MIAMI — Miami voters demanded a breather from eight years of fast-paced development Tuesday, ushering in Tomas Regalado as mayor on a wave of support from residents who said they were tired of uncontrolled growth and unchecked spending.
Regalado, 62, a constant basher of past administrations who first swept to a city commission seat 13 years ago, parlayed a national anti-incumbent fervor and a sour economy to become the city's 33rd mayor.
In the weeks preceding Tuesday's vote, Regalado attacked the billions of dollars being spent on big-ticket public works projects in the city, calling them an insult to a public facing high property taxes and rising unemployment. Many of those projects were backed by opponent Joe Sanchez and Mayor Manny Diaz.
The few voters who turned out to the polls Tuesday largely sided with Regalado: They said "yes'' to the man best known for saying "no.''
From a stage surrounded with red, white and blue balloons at Our Lady of Lebanon Church on Coral Way, several hundred sign-waving constituents greeted the new mayor -- who gave his victory speech before 9 p.m., well before all the votes had been counted.
"We're going to recover our city and the confidence of our residents,'' he told a crowd that included Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff and several county commissioners. "And we will do it by not wasting money.''
Most voters bought into his campaign pitch: an administration that will listen to the people and spend more time on potholes than grand plans.
"I think Regalado will do a little better with our tax money,'' Roads resident Ernie Tabraue said from outside his Simpson Park polling site. "Manny Diaz was wasting our money. Joe and Manny are friends.''
That sentiment -- that Sanchez is aligned with Diaz -- also likely played in Tuesday's tally. The term-limited mayor has worked to transform Miami through big projects -- from a complete rezoning rewrite to downtown highrises to a new baseball stadium. While supporters say those projects will pay dividends over time, Regalado used them as a campaign platform, saying that Miami could not afford another four years of grand visions.
"When I speak of our great city,'' Regalado's campaign Web site stated, "I do not envision a metropolis.''
The new mayor, who legally takes office Nov. 11, spent Tuesday visiting almost two dozen precincts. At one point he raced from Model City's Charles Hadley Park to the Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana, to a radio broadcast on Spanish station WQBA-AM (1140), then on to a television interview.
He said he heard earlier this week from Gov. Charlie Crist, and they plan to meet next week to discuss how Miami can snare a greater share of federal stimulus money.
Residents can also expect a shake-up in City Hall. Tuesday, Regalado repeated that he wants Police Chief John Timoney gone, and that if City Manager Pete Hernandez hopes to stay, "He has to come talk to me.''
Regalado wants Timoney gone because of what the commissioner describes as "low morale'' in the police department.
And though he keeps Hernandez out of the conversation -- saying the manager's job shouldn't become a political issue -- Hernandez could be in jeopardy, too.
The reason: The mayor doesn't have the authority to hire or fire the police chief. The city manager does. But, the mayor can hire and fire the manager.
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