When it comes to culture, entertainment, history and natural beauty, nothing compares to the jaw-dropping sights and sounds of Miami-Dade County. Encompassing more than 2,000 square miles of beachfront, tropical swamps full of biodiversity and cosmopolitan cities, Miami-Dade County is one of the most important and influential counties in the United States, not to mention the largest.
If Miami-Dade were to be made into a state, it would be bigger than either Rhode Island or Delaware. Because Miami-Dade County is so expansive and populated (it boasts a population of 2.3 million residents), the government can look a little complicated at first. And, admittedly, it isn't the most simple system of government! This article breaks down the Miami-Dade government structure, including why it’s set up the way it is.
The Jurisdictions of Miami-Dade
Miami-Dade County is made up of 35 municipalities. Some of these municipalities are instantly recognizable: the City of Miami, Miami Beach, North Miami and Coral Gables. These municipalities alone comprise a little less than half of the total population of Miami-Dade County and each has the privilege of electing their own mayor. While these municipalities boast their own geographical boundaries, they are all also governed by the Miami Dade County Mayor.
The Unincorporated Municipal Service Area (UMSA)
The parts of Miami-Dade County which do not fall under the municipalities are organized into 13 districts. Over half (52%) of the Miami-Dade County population can be found in these districts – Additionally, one-third of the county’s landmass is covered by the Everglades. Known as the Unincorporated Municipal Service Area (UMSA), if this area were declared a city, it would be the biggest in Florida and one of the largest in the United States.
The Governing Powers of the Board of Commissioners and the Miami Mayor
These districts are overseen by the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners, which boasts 13 separate members – one for each district. The Board is overseen by a Mayor of Miami-Dade County, who has the right to veto any actions passed by the committee, similar to the veto power held by the President of the United States. For example, if the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners passes an action that the Miami Mayor does not agree with, he or she has ten days to veto the action. The Miami Mayor is limited to two consecutive four-year term limits, while the Mayor of Miami-Dade County is restricted to two terms of four years each.
Commissioners have no term limits, which means they can serve for as long as they’re elected. Each term lasts for approximately four years, with elections held every two years.
The Two Mayors of Miami
So, when you hear someone referring to the “Mayor of Miami”, your first response should be to ask them to be more specific! Are they referring to the Mayor of the City of Miami or the Mayor of Miami Dade County? These are two different positions with responsibilities for different aspects of life in our region. The county mayor is responsible for all county-wide services, including emergency management, transportation, public health, and similar services. The city mayors are responsible for law enforcement, fire services, zoning and related services.
In the UMSA, the county mayor is responsible for providing both the county services and those that would otherwise fall to a city mayor.