In Pinecrest, one of the most expensive ZIP codes in Miami-Dade County, residents are relatively happy. The schools are highly ranked, the crime rate is low and the trees lining the streets keep things cool and picturesque. Pinecrest was picked for a Florida Power & Light pilot program to bury 20 miles of power lines underground, and the South Florida Business Journal once recognized Pinecrest as one of the 10 best places in Florida for “quality of life.”
So for the four candidates running for two seats on the Pinecrest Village Council, maintaining status quo is the goal.
“Pinecrest residents are happy in Pinecrest,” council candidate Shannon del Prado said. “It’s the duty of the council member to safeguard that.”
Del Prado is running against former accountant and substitute teacher Laura McNaughton for Seat 3 on the five-member village council. Current village council member and one-time state Senate candidate Anna Hochkammer is running against longtime resident and community activist Harry Speizer to defend Seat 1.
And despite campaigning for an unpaid position in what they perceive as a happy, healthy community of about 18,700, some of the candidates are raking in big donations and big-name endorsements for their race.
Three council members are elected to represent specific residential areas (Seats 1, 2 and 3) and must reside in their district. A fourth council member (Seat 4) and the mayor are at-large positions, and may reside anywhere in the village. Seat 4 is not up for election this year, and Mayor Joseph Corradino was re-elected without opposition.
Seat 1: One veteran candidate, one veteran resident
Current council member Hochkammer is running to defend her seat. Hochkammer, who was first elected in 2016, has raised about $15,000 in her campaign to keep the unpaid seat, including a $1,000 donation from U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, FL-27. Hochkammer, who is well-known in South Miami-Dade political circles, has also been endorsed by groups like Equality Florida and Ruth’s List Florida as well as high-profile Democrats like U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Miami-Dade County Commissioner and mayoral candidate Daniella Levine Cava, state Representative and state Senate candidate Javier Fernandez and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins. Former Pinecrest mayors and council members have also publicly backed Hochkammer.
Hochkammer, 47, briefly entered the highly competitive race for state Senate District 39 as a Democrat in 2019, but withdrew shortly after, citing “health concerns.” Fernandez is now running against Republican Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez for the seat, left vacant by term-limited Sen. Anitere Flores.
Before she was elected, Hochkammer was involved in the Parent Teacher Student Association at Miami Palmetto Senior High School as well as the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Family and Community Involvement Advisory Committee and the National League of Cities Finance, Administration and Intergovernmental Relations Policy Committee. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Miami-Dade County League of Cities, the Board of Directors of PACE Green Energy and the Two Hundred Club of Greater Miami, which benefits the families of law enforcement officers and firefighters.
Hochkammer, who moved to Pinecrest in 2009 with her three daughters, said another term would afford her the opportunity to keep a “tidy budget” and maintain the elements of the village that make it unique, like the family-friendly atmosphere and well-kept public spaces.
“Most people move to Pinecrest because they have kids and want to get into good schools and have a good yard,” said Hochkammer, who serves as vice mayor, a ceremonial position passed around the council annually. “Pinecrest is in great shape.”
Hochkammer’s challenger, Harry Speizer, is a developer and longtime Pinecrest community activist. Speizer, who hasn’t raised much money, said he never wanted to be labeled a “politician” or run for office but decided he wanted to represent his community beyond the public comment portion of village council meetings, where he is known as a vocal and consistent attendee.
Speizer, 73, has lived in Pinecrest since before it was incorporated as a village in 1996 and is concerned with flooding issues, bettering the community’s gardens and supporting law enforcement.
“As nice a community as we have, we have our usual problems,” he said. “When a survey goes out and it says to people, ‘are you happy living in Pinecrest?’ they answer yes. But you have to look under the surface.”
Two newcomers compete for Seat 3
Del Prado, who has raised about $14,000 in her race for the unpaid position, is endorsed by all three former Pinecrest mayors, as well as Evelyn Greer and Gary Matzner, who pushed to incorporate the village in the 1990s. She’s hired well-known Democratic strategist Michael Worley and has racked up endorsements from many prominent South Florida politicians, including Mucarsel-Powell, Shalala, former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Levine Cava, state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez and state Rep. Fernandez.
An attorney and partner at Miami firm Pita Weber Del Prado, she grew up in various countries across Latin America, and moved to Pinecrest in 2004 in search of good schools for her children.
Del Prado, 52, is the former president of the Miami-Dade Trial Lawyers Association and serves on the board for the Miami-Dade Justice Association. Prior to becoming a lawyer, del Prado worked for both the U.S. Departments of Justice and State throughout Latin American and the Caribbean.
She said as a council member, she would hope to find a solution for the nearly 800 homes in Pinecrest that still rely on well water.
A referendum to fund new water infrastructure failed last year, but the village has applied for a federal grant to do the job.
That said, however, del Prado said she believes the council’s job is to “stay the course.”
“Our job is to maintain the things that make Pinecrest special,” said del Prado, who has never run for public office before.
McNaughton, del Prado’s opponent, is also a first-time candidate. She is a former accountant and seafood industry executive, and now works as a substitute teacher in Pinecrest schools.
McNaughton, 52, filed her qualifying paperwork with just 15 minutes to spare before the deadline. Elections should involve two people, she said.
“I am a believer that democracy has to be done correctly,” she said.
She says the most pressing issue for her is ensuring a “great police presence” to bolster residents’ feeling of security. Her support comes mainly from Pinecrest residents, she said, and she wants to listen to the issues they find in the community.
However, when she thinks about the village, “there aren’t major issues that pop out.”