Ivette Arango O’Doski launches Coral Gables Commission campaign targeting smart growth, government transparency

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After more than 20 years of working with and for local governments on economic development, legislative affairs and other matters, Ivette Arango O’Doski is running for the Coral Gables Commission.

O’Doski, a decades-long resident of Coral Gables, confirmed her candidacy Tuesday for a soon-to-be-vacated seat on the City Commission.

She’s the first to file for the race, which culminates in the city’s biennial General Election on April 11.

“I see this as a wonderful opportunity for public service and to have a meaningful impact on Coral Gables not just now but for its future,” she said.

A lawyer by training with ample experience in both the public and private sectors, O’Doski is running for the seat now held by Jorge Fors Jr., who is seeking election to the Miami-Dade County Commission.

If elected, she plans on backing smart development standards that preserves Coral Gables’ character and architectural aesthetics while still enabling it to grow

“Coral Gables is a historic jewel of a community, deeply rooted,” she said. “We don’t want to be Brickell — we want to remain Coral Gables — but at the same time, we have to be open to growth and development.”

To support that growth, she said she’ll make sure the city’s police and fire departments have the resources necessary while also preserving green spaces, parks and pedestrian areas.

Governmental transparency is also of vital importance, she added.

“There should be a lot of communication,” she said. “Residents should know about Sunshine meetings and when they are so the process is accessible and people understand what’s going on.”

O’Doski earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Miami in 2000 and quickly joined the Miami law firm Fowler White Burnett. She remains a member in good standing with the Florida Bar.

After about five years at the firm, she moved into the public sector to work on state legislative coordination and intergovernmental affairs for Miami-Dade County.

“It was a great experience because it gave me the opportunity to meet with all the departments within the county, understand their dynamics and put their legislative priorities together,” she said.

Then the Beacon Council, the county’s primary economic-development arm, recruited her to be its vice president of governmental, community and corporate affairs.

She stayed with the organization for a few years until giving birth to her son, the first of two children she has with her husband, McGuireWoods lobbyist Rhett O’Doski.

The demands of new motherhood and a desire for greater vocational flexibility prompted O’Doski to strike out on her own, and in November 2015 she founded Ivette O’Doski Consulting. She describes it as a “very small, boutique company” specializing in economic development and tourism.

The Beacon Council signed on as her first client and remains one today. The Greater Miami and Beaches Hotel Association is another.

Around that time, O’Doski also became more involved with her family’s longtime business, Ivette Arango Interiors, which she helped relocate from the Design District in Miami to Coral Gables, where the family bought and renovated a building.

Through interests stemming from that process, she joined the state Board of Architecture and Interior Design.

“I have a good perspective from the public and private sectors,” she said, adding that any decision she makes from the City Commission dais will have an impact on her and her family. “I live here. I work here. My kids go to school here. This is something I’ve taken to heart, and I’ll hold this to the highest level of character and integrity.”

Ivette Arango O’Doski’s public and private sector work has earned her praise from Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Trowbridge and David Lawrence, a former publisher of the Miami Herald who since 1999 has chaired The Children’s Movement of Florida. Image via Abby Hart Photography.

O’Doski said her campaign is just starting to get moving and, as such, some details about its operation still need to be ironed out. She cites her husband as her “greatest resource” in the process so far. She hasn’t yet hired a campaign manager, treasurer or decided whether she’ll open a political committee.

She believes she’ll have a great working relationship with the City Commission’s current members, some of whom — Kirk Menendez and Mayor Vince Lago — she’s known for years.

With regard to fundraising, she’s planning a hybridized approach through which she’ll seek a combination of grassroots donations and business contributions.

“I had conversations before getting to the point where I decided to run, talking to my family to see if this is something we wanted to do as a team and speaking with people in the community, some who have companies and are our family and friends,” she said. “I’m interested in their support.”

David Lawrence Jr., a former publisher of the Miami Herald who since 1999 has chaired The Children’s Movement of Florida, called O’Doski “a natural for elected public service.”

“I’ve known Ivette for two decades,” he said. “Great contributor to our community as a volunteer. Effective leader at the Beacon Council and beyond. All the great human values, beginning with integrity.”

Mark Trowbridge, president and CEO of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, also spoke highly of O’Doski, whom he met during her tenure at the Beacon Council.

Throughout the years, he said, the O’Doskis have supported the chamber in various ways, including hosting its members and partner delegates at their house in Tallahassee during trips the organization took to meet with lawmakers.

Trowbridge described the family as “unbelievably generous and invested in our local community” and O’Doski herself as a “very efficient coalition builder.”

“My first interaction with Ivette was one of those where you knew she was a force, that she had incredible insight into the political process but was also very grounded and connected here in Miami-Dade County,” he said. “I knew to reach out to her any time we were confronting an issue or needed a contact, because she was only one degree of separation from anyone and everybody.”

He added, “I’m a big fan and truly inspired by her. She does great things.”

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