A Turbulent Year: The Unfolding Saga of Mayor Vince Lago’s Leadership in Coral Gables

Javier Baños

Baños is the Editor of Gables Insider

This month marks the commemoration of the first anniversary of Coral Gables’ latest municipal election. Contrary to the expectations set by Mayor Vince Lago and his circle of supporters, the unfolding year diverged significantly from the trajectory suggested by his then-unopposed election victory. Despite the anticipated challenge posed by the election of Commissioners Fernandez and Castro, Mayor Lago’s tenure has been fraught with setbacks. His political journey this year saw the loss of Commissioner Menendez’s support over discussions to reschedule elections, unsuccessful endeavors to amend the fiscal budget, censure from the Commission for alleged disparaging remarks in Spanish-language media, the contentious dismissal of his key administrative ally, Peter Iglesias, the possible dismissal of a defamation legal action against Actualidad Radio, and most recently, the initiation of a recall campaign against him.

Such a confluence of events prompts a deeper inquiry: What exactly has transpired in what was once seen as a model of municipal governance? Vince Lago, distinguished as the group’s veteran statesman with an eleven-year tenure as an elected official and over a decade dedicated to Coral Gables, was once the emblem of hope and dedication. His election in 2013 was met with optimism, as he ushered in a new era of professionalism within the commission’s office, transforming what was traditionally seen as a part-time role into a commitment that bordered on full-time dedication. Lago’s direct approach to addressing constituents’ concerns, regardless of their scale, established him as a leader of efficacy. This elevation of the commissioner’s role not only increased accountability but also, at times, stirred discontent among his colleagues.

However, there’s a prevailing wisdom that politicians who succumb to their own narratives often encounter difficulties. This is partly a rationale behind the electorate’s insistence on term limits. Over his years in office, Lago’s effective governance led him to view the position as an extension of himself, and consequently, the city as a personal domain. This perception became particularly pronounced upon his rise to the mayoralty, characterized by his propensity to quash debate, exhibit contentiousness during public engagements, and a seeming fascination with the prestige of his office—from the personalized glass partition of his office to the exorbitantly priced $10,000.00 a table State of the City Addresses, beyond the reach of ordinary residents. In addition, his seeming adoration of developer political contributions, along with questionable business relationship allegations signals a preference for certain sections of the electorate over the broader populous. These actions not only demonstrated a grand sense of self but also alienated portions of the community.

Now, to some degree, that is forgivable. All politicians, and all persons that expose themselves to the perilous and dubiously moral endeavor of asking all their fellow residents for their collective assent for elective office in a representative democracy, must have at least a healthy opinion of their own abilities, present company included. However, while a certain level of self-confidence is necessary for any political figure, the transition from a public servant to what may be perceived as a benevolent autocrat represents a critical point of concern. Having served for 11 years, Lago undoubtedly views himself as the most suitable leader, even amidst dissent from his peers, but that does not make him the absolute decision maker on the dais.

Currently, Lago finds himself navigating through uncharted waters, constrained by a minority vote and isolated from the administrative backing that typically supports such a position, effectively positioning him in a state of continuous opposition. The politician that Coral Gables elected in 2013, known for his adaptability and willingness to collaborate, seems distant. Today, Lago appears more focused on retribution and regaining lost ground, leading to escalating conflicts with his colleagues. This has triggered a defensive stance within the Commission, as it grapples with his relentless challenges, fostering an environment rife with discord and disappointment among the city’s residents. This relentless pursuit has not only strained relations within the Commission but also sent a clear message to Lago’s network of political allies and supporters that his influence over the commission’s agenda has waned.

The call for Lago’s recall, which appears to be gaining momentum, presents a critical juncture in his political career. See here. They are presently on track to meeting the necessary minimum requirements within the first 30 days after filing. If successful, it would signify a regrettable conclusion to his tenure. However, should the recall effort fail, it might offer Lago an opportunity for introspection and a chance to realign his priorities towards the greater good of Coral Gables’ residents. Letting go of the bitterness stemming from past electoral defeats and moving forward could rejuvenate his leadership. Failure to adapt and embrace a more inclusive approach risks validating the concerns of those who once supported him, cementing his tenure not as a legacy of service but as a cautionary tale of ambition overshadowing the collective needs of the community.

The views expressed in opinion pieces are those of the opinion authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Gables Insider, its staff or its affiliates. If you would like to submit an opinion for publication, please email it along with a photo and a two sentence biography of yourself to [email protected].


23 thoughts on “A Turbulent Year: The Unfolding Saga of Mayor Vince Lago’s Leadership in Coral Gables

  1. Why have all the comments defending Lago been censored? If we’re going to have an honest discussion, we should have an transparent publication.

  2. There are some very unfair comments about Commissioners Fernandez, Castro, and Menendez as well as City Manager Rojas who are trying to make a better City.

    These very unfair comments fail. They are like the person who has only one leg in a ass-kicking contest.

  3. Excessive development and a police department that seems unable to keep up with the city it serves are the two biggest things I see. Development is good b, but does it need to be so large? Someone mentioned the commissioners should have to reside within the city…. Are you tellling me they don’t necessarily have to be??? That’s screwed up. There seems to be financial gain to serving our city way past the salary. That may be common practice in politics but it’s pretty disgusting.

  4. Not many fans of Lago around today… who would have thought? The modern day political
    Environment is rotten to the core. American Greed is a cancer. We the people are in charge, not the politicians. Congratulations on our new way of governance. Police it well.

  5. Property owners need to realize that the so called over development[large buildings of any type] does help keep property taxes lower for single property owners as well as those investors that own a duplex or smaller apartment building.
    Balance is obviously necessary going forward and it does seem that some property owners are opposed to some of the growth, especially near residential areas like those south of Dixie Highway.

    As always any extreme is never the best, so let’s hope that going forward current & future elected officials can find a better balance!!

  6. Lago is a tool for Developers. Look at the contributions to his PAC “Coral Gables First”. You will find all the contributions from developers and those that make money from developers. He has raised over $1.5 million dollars from donors who want a quid pro quo.
    Overdevelopment is turning the City Beautiful to Gotham City where not a ray of sunlight reaches the city or it’s politics.

  7. Thank you Gables Insider for putting a name to your work. Liked or disliked, Political Cortadito (Elaine Del Valle) also has a name behind her work product. This other, anonymous “blog,” AesopGables, is circulating and is a daily, literally every day, hate piece against everyone and everything except one person, Lago. Very very suspicious.

    Are Gables residents suppose to take this “anonymous” blog as a credited news source? That is laughable. The elaborate and descriptive writing style seems very familiar, similar to Coral Gables Magazine. Wouldn’t be far fetched to believe some of the same individuals (Mr. Faber) at the magazine could be involved with the anonymous blog taking into consideration the city terminated the monthly retainer with them. A form of retribution against the new commission majority? A financial gain by operating an anonymous pay-to-play blog? The very same practice Lago despises and speaks against as attacking him.

    Coral Gables is not the same after Lago’s arrival at City Hall.

  8. As always, God’s word is instructive and helpful:

    Proverbs 16:18
    King James Version
    18 Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

    From day one of his mayoral tenure, our Mayor has
    exhibited a haughtiness and a pride that is deadly to someone who is supposed to be a servant. His bumper sticker could read:


  9. Coral Gables was here before the current group of Commissioners and it will be here after the current group no longer governs. Thus, we need to concentrate on what is BEST for the City & its property owners going forward!
    Among the items that need to be fixed and hopefully will be by our Current Charter Review Committee, is to require property ownership as a qualification to serve in our City’s Board/Commission.
    Anyone who resides in City and is registered to vote has that right, BUT, you must have “skin in the game” to qualify to register for election as a Commissioner/Mayor. None of us would own shares in a company where all Board members did not own any shares, so why does our current charter allow that? We must ask for our new/proposed City Charter to include & be approved with a requirement for property ownership to qualify for any election to our Board/Commission!

  10. The perfect example of who Vince Lago really is is summed up in the wall he created outside his office, while touting an Open door policy. This is hypocrisy at its finest. For those thinking he should still be supported, just wait till you find out more of what he’s done.

  11. The comments critical of Mayor Lago reflect my understanding of our city. Seeing Mayor Lago
    operate in person at a neighborhood meeting on safety verified for me the truth of the critics.
    Other very telling pieces of evidence are found in the Coral Gables magazine where, like a
    spoiled child, Mayor Lago attempts to defend himself and his supporters echo his vain excuses.

  12. It seems that you have joined your friend Ariel and added yourself to now be the gang of four! I thought this was to be a news letter, not a politically opinionated column. Fernandez fooled us to believe about how he really cared about the city, only to get elected and double his salary in what is to be a part time job! And you call out Lagos?
    I am incensed that on Easter Sunday, YES Easter Sunday I had someone knock on my door for Lagos must go. When I expressed my discontent, this person was nasty and disrespectful, this is the type of people representing this cause, all the more makes me see the sham of this recall!

  13. Wow, how much lower can the City Beautiful go. This is a regurgitation of a year-long list of accusations, innuendos, insults, personal attacks, self-serving actions, among others, by and between an unprecedented “least effective” city commission in the history of our city. No present member of this commission is exempt from being a passive and/or active participant in egging on the dysfunction that is present in our city government today, all at the expense of all residents. It is out of control and reprehensible. This is a “commemoration of the first anniversary of Coral Gables’ latest municipal election”? Laughable. This is shameful on all fronts and an embarrassment to all residents. Independent of whom you support, this is not the American way. Yes, it is this type of truly unprecedented “Banana Republic” governance that we have witnessed for decades in other south Florida cities and one that seems to have toxically contaminated ours. I have the utmost of confidence in our judicial system, one that exposes and punishes those that have breached our trust and laws, however, the whims of a loud and self-serving handful who believe are entitled to govern by proxy, have no legal standing in American society, keyword, American. Banging pots and making noise is not how our society works. Young, paid recall group representatives have come to our home on two different occasions begging for signatures, including on Easter Sunday, totally disregarding and violating our space, privacy and religious faith. When asked for facts supporting the serious accusations, the response is a blank stare with a “makes no sense” response of “It is good for Coral Gables.” Sad, but true. I ask all members of the Commission to reflect, mature and start doing what they are being well-paid to do, the residents’ work. Prove yourselves worthy of leading our affluent, highly educated, emulated and renowned city to regain the trust and confidence that has badly eroded in the past year. We are Coral Gables. Nothing else.

  14. This is a good summation of the situation. Mayor Lago bought this on himself. His candidates were no more experienced than Commissioner Castro or Fernandez. The voters simply sent a message: we want a resident focused City with moderate growth not towering high rises. Instead of embracing the newcomers he chose petulance, posturing and patronizing. So did Mr. iglesias. While this is a strong City Manager form of government he was still an employee with all that it implies. And there has been some weaponizing of the code with Capote being the best example. At a recent Commission Meeting the explanation for the excessive fines and near lien of his property was a “System Problem”. That was quite laughable. And to what end was this being done? I looked up to the CG City Government as outstanding ,frankly ,until the team of Valdez-Fauli, Ramon Trias and Attorney Ramos to the reins. I am hopeful we can get back to business and stop overbuilding , making a mess of streets and peppering the City with unnecessary artwork. A purple piece of iron greeting the entrance to beautiful Alhambra on LeJeune is what? Or that expensive Chalkwalk in front of City Hall? MM is sloppy looking and Flamingos painted on walls don’t exactly reflect “elegance”. For all its gimmicks MM between LeJeune and Salzedo remains weak commercially year after year. You can’t invent commerce. We have beautiful entrances and fountains that need beautification. There is nothing more beautiful that walking in CG at dusk when the traffic dies down. Walk West of Ponce on Giralda or Alhambra (and many more streets);cross LeJeune over to the Golf Course down to Anderson return by way of Valencia and sit in the beautiful vest pocket park on Hernando. One thing that remains high quality and, I have no personal interest in it other than feeling very secure, is our outstanding Fire Rescue.

  15. My big complaint with Mayor Lago is the overdevelopment of our City. Residents have cried out continually to stop building, but he supports his developer friends and contributors. This City looks horrible to what Coral Gables is supposed to be. Concrete, traffic and lack of sunlight along all these overbuilt streets. I am so angered with what you have allowed to be done to this City and how you have supported all this concrete, that I do want you gone. Add this to the horrible way Burger Bobs and Fritz and Franz were treated, as we know you were pulling the strings behind your support staff. I am so disappointed with you and Anderson, and yes, I want change and a stoppage on development. Hear us scream !!!

  16. Among a laundry list of reasons, Vince Lago lost me when he mansplained and intimidated Commissioner Melissa Castro during her first Commission meeting. What type of man does this? An ego maniac-that’s who. And, I’m still waiting to hear back on how much his renovated high security office cost the Coral Gables’ taxpayers. Something that was NOT necessary. What is he hiding?

  17. I have been a resident of Coral Gables since 2005, it has ran well from cleanliness to security till now, have dealt with garbage, sewer, const issues during this time and all resolved fairly responsibly, it is my opinion and of most that the Plaza project is an example of an amazing addition to our city, is it coincidence that after two new commissioners get elected using scare tactics to residents that chaos takes over the commission and the first thing they do is vote themselves a raise, how about letting residents see their performance and vote if a raise was deserved? Despite new city manager having no experience and seemingly trying to do well, the Ex city manager was fired after majority of residents spoke in his favor, aren’t they to represent their residents? Black & white, not the case there.

  18. Mr. Holmes writes “his opposition to Ralph Cutie as City Manager, who wanted to restore democracy.” If you think someone like Cutie, who has a history as a backstabbing bully and hatchet man at the County would want to “restore democracy” in Coral Gables, you are sorely mistaken. We don’t need people like him in our City Beautiful. He can continue running MIA to the ground for all I care.

  19. Mayor Lago did not govern wisely, protecting and advancing the concerned residents. He must go. Vice-Mayor Anderson did the same. She too must go.

  20. Vince Lago is against democracy, as demonstrated by:

    1. his supporting the effort to change the Election date from the stand alone Election in April — wherein a non-developer financed Candidate can outwork a developer-financed Candidate and win — to November, wherein people are not focussed on local issues, and developer financing of name recognition is required to win.

    2. his opposition to MR CLEAN AMOS ROJAS as City Manager, committed to ending developer-ocracy, and restoring democracy

    3. his opposition to Ralph Cutie as City Manager, who wanted to restore democracy.

    4. His support of Richard Lara, defaming, and running against, PRO DEMOCRACY HERO COMMISSIONER KIRK MENENDEZ.


    Jackson Rip Holmes

  21. Lago Must Go – That is the logo on the t-shirt of those canvassing the neighborhoods of CG. Yesterday, I saw through my door camera one of those canvassing while I was not hope. I was a mile away and I turned around and chased him to sign the petition.

    Lago must go. He must not only go but there should be a closer look at all his dealings with developers that have filled his coffers, maybe look under his mattress as well.

    For the record, I like many of the residents, had seen Lago and Anderson as a sign of hope for our beloved city. In return what we got is the opposite.

    Anderson is also on the cusp and will be removed by fiat.

    There are others in city hall that have taken the lead from Lago and are not doing their jobs. Should they be worried about losing their jobs? They should go back and read what their mission is and not what they think it is, to please the Mayor.

    It looks all like another Joe Carollo, messing with the residents’ wishes for the City Beautiful

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