As a newly elected member of the Miami Springs city council, Mara Zapata hopes to bring the community closer and fight to maintain the spirit and aesthetics of the small town.
“I love this community,” said Zapata, who also serves as the chair of the K-12 Teacher Education programs at InterAmerican Campus. “I have lived here 34 years, and I have a desire to give to this community.”
Zapata, who won the city council seat on April 4, worries Miami Springs’ location is very attractive to developers who will change the city’s small-town flavor and family-oriented civic amenities.
She was sworn in on April 17 and hopes to maintain the quality of life that is loved by the residents of Miami Springs. As a member of city council, Zapata will be instrumental in making major decisions for the city. The council acts as a congressional body, similar to how Congress functions for the country—proposing bills, holding votes and passing laws to help govern the municipality.
The triangular-shaped city is three square miles and has a population of nearly 14,000. It is located just north of Miami International Airport bound diagonally on the east by Okeechobee Road and on the west by Northwest 67th Avenue.
Zapata is not new to public office. She has served as chair of the Education Advisory Board for the City of Miami Springs since April of 2011. Before that, Zapata was the chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Commission for Women for two years and an executive board member of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Those posts led her to love public service.
She earned a bachelor’s in early childhood education and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Florida International University and a doctorate in science education from Florida State University. Her roots at MDC began in 2011 when she became the chairperson of K-12 Teacher Education programs at InterAmerican Campus.
Through her involvement with the county and her city, she has amassed a personal connection with residents of Miami Springs. She is concerned about issues ranging from scammers charging to trim trees to breaches in identity. Now that she’s elected, she said she will turn her attention to certain issues concerning development and space use in the area, specifically, the development of a golf course in Miami Springs. A proposal that is described by Zapata’s campaign site as something that will: “Not only change the landscape of our community but diminish the value of homes.”
North Campus Associate Director of Learning Resources Theodore Karantsalis, a Miami Springs resident since 1995, vouches for Zapata’s involvement in the community. Karantsalis describes Zapata as very friendly and outgoing.
“Mara Zapata lives just two blocks away from me, so she is not just a colleague but also a neighbor,” Karantsalis said.
At Zapata’s April 4 election night party at the Miami Springs Golf and Country Club, a group of approximately 50 supporters watched a screen displaying the names of several people running for office in the area via the Miami-Dade County department of elections website.
“I don’t really view this as politics,” Zapata said at the event. “I view it as a public service.”
Emotions ran high in the room. As results rolled in from polling places, some of Zapata’s friends and family members shouted praise and cheers. At 7:30 p.m. the results for the election were final: Zapata had won 75.61 percent (1,525 votes) of the total votes. Running against her in the third group was Kathie A. Marquez, who received 492 votes.
“I’m so excited for Dr. Mara Zapata getting elected,” said Lubby Navarro, a friend of Zapata and a Miami-Dade County Public Schools Board Member. “This is a woman who deserves to be in office. She’s a hard worker, an educator. She cares for her community.”
Zapata described the campaign as long and arduous, featuring 10-to-12-hour long days going door-to-door “from the minute I got up until the the hours of the dark.” Zapata said talking to voters about keeping the city’s small town feel and stopping development in Miami Springs paid off.
“Everyone I told [I was running for office] has been very much behind me,” Zapata said. “They have been encouraging and supportive. It’s been challenging. I’ve dedicated a lot of hours, and I work full-time at MDC. I want to thank the community for the way they open their doors to me. I’ve had people who voted tell me: ‘I’m here because of the conversation we had at my door.’”