Incumbent Pedro J. Garcia wins reelection for Property Appraiser of Miami-Dade

·3 min read

Pedro J. Garcia, the first elected Property Appraiser of Miami-Dade County who has held the position for nearly 12 years, seemed to stave off a challenge by one of his own employees to win reelection to the post by voters on Tuesday.

Garcia won reelection over his challenger Marisol Zenteno 206,143 to 180,488 votes, or 53 percent to 47 percent.

Garcia, 83, said he went against the wishes of his wife and family when he decided to run for reelection after the COVID-19 economic shutdown.

“I couldn’t abandon my post at a moment when we were are all suffering economically,” Garcia said. “I couldn’t turn my back on Miami-Dade County, where I have always been so happy and I will be able to help so many people who will be in need. Our entire department is going to have to come together and work to help people.”

Garcia has held the seat since 2014. He was running unopposed until Zenteno, who has done valuation and analysis for the Property Appraiser’s office for three years, announced she was running for his seat on June 8, just two days before the filing deadline.

Zenteno, 53, ran on a platform that promised to bring the department into the 21st Century. Her plans included updating the department’s public website into several languages to better reflect the diversity of the area’s residents.

She also promised to provide assistance for taxpayers who wanted legal representation while disputing their annual tax assessments but couldn’t afford to hire lawyers.

“This has been an incredible ride,” said Zenteno, who watched the election results come in live on Tuesday with her family and colleagues via a celebratory Zoom. “It’s amazing that a little girl from the Dominican Republic could run a grassroots campaign like this one for the right reasons. We need a change in leadership and a change of culture in the Property Appraiser office. Right now it’s a culture of fear and retribution.”

Zenteno previously said that she would return to her regular job on Sept. 1 if she lost the election.

Garcia stressed the importance of his experience in the job and how critical it will be in the next year, when his office will assess property and personal belonging values in a county still recovering from the COVID economic shutdown.

Among the chief duties of the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser is assessing the annual value of all real estate properties within the county and providing them to the various municipalities and jurisdictions. The funds are critical; for the county’s current 2020 budget, property taxes alone make up 35%, or nearly $2 billion, of the overall $8.9 billion budget.

Earlier this year, Garcia had hinted that he was thinking about retiring.

“I didn’t want to go through an election cycle again,” Garcia told the Herald earlier this month. “I don’t need this job. I am not worried about paying my bills. I have enough savings to live out the rest of my life comfortably. I could be golfing or fishing.”

But after the COVID shutdown in March, Garcia decided to stay on and run again in order to shepherd the Property Appraiser through what is sure to be a turbulent 2021.

Garcia received endorsements from big industry groups, including the Latin Builders Association, the Builders Association of South Florida and the Miami Association of Realtors.