Miami dissed in Vice
Thought for the Day

Ex-commissioner again feels the allure of politics

Okay, call me a slow learner but I had to read the article below five times before I actually believed what I'd read. Ma Shuler may have committed political suicide for herself and her proteges, Michelle Spence-Jones and Audrey Edmonson, with her comment about the "African-American" seat. This is precisely the reason I don't like the term "African-American." God, help us if we don't recognize that we're Black first and where we're born second.

Let's see how this works out but hopefully the Black community will not allow such divisive statements to keep us down.


Posted on Mon, Jul. 31, 2006 Ex-commissioner again feels the allure of politics Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler left the dais for her family, but she keeps a quiet, yet powerful, presence in local politics.

BY TRENTON DANIEL [email protected] Former County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler, still caring for her sick husband and grieving over the loss of her mother, has reemerged in recent weeks on the political stage, advising protégés and championing minority businesses and affordable housing. In December, CareyShuler unexpectedly stepped down from the Miami-Dade County Commission after nearly 20 years, telling constituents she was leaving to take care of her family. She took some time for reading and travel, and has tended to her husband as he underwent chemotherapy.

But the political bug has bitten again.

''I feel free from the albatross around my neck,'' she said of her commission obligations last week over a plate of mussels and a Diet Pepsi at the popular Miami eatery Soyka, where a handful of public figures warmly greeted her. ``But I can still participate.''

Though she no longer holds the most powerful seat on the county dais -- the chair -- political observers say she still wields considerable influence: Two of her protégés have taken seats in city and county government.

In December, Michelle Spence-Jones was elected to the Miami City Commission after serving as an aide to Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. That same month, little-known Audrey Edmonson was tapped to fill Carey-Shuler's vacancy; Carey-Shuler had recommended an appointment over a special election.

Carey-Shuler is helping with fundraising for Edmonson's campaign for outright election to the seat in September; Edmonson has a war chest of more than $155,000, compared with opponent Bess McElroy's $66,000-plus. Candidate Howard Gary has yet to file his contributions.


The warmth Edmonson and Spence-Jones feel toward their mentor is obvious. In public, the duo often refer to Carey-Shuler, 66, as ''mamma'' and ''sister.'' She speaks with them several times a week.

Edmonson, who is seeking outright election in county District 3, which includes Liberty City, Overtown and the Upper Eastside, seeks out Carey-Shuler for campaign advice. Spence-Jones, whose city district stretches from Overtown to Shorecrest, said she relies on Carey-Shuler in dealing with neighborhood associations.

''I try my best -- my best, my best -- not to get the commissioner involved in any items coming before us,'' said Spence-Jones. ``She knows certain things about what works and what doesn't work. It doesn't make sense to recreate the wheel.''

Carey-Shuler says she's just passing along what she has learned over the years -- the same way she studied politics under former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek and other black female leaders in South Florida, including ex-City Commissioner M. Athalie Range.


Carey-Shuler first took office in 1979, and became the first black woman to chair the County Commission in 2002. She wielded unprecedented power, presiding over a body that stripped the mayor's office of authority over the years.

For years she advocated for black businesses, and before it was a cause du jour, the fair treatment of Haitian refugees.

Her political prowess still can be felt in the county's halls of power. The Rev. Richard Dunn, a former Miami city commissioner, lost the election to Spence-Jones in December.

''Is she still influential? Yes,'' said Dunn. ``She still has her hands on the pulse. There are certain things you know.''

Carey-Shuler's feistiness is still apparent. She had a falling out with a former aide, Gepsie Metellus; observers say the friction began after Metellus, a leader in the Haitian community, expressed interest in running for Carey-Shuler's old seat.

''She didn't ask me for my advice for that seat,'' said Carey-Shuler. A student, she said, should consult her mentor. ``That seat is carved out for an African American.''

The statement caught Metellus off-guard.

Metellus, who describes herself as an African American of Haitian descent and is now a Miami-Dade School Board candidate, said both African Americans and Haitians face similar issues, barring language and immigration status.

''A black is a black is a black,'' Metellus said in an interview.

Today, Carey-Shuler divides her time between a home in Delray Beach and her Upper Eastside condo. She said she does not regret leaving public office.

It made it easier to spend more time with her mother, Janie Lang McCollough, who died in January at age 90.

But now, she's inching back to business as usual, which means ribbon cuttings and public appearances. Earlier this month, Carey-Shuler shared the stage with Spence-Jones and Edmonson at a ribbon-cutting for new affordable townhomes.

''I'm going to be right behind these two women doing things in Overtown,'' Carey-Shuler said on the stage.

And, at Soyka, she said: ``Sometimes, I feel I didn't leave office.''

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