Just 16 miles north of Miami, the region where the city of Miami Gardens rests was once viewed as a crime-ridden and run-down. The city’s fortunes changed when the unincorporated area in Miami-Dade County was incorporated in 2003 and elected its first mayor, Shirley Gibson.

Ms. Gibson worked as a Miami-Dade police officer for 16 years, ending her career as a detective in 1990. In 1996, she joined the North Dade Community Council and worked alongside several of her neighbors to gain incorporation for Miami Gardens. The efforts failed that year, but won out in 2003. As its first mayor, Gibson had a daunting task as Miami Gardens was a wasteland of underdeveloped areas lacking in resources.

As mayor of Florida’s largest majority-Black city, Gibson devoted herself to making Miami Gardens more than just a place to pass through. During her time as mayor, Gibson was able to bring new development to Miami Gardens including retail stores and national chain businesses which brought more jobs. She also lowered the crime rate and accomplished other goals, including the annual Jazz In The Gardens music festival. This weekend Jazz In The Gardens will celebrate its 10th year in existence.

Due to term limits. Gibson was forced to step down from her post in 2012 . Though she made an unsuccessful run for a council seat in 2012,  Gibson is still an active fixture in the region, lecturing around the state on matters of community development and improvement.

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