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Miami-Dade clerk Harvey Ruvin, longest-serving official, dies

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Written by Miami Today on January 1, 2023
  • www.miamitodayepaper.com

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Miami-Dade clerk Harvey Ruvin, longest-serving official, dies

Harvey Ruvin dedicated 50 years to the public as a Miami-Dade County elected official, a record that will likely go unchallenged. Yet as an early environmentalist, he was as proud of his service to the planet as he was of his service to the county. Either way, he was both respected and appreciated.

County commissioners late last year had planned to present Mr. Ruvin at 85 with a proclamation for his service, but illness kept him out of that commission meeting, and the Public acclaim for more than half a century of service never came until he was claimed by cancer on New Year’s Eve.

Mr. Ruvin, as Clerk of the Courts of Miami-Dade County and ex officio Clerk of the Board of County Commissioners, served for more than 30 years as the county’s principal recorder. Few officials could claim his popularity with voters, as evidenced in 2020 when more Miami-Dade residents voted for him — nearly 759,000 people — than any other candidate on the ballot. This included races for President, Congress, and County Mayor. The personal popularity was all the more remarkable as his name appeared on every traffic citation issued by the county.

Mr. Ruvin, who in 1972 rose from mayor of North Bay Village to winner and held a seat on the Miami-Dade Commission for 20 years before becoming county clerk, was low-key for an elected official and has always given credit for its enduring public favor to its staff.

“During this pandemic, the people in my office have been heroic,” he said in 2021. “We were the first clerk’s office to go electronic, and it positioned us to be proactive and has made our files much more accessible. My employees took extra action, and when they judge me, the first thing that comes to the minds of the electorate is how great someone was when they needed information. Why make a change?

As custodian of all county records, Ruvin felt it was vital that the clerk’s office remained apolitical. The last thing the public should think, he said, is that the records are manipulated or inaccurate. “So, I try to stay away from politics. The only exception is that I stay active on environmental and climate change issues. I’ve just invested so much of my life in this.

Many of today’s major environmental efforts in Miami-Dade County are the result of ordinances and policies Mr. Ruvin enunciated as commissioner decades before climate change became a mainstream concern. Among them: Miami-Dade’s residential and commercial recycling system, efforts to reduce greenhouse gases that offset more than 40 million metric tons of carbon emissions, a program to preserve endangered lands. which at the time of its inception was the largest of its kind in the nation and most recently head of the county’s Sea Level Rise Task Force.

“I try to take a long-term view,” he said. “In the short term, you’ll have Holocaust deniers and people more focused on immediate things, but solutions need to be in place long before these unimaginable impacts get here.”

In such efforts, he crossed party lines and alliances, working with everyone and listening to everyone’s concerns. He spoke ill of a few and praised many, a countywide elected official who had the respect of his colleagues. He preferred to persuade rather than attack those who opposed him on an issue, and he did so successfully. He always preferred to give credit for successes to others.

Covid-19 tested his longstanding practices, and he adjusted the operations of the 1,200 employees of the Clerk’s Office and his own, handling most operations remotely as far south as Homestead, as far north as Aventura and west to Doral.

Mr. Ruvin was born in New York and moved with his family to Miami. He received his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Florida in 1959 and his Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law in 1962.

His father ran a delicatessen and he often spoke fondly of famous people he had met while delivering lunch or dinner. He and his wife Risa liked to dine out with other members of the community, but never on Wednesday evenings, which were reserved for “gambling” – poker with old friends.

He was a lifelong sports fan and often spoke of his beloved Dodgers (the Brooklyn variety) and being in the stands when a famous 1951 home run by New York Giants’ Bobby Thomson sank hopes. pennant flag. He was in a newspaper photo with a school friend showing where the ball landed.

As an adult, he played racquetball. He traveled across the United States playing in tournaments, reaching No. 16 in the country.

Later in life, he was an avid fan of Miami Heat basketball, another sport his teenage ties were passionate about. He also practiced Transcendental Meditation, crediting it in part for his mental acumen and physical fitness. In his later years, he began playing chess with associates in the clerk’s office.

Rare for a political figure, he had no known enemies or even detractors. He told Miami Today in 2021 that his personal philosophy is to “think positive. Treat people the way you would like to be treated.

He never thought of serving his duties beyond Miami-Dade’s borders, he told Miami Today. “The job of a legislator, whether congressional or state, is to press a yes or no button, although some take the initiative, hold hearings and try to develop ideas for legislation. In local government, you pass an ordinance and get immediate feedback. You can make changes, adapt things. The county commission was much more interactive and fulfilling.

After graduating from law school in 1962, he practiced law, primarily jury trials, and sought to specialize in environmental law. He then became mayor of North Bay Village in 1968, a part-time role. He ran for the county commission in 1972 and won. He never lost an election thereafter, for half a century.

Reflecting on his days as county commissioner, he noted the difference from the current commission of 13 members elected from 13 districts, with a strong mayor replacing the mayor-manager system in which he worked.

“I sat on the commission with nine members,” he said. “The mayor was a member. His function was to chair the meeting. We had a county manager whose function was to be the administrative head of the county, to appoint all department managers and to run the government. The mayor was just the political head, and the eight commissioners were present throughout the county even though we were elected in geographic constituencies. Having invested 20 years in this system, I thought it worked well. We all had the county as our interest, not a parochial part of it. Even if you were in an area where there were not many minorities, you still had to worry about these problems and address them. You had to go to every precinct in the county to solicit votes and show that you wanted to respond to everyone.

Later, he served in a dual role as Clerk of the Courts and Clerk of the Miami-Dade Commission. The position was defined in the state constitution, with the clerk, in addition to providing administrative support to the court system, serving as county auditor, custodian of county funds, and clerk of the council.

He has also seen changes in this role, reflecting two years ago that “when I came into this office in 1992, we had about 1,700 employees. We now have just under 1,200. With technology, I have gradually reduced the staff and our personal budget. I did it out of attrition. When people retire or leave, I don’t fill those positions. I try to help people to take on higher positions, to move up the ladder. It’s a long-term management effort that all of my divisions are focused on. Wearing his environmentalist rather than elected hat, Mr. Ruvin has long been active on climate change issues. In 1990, he was a founding member of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, ICLEI, as a representative of what was then Dade County. Its objective was to create a network to share information on the issue and participate in the annual meetings of the United Nations, the Conference of the Parties. He attended six of them.

“I was Vice President of ICLEI International, then President of ICLEI USA,” he recalls. “We have an active group now coordinating our best practices and consulting for US cities and counties.”

He also served as president of the National Counties Association in the late 1980s and remained on the board until his death.

Funeral services are pending.


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