Homestead City Councilmember Erica Avila was appointed February 19, 2020 to fill the final 20 month term of vacant Council seat #5.
Since then, COVID quarantine with corresponding business suspensions interrupted Council’s routine.
“It’s kind of a surreal turn of events,” said Councilmember Avila. “I was prepared for what I was getting into through all the orientations at the beginning. All of a sudden, we’re doing everything from home and focusing on non-quasi-judicial items. It’s been a whirlwind!”
Erica Avila is a licensed mortgage loan originator and the owner/operator of the Avila Management Team. Her management business is an administrative platform offered primarily to brokers and realtors as office space for closings.
Asked about her Council priorities, Councilmember Avila said, “My priority has always been to reach communities and the individuals needing mental health assistance.”
“I see the homeless in Homestead by working on Krome Avenue,” she continued. “I need more updated information perhaps from the Chapman Partnership on the statistics locally and what resources are available.
Of course, you can make resources available but that doesn’t mean people will use them.”
“This is the priority for the City in shadows right now,” said Councilmember Avila. “It’s one of my points of focus to stay aligned on this issue. Mental health issues affect those around you and it becomes a domino effect.”
As to the homeless package passed by Council in late November, Councilmember Avila said she has been in discussions to promote Homestead’s work on those plans.
The Councilmember was appointed to Council’s new military housing task force by the Mayor. Other Council positions were developing based on initiatives offered by the Mayor at the last Council meeting.
“There’s not a name for it yet,” she said. “But it focuses on four or five specific topics such as improving homeownership in the black community. With my expertise in the housing area both professionally and on Council, I know what’s available such as the down payment assistance program.
It targets the black community and gives first time buyers a little help between what they have and what they need to close on their mortgages but few people apply.”
“There’s talk of creating a similar program for Homestead,” she added. “The issue is how to reach the community to stay true to the mission of the homeownership program. I’d be happy to serve on such a committee. Of course, all this seems stalled due to COVID.”
Other initiatives discussed for Council development include transparency for the police, education generally, and local health and welfare issues, according to the Councilmember.
Councilmember Avila is immediate past president of the Kiwanis Club giving her an active position with the local chapter of that charitable service organization. She is the designated Lieutenant Governor of Division 26 for Kiwanis International.
She also is member of the American Business Women’s Association. “That’s very pleasurable,” she said. “There are good guest speakers, mostly by ZOOM now. I’ve learned a lot from them and the other women in the club.”
The Councilmember was asked about her work with Homestead Hospital’s nutrition committee. “The last news was working on children’s snacking
options – seeing that they make better food choices,” Councilmember Avila said. “It’s about wellness in our community. With our farm community locally and the education platform available here, Healthy Homestead Nutrition looks to achieve that objective.”
“For my District, I think we’re lucky to have such a beautiful community,” the Councilmember added. She purchased her condo in Malibu Bay in Waterstone in 2009.
“I want to continue collaboration with the Waterstone school to come up with a solution to the traffic jam every morning of the school year. Logistically, realistically, we need to examine what options there are – perhaps buying land across the street to solve it.”
“With my husband at the Base, we are considered essential employees for our work, we can’t risk catching this (virus),” said Councilmember Avila. “I have three kids and we survived home schooling! Now that school is out, we’re playing catch-up with our work.”
“I hope people don’t think that Council is not involved because we’re all very involved behind closed doors,” she said. “I get emails every day in regard to updates, especially COVID updates. Information comes down from the Governor to the County and then to us. Cate (the City Manager) is doing a great job keeping us informed and providing recommendations to us.”
“I want the community to know it’s not just me but all Council members who are hard at work staying on top of this,” said Councilmember Avila. “Council has been wonderful to work with. We’re not being lackadaisical during this COVID quarantine. I look forward to getting back to normal. Who knows when that will be?”
Councilmember Avila took delivery of two dozen roses during the interview. “It’s my anniversary today!
Time flies,” she said reflectively.