she says. And as for Gloria? “People always ask me what’s next,” she says. “Whatever it is, we will make the decision as a family.”
Oh, one last piece of important advice from the Suarez matriarch Rita. “Establish a loving relationship with your daughter-in-law,” she says. “If you don’t, you won’t have a good relationship with your son.”
Sound advice for sure.