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Team Miami

Mayor Francis Suarez and Former CIO Mike Sarasti

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Former CIO Mike Sarasti
Thanks to the vision of these two leaders, Miami is providing an example for other cities about how to move forward with technology.

Start with Mayor Francis Suarez, re-elected to office with 78 percent of the vote, who famously asked to receive his salary via bitcoin, signaling faith in cryptocurrency, and importantly, a desire for Miami to gain a foothold in the emerging industry. Suarez also has appointed a venture capitalist in chief to further encourage the development of the technology industry.

Efforts like this are attracting attention, with the VC community likening modern-day Miami to Silicon Valley, circa 2000. “Miami is now assembling the dense entrepreneurial spirit found only in Silicon Valley’s history books,” said Eight Sleep CEO Matteo Franceschetti recently on Twitter. Others have chimed in similarly on progress under Suarez: “It’s the only city maybe globally where the government is moving in parallel with fast-growth startups,” said Michael Cassau, CEO of Grover.

Suarez is promoting a plan to offer city space and leases for charter schools that focus on STEM subjects, which in turn could help Miami gain a larger tech edge for its local economy and help the city retain tech talent. He has also emerged as a champion of micromobility, helping push for the reinstatement of scooters in Miami after a brief pause late last year. His influence looks certain to increase via his new position as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Mike Sarasti, meanwhile, recently announced he was leaving his position as Miami’s chief information officer and director of innovation and technology, but he leaves behind a considerable legacy. Under his watch, the city streamlined IT operations; trained hundreds of city employees on lean and agile practices through an innovation academy; did a website redesign to increase accessibility; and advanced the use of remote public meetings in service of more transparency and public participation. Sarasti also pushed smart city concepts while maintaining wider connections and supporting Suarez’s vision for the technology industry in Miami.
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in Wisconsin.