In the 2021 elections for representatives of Coral Gables, Patricia Ann Keon has thrown her hat in the ring for a chance at being elected mayor of the city. As one of the current commissioners, she is vying for the opportunity to replace current mayor Raul Valdes Fauli now that he is retiring.
Keon worked as a nurse in New York for several years before she moved to Florida. She came to the Sunshine State to complete her Master’s degree in Public Administration at Florida International University. With three young children, she quickly became involved in community service projects that mainly aimed to update and maintain school playgrounds.
This interest in public service stemmed from her experience as a parent and then evolved as she eventually gained extensive experience working with local projects. Keon served on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, where she worked on the redevelopment of the Coral Gables War Memorial Youth Center. She was also a member of the Planning and Zoning Board.
In 1999, she was appointed as a policy aide for County Commissioner Jimmy Morales, a position that kick-started her career in local government. Although she had never had any intention of becoming part of the political world, her work with Morales showed Keon “the power of good government” and stimulated her desire to run for office.
“I have the background and the experience; I’ve lived in the city of Coral Gables for almost 50 years. I’ve raised three kids here and I have four grandchildren, so I have an interest in how the city works, the quality of life, and what the city has to offer to its residents,” Keon said.
When a seat opened on the city commission in 2013, Keon ran for the position and won. She was re-elected for another four-year term in 2017. She was also appointed vice-mayor that year and served as such until April of 2018.
When she first campaigned, parents shared their concerns with her about the school system. Parents did not know what public school their child would go to, so they opted for private education instead. Once she learned about this issue, Keon worked with the school system to have boundaries drawn for elementary schools so that public education in the community would be revitalized.
Keon also recalls sitting in on meetings discussing the budget for renovations at Coral Gables Senior High School, when it was originally being granted only $12 million. After students, teachers, parents, alumni and community members negotiated with the city, they were able to increase funding and allocate more than $40 million dollars for the construction efforts.
“It put this school on their radar as being in need of money to renovate. You have very good teachers here, very good academics, very good students, but you had a really deteriorating physical plant. Now, you’ll get the school that this community and you students deserve,” Keon said.
Keon has worked with Gables High in the past. She expresses support towards the idea of working with the city to help Gables maintain their fields being used by the Youth Center. This year, the Coral Gables Community Foundation used money from Keon’s fund to donate 800 masks to the school. This contribution has made the 2021 graduation a reality for current Cavalier seniors.
“Patricia Keon’s donation meant a lot to our Cavaliers. It was one less huge cost that I had to worry about. Without the masks, graduation might not have been possible. This donation will make the event much neater and more uniform for this year’s seniors,” Activities Director Ms. Suarez said.
Keon explains that she is campaigning to become mayor because it will give her the opportunity to continue the work she has been doing for the last eight years in office. She credits her experience working for the city for giving her the deep and broad understanding she now has of how local and regional government works.
“I have the background, I have the education, I have the time and I have the commitment. I have the temperament to act as the spokesperson for our city and to work with my colleagues in a collegial and civil manner to arrive at policies that are good for this city,” Commissioner Keon said.
If elected, Keon has long-term goals for Coral Gables, specifically prioritizing infrastructure. She plans to update the storm-water drainage system, as well as the replacement of septic tanks with a new sewer system. She hopes to combat sea rise threats, especially since the South Florida area is highly susceptible.
Rather than specifically encouraging students to make the decision to become politicians, Keon advises younger people to pursue their passions and follow a career that they love. Her final message to voters is that Coral Gables residents are very fortunate to reside in a place with such a high standard of living. She states that if they want a mayor who will maintain the city as it is, she is the best person for the job.