Why I finally subscribed to the Miami Herald (and you should too)

Why I finally subscribed to the Miami Herald (and you should too)

After 20 years in South Florida, I finally subscribed to the Miami Herald. I read it all the time. The Herald is my go-to source for scoop on the good, the bad and the ugly of Miami-Dade County. It’s where I keep a pulse on local politics and start researching candidates during election season. It’s where I track what’s good to eat around town and catch up on the events I missed when I decide to stay in for the evening. More importantly, it’s where I get to learn from the perspectives of my neighbors on issues that affect our community.

For years I have relied on the Miami Herald as a primary source of local news and at times, as an outlet through which to share information. When I was at the City of Miami Beach, the Herald and I had a love-hate relationship. Its writers and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye on issues pertaining to my work, but I was appreciative of the conversations they ignited surrounding our environment and our city. Moreover, its national prestige ensured these conversations were amplified. I know because when I google myself, I find articles from a wide range of outlets referencing the handful of times I was quoted in the Miami Herald.

I don’t know why it took me so long to subscribe. Perhaps it was the fact that I did not grow up buying the paper. When I lived in Mexico City, a copy of Reforma was always resting on the dark wood credenza in the vestibule of my grandparents’ house. During our Sunday visits, I would pause on my way in or out to flip haphazardly through its pages, never once questioning how the paper got there. When we arrived to South Florida, I was your run-of-the-mill myopic teenager, too wrapped up in surviving school socially and academically to remember there was a world beyond campus. By the time I picked up another newspaper, there was nothing to pick-up, only links to click through while silently praying I wouldn’t hit a paywall.

Today I finally decided to stop x-ing out of that telltale pop-up and support my local paper. I had been mulling over the decision for a few months and all it took was this article by Carlos Frías announcing the newly revamped Red Fish for me to pull the trigger. For years, like many others, I have been syphoning knowledge for free from the pages of the Miami Herald, knowledge that talented journalists bring us at great personal sacrifice, like sitting patiently for 12+ hours listening to a commission meeting each month. It’s about time I uphold my end of the journalistic bargain as a loyal reader: by paying for the work behind the content.

Although my support is long overdue, the Miami Herald needs it more than ever. They were facing financial setbacks before the pandemic and the economic instability continues to threaten its existence. I don’t kid myself that my measly $12.99-a-month subscription is going to save the Miami Herald, but it’s better than $0 and it highlights how much I appreciate the hard work from the newsroom. Next time you read an article from the Miami Herald stop to consider the value it is bringing your life and the work that happened behind the scenes to make it possible. Is it worth more than $0?

A Decade of Public Service in Five Days

A Decade of Public Service in Five Days

Last week I closed out a nearly decade-long career in public service. Since 2009, I have been working in some fashion for the City of Miami Beach. My first job there was a nine-month internship with the Public Works Department as part of my Master’s program and my last job was holding the dual role of Environmental Manager and Assistant Director in the Environment & Sustainability Department.

I absolutely loved my time with the city and have had a difficult time saying goodbye. I started the process in early March with this short-and-sweet announcement of my departure. Then, due to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, my end date was pushed back a month.

The emotional release the post provided had long faded by the time last week rolled around so I decided to say a final goodbye with a series of daily entries on Facebook. The result? A five-day journal summarizing my decade in public service (and Betsy’s dramatically different hairstyles through the years). Take a look!

Day 1 – Monday, April 13
Internship at City of Miami Beach

Today I officially begin my last week working at the City of Miami Beach and I am a glass case of emotion. As a way to help me cope, I will be sharing a daily photo and memory of my last nearly ten years with the city, starting with how it all began.

In 2009, I was finishing my Master’s in Marine Affairs & Policy at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. One to the prerequisites for graduation is to complete an internship. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after graduation, other than follow in the footsteps of Dr. Kenny Broad and Dr. Daniel Suman. My advisor Maria was the one who sent me the internship posting for the City of Miami Beach’s Environmental Division (at the time, a three-person division under Public Works).

I applied and was awarded the internship by absolute happenstance. I spent nine months doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that, getting exposure to the inner workings of city government. During that time, I learned how much I love this community for its walkability, its access to nature, and its unique personality. I love it so much that in 2010 I became a Miami Beach resident—I moved into a $700/mo studio on Washington Avenue and 7th Street—and I vowed that if I was ever going to work in public service, it would be for the City of Miami Beach.

(To be continued tomorrow…)

Day 2 – Tuesday, April 14
Earth Day Miami Beach 2013

After I completed my internship with the city in 2010, I had a dwindling childhood savings account and was in desperate need for a job to pay for my new Miami Beach studio. I interviewed for a ton of environmental scientist jobs throughout the county. The most memorable interviews were with DERM and the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserves because I was so nervous I visibly sweat through the whole thing.

I finally landed a job in January 2011 at a small, privately-held architecture and engineering firm in Coral Gables. My dad was ecstatic. (He’s a private sector devotee—can you blame him after a long and lustrous career with AT&T?—and thinks Coral Gables is the best city in Miami-Dade.) But less than two years later, I was faced with a touch decision.

In late 2011, the Environmental Manager with whom I had interned left the city, leaving behind a rare vacancy within the Environmental Division. As soon as Betsy was promoted, she began hiring for an Environmental Specialist. I wasn’t ready to leave my almost brand new role, but this was my once-in-a-lifetime chance to fulfill my vow of public service in my new community.

Luckily, I entered the candidate pool with prior experience and a great working relationship with the hiring manager. You already know what happens next.

(To be continued tomorrow…)

Day 3 – Wednesday, April 15
Environmental Division

I started with the city as the Environmental Specialist on October 1, 2012. For nearly three years, Betsy and I were a dynamic duo. We handled all environmental and sustainability programs. We were the liaisons for the Waterfront Protection Committee—it’s how I first met Robert Raven Kraft and Jeff Feldman—and the Sustainability Committee (hi, Luiz Rodrigues!). We managed the Beachwalk and seawall construction projects. We represented the city on the Climate Compact. And, we held and supported hundreds of educational events throughout the community.

Long days in the office were followed by evenings and weekends of volunteer dune restoration events with our friends at the Surfrider Foundation Miami Chapter, organizing presentation and workshops on a range of sustainability topics like “how to build your own rain barrel,” and tabling at city events where we shared information on our programs and gave away our famous “I Recycle Because” bags. After a while, we both started to burn out.

Luckily, in 2014, the Environmental Division began growing organically. Yani was the first to arrive. She was hired to fill our Office Associate position, but quickly took on an expanded role in outreach thanks to her passion and aptitude for sustainability education. She is currently our Senior Sustainability Coordinator and has been organizing virtual Sustainachella workshops on the city’s Facebook Live while we’re stuck at home. (There’s one tomorrow at noon with Coral Morphologic that you won’t want to miss!)

Following a series of events in 2015, Betsy was promoted to Assistant Director and I was promoted to Environmental Manager. Flavia joined our team that March and began handling all our sustainability programs like a boss. Between the four of us, we were not only able to better balance the workload, but also start creating new programs for the first time.

(To be continued tomorrow…)

Day 4 – Thursday, April 16
E&S Team 2018

The Environment & Sustainability Department was created in June 2016 and Betsy was appointed our director by unanimous vote of the City Commission. In one fell swoop (thanks to the support of our elected officials and our community eco-warriors), we tripled into a team of three distinct divisions: Environmental Management under me, Sustainability under Flavia, and Urban Forestry (now under Omar Leon).

Then, while we were getting our footing, Betsy left for a temporary assignment as Mayor Levine’s Chief of Staff. In February 2017, I found myself the acting director (and Environmental Manager) of our brand new department.

There’s a lot I want to say about this period because it was one of the most stressful and most rewarding times in my career with the city. However, it encompasses too much and is too precious a memory to condense in a Facebook update. I will suffice it to say my life changed completely both personally and professionally in 2017.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to my colleagues at the city who had my back throughout 2017 and have had my back since. I work incredibly hard to be worthy of the trust placed in me to lead our E&S team (then as acting director, now as assistant director), but I would not be where I am were it not for your guidance, your support, your mentorship, and most of all, your friendship.

In my first few years, I learned we have high-caliber professionals working for the City of Miami Beach. Over the last few years, I have also learned we have high-caliber humans working for the City of Miami Beach. I am really, really going to miss you all.

(To be continued tomorrow…)

Day 5 – Friday, April 17

Well, as much as I tried to avoid it, my last day is actually here. Alas, it is time for one final update.

When I gave my resignation to come to the city in 2012, a former colleague told me I was making a mistake going into city government and “getting lost in small town bureaucracy.” I’m glad I can look back at the last eight years and know it was anything but.

Yes, my work is based here and it is focused on garnering the greatest local impact, but we’re a small city with a huge international presence. The decisions that we make have far-reaching implications. We are being watched by millions of people across the world, including my counterparts in other cities who often reach out for advice. (In fact, before Susy came to work with us, her team in For Lauderdale was using our dune management plan as a reference for crafting their own.)

During my time here, I learned from and shared our work with engineers, city planners, scientists, journalists, and elected officials who visited us from cities around the world. I led tours of delegations from Boston, Hawaii, Germany, and Japan, among countless others. I presented before the European Union in the United States. Heck, I even gave an interview with The Weather Channel at some point.

Other people probably say this about their communities, but Miami Beach is a really unique place for better or for worse. People on the outside see it. It’s why they send delegations to learn from us and why we make for great news. I have seen it from the inside. It’s why I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this city over the last decade and why I am having a hard time getting off this ride.

There were a lot of things I loved about my job at the city, but I am personally grateful for the experiences and friendships that the role afforded me over the last few years. (In fact, I met many of you who are reading this because of this job.) As I transition into my new chapter, I am excited to take these experiences and your friendships with me.

Thank you for giving me the honor to serve you.

The Hardest Goodbye: The End to My Era in the City of Miami Beach

The Hardest Goodbye: The End to My Era in the City of Miami Beach

“In the end, we seek meaning,” Daniel Pink reminds us in “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.” Pink’s book entered into my life by happenstance, around the same time two once-in-a-lifetime work opportunities unexpectedly fell onto my lap. As I was mulling over the possibility of leaving my career at the city for one of the new professional options before me, I looked to the book for guidance. It didn’t really do anything except give me a great opening line and a couple good quotes for this post.

Nevertheless, an end is upon me. At the end of this month I am closing a nearly decade-long chapter with the City of Miami Beach to return to the private sector. I am, as Pink describes, experiencing “one of the most complex emotions humans experience: poignancy, a mix of happiness and sadness.” Right now, the balance is tilted heavily toward sadness. Just ask my team who watched me explain my departure through tears and sobs yesterday. Can you blame me? It’s hard to say goodbye when you’ve got it as good as I’ve had—a job that feels like a calling, a team that feels like a family. (People say that, but I mean it. You need only count how much time I willingly spend at the office and how many of my co-workers I spend time with outside of work.)

And this is the part where I seek meaning. I needn’t look very far, my time at the city has seen me through so much. Professionally, I skyrocketed from an entry-level environmental scientist to an acting director all in my 20s. Working at the city has given me a lifetime of work experience in hyper-speed that prepared me to take on my new role. Thank you to my colleagues and mentors that trusted me and opened doors along the way. I brought the raw talent, you chiseled it like Michelangelo. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with you, to learn from you, and pour our collective passion into this beautiful community I call home.

There is so much more I want to say about my Miami Beach chapter, but all the words I type and then erase don’t feel worthy. Instead, I will leave you with an apropos quote from my spirit animal Leslie Knope, who as she was closing her chapter as Assistant Director of the Pawnee Parks and Rec Department wisely said:

“Sometimes you have to make the hardest climb to see the most beautiful sunrise. I read that once on an old lady’s decorative pillow. But it is really how I feel today. I’ve climbed a very weird and rocky mountain, and it was a pain in the ass, and my legs are tired, and I’m starving, but the sun is rising over the sea of love and waffles and possibility. So I’m just gonna relax and take a deep breath and enjoy this view for as long as I possibly can.”

The Year of Living Dangerously

The Year of Living Dangerously

I am risk averse. Or, as Jeff Bezos told 60 Minutes, “I don’t go for ‘Carpe Diem’. I go for regret minimization framework.” My conservative strategy has served me well—it has kept me alive in one piece and in good financial standing thus far—but it can also hold me back from trying new things. My body reacts to new experiences like it would an approaching black bear: my sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear, flooding my veins with adrenaline and my stomach with hyperactive butterflies. It’s safe to say that stepping out of my comfort zone doesn’t come easy.

Throughout my life I have taken calculated risks. In 2009, under the guidance of an experienced instructor, I got scuba certified. In 2011, after seriously researching companies, I went skydiving with my sisters for their 18th birthday. And in 2012, after weighing the pros and cons for weeks, I made the career jump that led to where I am today. I have experienced the benefit of taking risks, but it hasn’t made it easier to take them.


In 2017 I resolved to saying “Yes!” more, to step out of my comfort zone and take more risks. I call it my year of living dangerously. I said “Yes!” to leading my department as acting director. I said “Yes!” to training for my first marathon: the 2018 Paris marathon. As an airsoft newbie, I said “Yes!” to Operation Overwatch 4, a two-day MilSim event. Along the way, I found new talents, new friends, and new hobbies that make my life more fulfilled. (At a minimum, they make it more exciting…I mean, I got to shoot an Airsoft Junkiez Bingo from a helicopter for Pete’s sake!)

The more I say “Yes!”, the more natural it becomes. With each passing experience, I become a little less fearful of the unknown and become more confident in my ability to face new challenges. It’s incredible what we are capable of handling, of accomplishing when we choose to take a risk. And, it’s eye opening how much we miss when we stay where we feel safe out of fear.


In 2018, I am going to keep saying “Yes!” and I hope that you will join me. What are some risks you can take this coming year? As you countdown tonight, promise yourself you will take at least one of them, no matter how small. I promise that, no matter the outcome, you will look back and be glad you did.

I wish you nothing but health, happiness and success in the new year! And now, for your quote of the day:

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” —“Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” by Baz Luhrmann. (I listen to it on New Year’s Day every year for its invaluable advice.)

The Unexpected Story of How I Started My Career

The Unexpected Story of How I Started My Career

I decided a few weeks ago that I need less sleep than I am already getting and therefore need to expand this blog into YouTube. You know, so I can spend countless hours filming and editing video into the wee hours of the dawn, generating content in a format that doesn’t come as easily to me as writing does. But your girl never backs away from a challenge and, while the quality of my videos is definitely not up to par with my written content, there is something to be said about sharing my career advice “face-to-face”.

For the very first video on my new YouTube channel, I decided to start from the beginning: the story of how I started my career. I kept it short and to the point so feel free to write in the comments—either below or on the YouTube video—if you have any lingering questions. (A common one for example is how I chose marine affairs and policy as a major in the first place.) I would also appreciate your support in subscribing to my channel and giving your feedback on other stories, advice and topics you would like me to cover via video.

As you watch it, please be gentle. Remember that video creation does not come easily to me and that this is my very first attempt. I am hoping to create at least one video a month to start and promise that they will progressively get better in quality as we journey along together into the depths of YouTube. Happy watching!

What Running Has Taught Me About Work Ethic

What Running Has Taught Me About Work Ethic

My dad introduced me to running. My friend Roy got me back into it after I slipped into a year-long hiatus. I’m grateful to both of them because I’m meant to be a runner, just like other people are meant to be tennis players, or swimmers, or dancers. My body—I have long, lean legs—is certainly built for it. In fact, my body needs it to burn all the excess energy that materializes as anxiety or stress when I don’t run.

When I became a born again runner, I asked Roy to be my accountability buddy because he has a great training philosophy and runs at least three times a week, no matter what. His advice helped me tap into next-level running potential I didn’t know I had. After one year, I was logging an average of 21 miles per week and whittled down to a 110-pound athletic frame with a budding six-pack. I also started winning races, helping my South Beach Triathlon relay team place first in April and my Mack’s Cycle Trilogy relay team place second just last weekend.


Beyond building physical prowess, my return to running has greatly improved my work ethic. It’s not surprising. When I first started applying for jobs, multiple people recommended I include my sports experience because both team and individual sports teach skills needed in the workforce. Alas, as an entry-level candidate, I heavily pitched my seven years of competitive volleyball as proof that I am committed and a team player.

Being a runner has taught me discipline—the discipline of eating well, taking care of my body, getting enough sleep, and not missing a day of training. It has taught me mental toughness, the kind you need to push through mile 12 of a half-marathon or hour 13 of a long work day when all you want to do is quit. Last but not least, it has taught me to be patient with myself. There are days when I kill it in training and days when the training kills me. Running has taught me to celebrate the good days and to dust myself off on the bad days, keeping my goals in sight and working toward them no matter how discouraged I may feel.


My next goal is to run my very first marathon in 2018. I’m actively searching for an epic race—think Paris, Greece, New York, Boston—for which to start training. Any suggestions? And, while we’re on the subject of epic races, next month Roy will be competing in a Boston Qualifier for what will be his fourth time running the Boston Marathon. He’s worked extremely hard these last five months so please send him positive vibes for a successful (and enjoyable) race day.

And now, for your quote of the day and one of Roy’s favorites:

“You train to race, not race to train.” —Bill Bowerman

The Best Career Advice I Have Received From My Dad

The Best Career Advice I Have Received From My Dad

My dad has been giving me career advice for as long as I can remember. When I was an undergrad at the University of Miami, he would drive down from Boca to run with me and spend the entire time telling me how I should study to be an engineer. “It is the highest paying job for hispanic women right out of school,” he would say matter-of-factly.

I don’t always listen to him. I definitely didn’t when it came to majoring in engineering. (I don’t have a facility for math, so the field didn’t seem prudent or enticing.) Instead, I ended up with a triple major in Marine Affairs and Policy, International Studies, and French Language and Literature. I also didn’t listen when he said to go into the private sector, choosing instead to build a career in government that is going on six years.

To my poor dad’s dismay, I ignore most of his recommendations. Everything he says sounds right—his advice to become a private sector engineer certainly worked for my younger sister Lucy, who found success in California building cool stuff—most of it just isn’t right for me. But, amidst his mostly maligned pointers, he shared one nugget of wisdom that has proved super valuable in my professional journey: to build and foster a network.

I don’t know why I decided to listen to and apply this one piece of advice—perhaps because I’ve seen it work successfully as I’ve followed my dad’s career. As he’s gone from a Mexican naval officer, to a telecommunications executive, to a business development and sales executive, he has formed relationships that have been clutch in unexpected circumstances. For example, he recently won a multi-year contract because an assistant he worked with in the ’90s, with whom he has since kept in touch, helped him secure a hard-to-get meeting with a Mexican mogul.

Motivated by his success, I’m trying to learn from my dad’s networking savvy. The man doesn’t let a special occasion pass without sending each of his contacts a congratulatory e-mail. Alas, I too try to reach out to everyone in my network during birthdays and holidays. He is also very good about passing along articles that his contacts (me included) will find useful. It is through maintaining regular, meaningful communication that he continues to strengthen relationships when most of us allow them to fizzle.

While I have never scored an elusive meeting with a powerful Latin American businessman, I have seen the worth of my network in action. It helped me get the interview that led to my current job and it helps me every day when I have to work with people in other organizations to solve problems. Heck, it occasionally even gets me access to free technical advice from consultants. For these reasons, having and maintaining a robust network is one of my most prized assets and the best career advice I have ever received from my dad.

(A huge shout out and a happy father’s day to my dad! Thank you for being patient and caring enough to keep doling out advice when I clearly have a track-record of ignoring it. I wouldn’t be where I am without you and for that I am forever grateful.)

And now, for your quote of the day courtesy of my dad:

“Work hard in silence. Let success make the noise.” —Frank Ocean

I Started This Blog To Pay It Forward

I Started This Blog To Pay It Forward

Hi, I’m Margarita, a 29-year-old environmental professional and writer based in Miami, Florida. In my seven short years in the work force, I have gone from an entry-level environmental scientist to Acting Environment and Sustainability Department Director, from novice blogger (at ThankYouMiami.com) to published author (of The HUNT Miami), and—much to my private sector devotee dad’s dismay—from a private sector consulting job to a career in public service.

I spend my free time running—I’m a born-again runner with intentions of running my first marathon in 2018—and dancing. I also scuba dive, play beach volleyball, and am head-over-heels in love with skiing. I can’t tell if I naturally enjoy being active or if I absolutely need it to stay sane given the demands of my schedule. For your sake and for mine, I don’t ever stop to find out.

My professional (and personal) successes are the result of a great education. (I spent my formative years at Pine Crest School and earned my Bachelor and Masters degrees from the University of Miami—Go ‘Canes!) Inasmuch, they are the culmination of a solid support system, first-class mentors, and a little luck. I started this blog to pay it forward by sharing helpful advice, experiences, and resources I have collected along my journey. I hope they will help you, as they have done me, in reaching your untapped potential.

To start, I will be posting twice a week: on Wednesdays and on Sundays. Sometimes the posts will come as personal reflections, sometimes as recounted conversations with my mentors, sometimes as lists of articles, books, podcasts, etc. that I can’t live without. Please, please, please send me your feedback and leave comments. This is as much about you learning from me, as it is about us learning from you.

With that, I leave you with the following quote of the day:

“If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes then learn how to do it later.” —Richard Branson