Mayra Peña Lindsay is the new mayor of Key Biscayne. The first woman to hold the post, she was sworn in November 13th, 2014. Mayra grew up in Miami and was educated at Amherst College and University of Miami Law School. She and her husband have lived on Key Biscayne for 22 years and raised their two daughters there.
JP: What drew you to Key Biscayne?
ML: My husband and I were trying to figure out where to start our lives as a married couple. Key Biscayne captured everything we were looking for.
It’s therapeutic to get to and from work. You see water. You feel like you’re coming home to a resort. People are very active; there is a lot of running and cycling. You feel invested in the community. We look out for each other. Kids bike in the streets. They visit friends, climb trees, go fishing, to the beach. We have very low crime statistics for a number of reasons. There is one ingress and one egress. People are out and about. There is a citizens’ network.
JP: How has the island changed since you’ve been here?
ML: The island incorporated as a village about 23 years ago. Our mission was to “keep the village in the Village.” The biggest issues were unplanned building and zoning. We wanted autonomy in making those decisions. We were paying a tremendous amount in taxes and weren’t getting services we needed. We had a fire department but no EMT’s because posts were given to senior fire fighters who weren’t cross-trained. Our biggest need was for middle-aged people requiring emergency medical treatment.
We’re fortunate to have negotiated to create our own fire and police departments and have very low taxes. Our millage is 3.0, the lowest in South Florida. We’re very fiscally responsible and concentrate on giving really good quality core services. Our residents demand it and are willing to support it.
JP: I’m sure they demand it. Imagine the tax base of Harbor Drive [one of the most affluent streets in Miami-Dade County].
ML: But they’re engaged. It’s amazing to have residents come to a council meeting, raise a hand and say, “listen, I have an idea.” We get participation and passion. People are paying attention and they hold us accountable. It’s a nice dynamic.
JP: What are some initiatives you’d like to implement as Mayor?
ML: I continue to want to acquire green space and fields for children. The demographics have changed from empty nester, seasonal residents to an island full of families, which is wonderful. It’s a more dynamic place, but our needs have changed. We are an island paradise so [I am committed to] anywhere we can make things more native and beautiful. I am working to modernize our library, which would really meet the community’s needs. We’d like to be a model for issues such as beach erosion and storm surge.
JP: How was the road to becoming the first woman mayor on Key Biscayne?
ML: A lot of strong female council members paved the way. Fabulous, passionate women helped in the incorporation process and in developing the community center cherished by our residents. It is interesting to me that currently I’m the only woman on the council. We have very highly educated residents. In fact, statistically, we have the most highly educated residents in the state. At the end of the day, I work very well with the group. I think running unopposed really says it all. It is a mandate. Fortunately, I had four brothers growing up, so it is nothing new.