JON WELSH | A New Type of Leadership in Miami Beach
Jonathan Welsh has served locally and internationally as a community organizer and leader. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Miami in Political Science and Public Relations and was a member of the University’s row club.
Now he is asking your VOTE to be YOUR next commissioner in Miami Beach, district 5.
As Program Leader with the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches, a not-for-profit family services organization that offers camping services and community-based clinical and family facilities, Jonathan implemented summer programs throughout the state of Florida and worked in collaboration with neighborhood resources including parents, churches and other organizations in order to build trust between them and law enforcement.
After receiving his degree, Jon served with the United States Peace Corps, Jonathan strengthened links between government and other volunteer programs and planned and implemented health and wellness community programs in South Africa to address the needs of underserved youth. Upon returning to Miami Beach, he led many initiatives with the Alpha-1 Association, a not-for-profit health advocacy membership organization building a patient advocacy program that mobilized and engaged volunteers in advocacy activities at the state and Federal level.
Jon expanded his community impact with joining the team at Care Resource Community Health Centers, Inc., a Federally Qualified Health Center that provides health and support services to South Florida, where he plays an integral communications role. Jon has become a key community ambassador for reviving and expanding the impact of AIDS Walk Miami and The White Party.
Jonathan Welsh currently serves on the City of Miami Beach’s Human Rights Committee and has served on the City of Miami Beach’s Anti-Bullying Task Force. He has been a president of the Miracle Mile Toastmasters Club, a speaker, contributing author and member of Florida Society of Association Executives (FSAE), Production Captain during the Boca Raton Wine and Food Festival, member of the Bass Museum, member of the Environmental Coalition of Miami & the Beaches (ECOMB) and member of the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (MDGLCC).
Why are you running, now? The time is now to set the stage for a new era of Miami Beach. We all love our city, and we have seen it go through growth pains in recent years. I want to create a new chapter that creates a new narrative for the city.
Business incubators, angel investors, and a passionate community of entrepreneurs have transformed the mainland into an area brimming with creative energy and innovation. Florida’s powerhouse economy is continuing to grow and churn out new jobs, retiree migration to Florida is on the rise, and millennials are coming into their prime home-buying years. Brickell has become an international banking center with restaurant zones that sustains street life well into the early morning. I want that life to return to Miami Beach. The city has the talent, the diversity, and is a well-positioned global city. Now is the critical time to make smart investments that will secure Miami Beach’s long-term prospects for competition.
In the famous words of our nation's ancestors: "We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us." Miami Beach is the home and destination of an international community. It is incumbent upon us to be the leader in technology, tourism, and culture.
Tell us about your professional background - where you grew up, interests, family… I come from a big family, I have many brothers and sisters, nephews, and nieces spread all across Florida and the country. My family is very diverse, unique, supportive and a lot of fun. We moved to Port Orange, Florida in 1988 from Massachusetts. I moved to Miami shortly after high school to attend the University of Miami and have fallen in love with Miami Beach and South Florida since then. My favorite band is Electric Light Orchestra. I am a huge art and teacup collector, an avid bicyclist and good tennis player. I also enjoy swimming in the ocean early in the morning when the world is still in bed. Miami Beach and Ocean Drive are magical in the morning. It is quiet. In my twenties, I worked as a Program Leader with the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches, a not-for-profit family services organization that offers camping services and community-based clinical and family facilities. I helped them implement summer programs throughout the state of Florida and worked in collaboration with neighborhood resources including parents, churches, Police Departments and other organizations.
After the University of Miami, I served with the United States Peace Corps and helped strengthen links between government and other volunteer programs and planned and implemented health and wellness community programs in South Africa to address the needs of underserved youth affected by HIV. Upon returning to Miami, I led many initiatives with the Alpha-1 Association, a not-for-profit health advocacy patient-membership organization and built a patient advocacy program that mobilized and engaged volunteers in advocacy activities at the state and Federal level.
Currently, I serve as the Associate Director of Communications and Development with Care Resource Community Health Centers, Inc., a Federally Qualified Health Center that provides health and support services to South Florida where I oversee their communications and serve as ambassador AIDS Walk Miami and The White Party.
Tell us about your work in South Africa Serving with the United States Peace Corps in South Africa was the best two years of my life. Right after intensive training, I had to create programming that targeted the surge of homeless youth in the area affected by HIV. Over the course of my service, the local community and I were able to create capacity for a skateboarding program, a soccer team, a community garden, job and education programs and more. I learned to speak Sotho, Tswana, and some Afrikaans as well. Many of the youth I served have or later passed away from HIV related complications. Much of their spirit remains with me and reminds me to continue the good fight,be a good person and stay committed. A philosophy that sticks with me every day from that experience is the one of “Ubuntu.” Ubuntu translates as "humanity to others" or "I am what I am because of who we all are."
How will you balance your job at Care Resource, and represent the people of Miami Beach? Every other Commissioner has a full-time job. Some are Lawyers. Some are CEOs. When I feel like I am busy, I remember that there are people serving our country in outer space, in the Armed Forces, or in the home with children that are just as busy or busier. My time with Care Resource makes me a strong candidate - as being part of the experience of helping to serve those most in need of health services continues to make me humble and a good listener. "If you want something done, ask a busy person." – Old Proverb Business interests, large events and residents are often at odds with what they envision for Miami Beach – How will you deal with that? Everyone deserves a voice at the table. Tough decisions require considerations of how individual and communal outcomes. Inevitably, we move in the direction of serving the interests of the residents and businesses as a whole, and not serving the interests of a few.
ULTRA Music Fest, the Boat Show, Art Basel, Memorial Weekend… these are huge events. How do they benefit or hurt our city, and how will you approach these requests in the future? My goal is to continue to be a top tourist destination for the world. Our "brand" as an international cultural wayfarer city is our legacy and we need to protect and strengthen our brand. That comes with saying "Yes" and "No" to events that bring sustainable tourism. We know the difference those tourists who build our brand and those who tax our city resources. My approach moving forward is to have candid conversations with event producers from around the globe that can strengthen our sophisticated brand. Starting with asking the question, "Does this event achieve a short term goal, while strengthening our long term cultural legacy?" Our hospitality industry needs "heads in beds," but there is often an untold price that comes if we do not culturally curate our events to create "smart tourism." I want to expand upon our legacy events to build our city as a destination international innovation, technology, and cultural exchange.
We have the opportunity to shape the destiny for our “city of the future.” It begins with smarter tourism and diversification of the economy. 2019 marks a pivotal point in moving the needle to make smarter decisions to say yes to a new type of economy focusing on attracting international businesses, entrepreneurs, and making Miami Beach a destination for innovation, not just Stimulation.
Our senior population is also a natural resource that is not fully recognized or utilized. This demographic has the ability to broaden our economic base in unexpected ways. In other words, in addition to the youthfulness of South Beach, Miami Beach as a whole is rich in a demographic that is redefining how businesses and services are preparing for success in next quarter century.
The city of Portland, Oregon has developed a Center for Aging and Technology. The center has created a dynamic environment where 300 hundred hi-tech homes and condos are fully wired. Residents get to use cutting edge tools and devices to help them maintain their independence. In this living laboratory, products and cognitive behaviors can then be evaluated. Corporations there are developing and testing their hi-tech devices with the intention of mass marketing their inventions nationwide.
At MIT, they have an Age Lab that sees the future as demographically older and technologically enabled. Their Age Lab is looking at how developers, community planners, zoning boards, government agencies and insurers can work together to create an environment that will help the elderly maintain their independence. These centers on aging are hubs for innovative thinking and product development. A lucrative market as America continues to gray. Creating a hybrid of those ideas would be a good start to promote our own center for aging. Such a program could play a role in attracting new retirement community developers to the area as well as the high-tech companies that cater to them. Efforts can be made to streamline the zoning and permitting process.
Promoting this kind of innovation can further attract nationally respected teams of Cardiologists and Orthopedic surgeons. We are already in the business of Life Extension; we just need to build on this success. Seniors and the medical community play a large role in the economic viability and vitality of our community. Looking for ways to support them and re-enforce this economic pillar can further ensure our stability, future growth and a place to plant roots and call home. Miami Beach can be a hub and at the forefront of innovative research, and creative activities and 3D printing technologies. I support and encourage innovative places in Miami Beach similar to the CARTA Innovation Lab that brings 3D printing technologies to support research collisions between the arts, design, science and technology that further our understanding in an increasingly digital world. The Aspen Ideas Festival is also good example of a micro event that Miami Beach can emulate. It is the nation's premier public gathering for influential leaders. We can hold a similar event and host some of the most inspired and innovative thinkers, writers, artists, business people, teachers, and other leaders drawn from myriad fields and from across the country and around the world – gathered in a single place, ready to teach, speak, with an audience of thoughtful people.
Parking, increasing rents & rising sea levels are what most residents mention as pressing issues. How will you approach each? Increasing rents is a big issue of concern and the best way to approach this is to support the entrepreneurs to be economically successful. I want to encourage steering away from empty apartments listed for short-term rentals as a model to pay rent. My focus is to create new jobs, work with the economic development organizations like the Knight Foundation, Endeavor Miami, and the shared office spaces to stimulate high paying jobs. I will continue to place Miami Beach at the forefront of sustainable transportation and create solutions for parking.
Street flooding is an extremely important issue to residents. Nobody will want to take out a 30-year mortgage or raise a family on properties that might be underwater in a few decades. Financial assets on the waterfront are increasing and their vulnerability to flooding is increasing too. Our city's first response was successful for issuing short-term solutions of raising sidewalks. The long-term solution is to help property owners raise their properties, and build on the initial efforts that bring international experts, city planners, architects, and entrepreneurs to work together to provide solutions. A good plan to address it comes out of facts, not alternative facts, and understanding opportunities, vulnerabilities, our culture, and ecology. A deep dive will continue to give the city the opportunity to come up with a long-term plan just like in the Netherlands. We must not be doom and gloom about flooding. There’s momentum to change.
Give us your take on South, Mid and North Beach? In South Beach, there is an opportunity to strengthen smarter movement of tourism and transportation so that we encourage can tourism and hospitality, while ensuring quality of life for its residents. In Mid Beach, I see huge economic opportunity zones for home based businesses and to improve senior citizen services, including programs to educate them how to use modern technology and services. I enjoy the tranquility of North Beach and how it is different from South or Mid Beach. I support "The North Beach Yard" project. It aligns perfectly with my vision of Miami Beach becoming a place for innovation – as it serves as a catalyst for entrepreneurs to give people a central meeting place where they can be inspired by one another. I also support programing for all ages at the Band Shell, and increase public awareness of the trolley connection linking North and South Beach as cultural destinations.
Tell us about your vision for the Miami Beach of tomorrow. People often ask where we are going as a city. My answer: "Forward." I am seeking build a new bridge between the best hospitality in the world, combined with the most forward thinking, innovative approach to business, tourism, and cultural arts. I am also dedicated to promoting sustainable living practices, fostering environmental stewardship, and preserving our community's ecology.
We are uniquely positioned to lead the global dialogue on cultural and economic innovation. Miami Beach can be a place to start and grow a business. I am especially interested in companies who want to start and build their international offices in Miami Beach, linking Latin America, Europe and Asia. The new chapter is a digitally connected chapter, "Smart Tourism for a Smart Economy. Miami Beach can become the Silicon Valley of the South. Let’s have a diversified economy – durable enough to weather any storm.
When and where can we meet you, and where can we find out more about your campaign.