Biographies

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava

Daniella Levine Cava was elected Miami-Dade County’s first-ever woman Mayor in November 2020. She enters the Mayor’s office following a nearly 40-year career as a relentless advocate for South Florida families in public service and elected leadership.

As Miami-Dade County’s Mayor, she oversees a metropolitan government with more than 28,000 employees serving nearly 3 million residents, managing an annual budget of approximately $9 billion.

A social worker, lawyer, and community activist, she was first elected in 2014, and re-elected in August 2018, to serve as the Miami-Dade County Commissioner representing District 8.

As Commissioner, she invested in Miami-Dade small businesses and expanded economic opportunity, protected the environment and our water, increased the County police force for underserved areas, advocated for an expanded, reliable public transportation system, worked to create affordable housing and revitalize neighborhoods, and helped make local government more accountable and transparent.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, she has advocated for a more effective public health response and worked to provide millions of federal CARES Act dollars in relief to struggling families and small businesses. As the new Mayor, she will begin working immediately with city leaders, the business community, and medical experts to create a unified pandemic response strategy that protects Miami-Dade’s lives and livelihoods.

Mayor Levine Cava came to elected office after having served as an advocate for South Florida families for over 30 years. She served special needs children and immigrants at Legal Services of Greater Miami, and then represented children in the child welfare system as Associate and Legal Director for the Guardian Ad Litem Program.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, she was recruited to create a new intake system for child abuse cases with the Department for Children and Families. Her efforts were concentrated on the neighborhoods of District 8 where she helped restore the lives and homes of those devastated by the storm.

In 1996, Mayor Levine Cava founded Catalyst Miami to help low- and middle-income families through service, education, and advocacy. Catalyst helps approximately 5,000 people each year to become more self-sufficient and civically engaged.

She is the Immediate Past Chair of the South Florida Regional Planning Council (SFRPC) and served as an SFRPC Council Member from 2015 – 2020. She has served on the Florida Bar Committee on Legal Needs of Children; the boards of League of Women Voters, Orange Bowl Foundation, North Dade Medical Foundation, South Florida Health Information Initiative, and several national boards. She’s won numerous awards from various organizations including: the Commission on Ethics, Red Cross, American Society for Public Administration, ACLU, National Council of Jewish Women, AAUW, among others.

Born in New York and raised partly in Latin America, Mayor Levine Cava received her bachelor’s degree in psychology with honors from Yale University and graduate degrees in law and social work from Columbia University.

She came to South Florida in 1980 to join her husband, Dr. Robert Cava, a Miami native, who returned home to join his father in medical practice. Daniella and Robert raised two children, Eliza and Edward Cava, in Miami-Dade, supported by strong networks of friends, families, and co-workers.


Suecia Mendez Padilla

Suecia Mendez Padilla was born and raised in Cuba. The daughter of a Presbyterian pastor and a school teacher, Suecia grew up in a Christian family in the complexity of the Cuban society.

She holds a bachelor degree in English Language and Literature and has a Master’s Degree in Contemporary History from Havana University and University of Alicante, Spain.

As part of her involvement with the Church and the YMCA, Suecia was able to participate in many mission trips and religious events around the world. She was also a news reporter for some years covering the developments of the church in Cuba for several international media groups. She visited different countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America. Those experiences contributed to her knowledge and expanded her horizon.

In 2004, Suecia decided to come to the United States in search of freedom. In her first job at Catholic Charities in Miami she was able to help refugee families coming from Cuba, providing guidance and community resources that helped them settle in a new place. That was her first interaction with a series of organizations that provide support to families in need.

In 2006, Suecia decided to enter the health insurance industry where she worked in the community relations and marketing areas primarily in Miami-Dade and surrounding counties. During the last eight years Suecia has acted as the community relations person for Sunshine Health. In this role she worked with a large number of community leaders and organizations. She also had the opportunity to educate and connect individuals to many community services.

Suecia has a passion for serving others and at the center of her life is the commitment to make Miami Dade a better community every day.

Suecia is married to Rev. John Stewart, and has a 9 year old son John Stewart III.


Dr. Wil Blechman

Dr. Wil Blechman is a rheumatologist who developed a major interest in children’s issues as a result of his work with Kiwanis. A past president of Kiwanis International, Dr. Blechman was instrumental in developing the organization’s ongoing worldwide program, Young Children: Priority One, which focuses on children from before birth through age 5. Since leaving his medical practice, Dr. Blechman has served as Florida’s State Health Officer and as a consultant to the Departments of Health and Children and Families. He was Charter President of the Florida Association for Infant Mental Health (2001-03 and again in 2006) and Member and Vice Chair of the Board of The Miami-Dade Children’s Trust (2003-2009) Presently he serves as Vice-Chair of The Children’s Forum and on the Advisory Board of the Partnership for America’s Economic Success, now known as ReadyNation, as well as the Advisory Council for Nemours BrightStart! Dyslexia Initiative.. He also serves on the Lawton Chiles Foundation Board and on the Advisory Board for the ETLP. Dr. Blechman has received numerous awards for his services and was specially recognized for the impact his efforts had on the increased immunization rate in Florida for children under two. In 2009, he was made an Honorary Member of the Florida Pediatric Society and he is listed in Marquis’ Who’s Who in America. In addition, Dr. Blechman is very interested in recent research on brain development in the preschool child and is part of a team of individuals in Florida who speaks to this issue.

Experience

  • International Committee on Young Children: Priority One 2017 – 2018 Encouraging Kiwanis Club to maintain a focus on children from before birth to age 5 in addition to their other service projects.
  • Regional Coordinator, Project to Eliminate Maternal/Neonatal Tetanus. Kiwanis International 2010 – 2015
  • Past International President Kiwanis International 1990 – 1991 As President introduced program focusing on children from before birth to age 5 entitled Young Children: Priority One.