Miami Town Manager Alexis Rivera survived a public dust up thanks in part to public support in the face of Councilman Mike Black's efforts to oust him. Photo by LCGross
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Miami Town Manager seeks to build on momentum in second year

As Miami Town Manager Alexis Rivera approaches his second year as the Town’s top administrator, his vision for the future has hit a few bumps, but he is dedicated to ushering in a new and prosperous era in a place that has seen fortunes come and go throughout its history.

Rivera hopes to revitalize the Town of Miami by improving infrastructure and creating a welcoming downtown facade designed to bring visitors to town to participate in activities and spend money at local businesses.

“I have my challenges because when you bring an aggressive agenda and big policy to a small region, people think no, it’s not gonna happen,” Rivera says. “It’s gonna happen. We are going to continue driving that energy to elevate the quality of life for the people of Miami. That’s my goal.”

Among the signs of progress around town is the imminent reopening of the community pool and upgrades to Veterans Memorial Park. Improving recreational opportunities is a central focus for Rivera, along with his efforts to become the face of local governance to the community.

A native of Puerto Rico, Rivera, age 58, has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and is working on a second degree in forensic accounting.

He moved to the Globe-Miami area on July 4, 2002 to be closer to his then-wife’s family. But in 2007, his life changed dramatically during the global subprime financial collapse. Like millions of other Americans, Rivera lost his house and eventually his wife, who returned to Puerto Rico, leaving him on his own in Globe.

“I lost everything in seven days and debated staying in the region. I was getting pressure from my family to go back,” Rivera says. “I talked to God and asked what is the avenue I need to take? I see that this is the avenue.”

He was hired in Hayden to work as finance director and from there moved on to the finance department for the San Carlos Apache Tribe. Working directly with Chairman Terry Rambler, he spent nearly eight years establishing his credentials as a finance manager for the Tribe’s administration.

When he saw the opening to work for the Town of Miami, he jumped at the opportunity.

Miami Town Manager Alexis Rivera (pictured right) attended the 2023 Globe State of the City address by Mayor Al Gameros. Pictured are (left) Fernando Shipley, Globe Councilman District 6 and Joe Sanchez, Board Member of Bullion Plaza Museum.

He began his stint as town manager in July 2022, replacing former manager Micah Gaudet, who served from January 2021 through June 2022 and nearly two years after the abrupt departure of Joe Heatherly in September 2020.

From the outset, Rivera was dealing with the aftermath of the 2021 Telegraph fire and subsequent monsoon flooding. In the early morning hours of August 2023, disaster in the form of fire struck again when a blaze took out several buildings on Oak Street. It was the second such disaster since 2019, when fire destroyed five buildings on Sullivan Street in the heart of downtown Miami.

But Rivera was prepared to deal with the unexpected, as he brought a wealth of experience as a volunteer for Team Rubicon, an international non-government organization (NGO) specializing in disaster response that was founded in 2010 in response to an earthquake in Tahiti.

“I worked for FEMA, importantly, and was part of the Red Cross rescue team in Gila County, so my area is not only finance, taxes and consulting, but I have experience with disasters,” Rivera says. “I put all those elements, those hats, in front of the committee that hired me.”

While the town faces many challenges, Rivera is working to attract external funding to begin the laborious process of creating an economically stable town that all residents can be proud of.

Riveras’ prior work with FEMA, and a Red Cross rescue team in Gila County, has helped him deal with disasters, like the fire on Sullivan Street in 2023. Photo by LCGross

In addition to the pool rehab and Veterans Park, work will soon begin on Miami’s staircase project similar to Globe’s Stairizona Trail. Rivera also hopes to add many more recreational facilities, such as a disc golf course, a skate park and volleyball and basketball courts for public use.

He hopes to do that by acquiring state and federal grants and funds from partnerships with local mining interests.

“We have the trust of all the stakeholders in the region: USDA, ASU, the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA and the governor’s office, you name it,” Rivera says. “We are creating all those elements to change the quality of life in Miami and to have a positive outcome, especially for local families that don’t have a lot of money to spend.”

Despite the positive direction Rivera and the current council are taking, last November an effort to oust him and remove Jose “Angel” Medina from the mayor’s platform was initiated by Councilmember Mike Black.

Black, who has served with Medina on and off since 2006, questioned Rivera’s personnel decisions and spending priorities to sow doubt about his ability to lead.

“I have some issues with our town manager and exactly who runs the town,” Black stated.

He further questioned a decision to place former police chief Keith Thompson on administrative leave in October 2022, adding that he does not think Council is well-enough informed on administrative actions or finances.

The meeting, as well as subsequent meetings in January through March, led to policy changes regarding the Council’s ability to remove a mayor or vice mayor. But it also exposed long-running friction between Medina and Black that spilled out in public, with Black accusing Medina of violating Council’s code of conduct and Medina telling Black he was tired of being “stabbed in the back.”

“Councilman Black, I have known you since 2006 and you’ve been stirring up dust ever since then,” Medina stated. “I’ve been very, very patient with you, (but) I’ve had enough.”

Black accused Medina of violating Town Council Rules and Procedures, Section 3.8, which states, “councilmembers shall conduct themselves with dignity and respect towards other councilmembers and members of the public shall be respectful of the opinions of others whether or not they agree with those opinions.”

At that time, there was no vehicle in Miami town code to remove the mayor from the position. As elected officials, councilmembers cannot be removed by council vote, but because they are appointed by council rule changes could allow a vehicle for removal to a regular council position. 

Council directed the town’s attorney to draft new policy, and on March 25 adopted a policy that recognized the position of vice mayor and has provisions for removal “by an affirmative vote of four councilmembers.”

In the end, Rivera was spared. Continuity at the top of the Town’s administration and his pursuit of the Town’s vision will continue.

Ultimately, the public airing helped solidify Rivera’s position by demonstrating public support when members of the community showed up to defend the town manager.

He also has the support of his administrative staff and the Mayor.

“Over here there’s a grant, over here an organization and over here at town, an individual and political gurus,” Medina says. “He’s an octopus.”

Rivera says the mood in the Town’s offices is much better than when he arrived and hopes the drama with the Town Council is in the rearview mirror so its agenda can move forward.

“I’m tired of that dark element criticizing Miami and if they give me the opportunity, we’re going to change that,” Rivera says. “The engagement from the staff at all levels is completely different and they deserve that opportunity to have a supervisor working next to them.”

The new makeover at the Miami Veterans Park includes a modern playground with new equipment and a volleyball court. It is just one of many improvements Town Manager Alexis Rivera has brought to Miami, with the support of Council and regional partners. Photo by Yevette Vargas.

About David Abbott

Journalist, writer and editor who has worked for community newspapers for more than 15 years. After four years at Davis-Monthan AFB and a few years living in Tucson, moved to California to find his fortune. He is happy to be back in Arizona, in the mountains he loves.

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