Cairo Cangas, 38. has been selected as the new Public Works Director for the Village of Key Biscayne (Photo provided/Cairo Cangas)
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Key Biscayne Village Manager Steve Williamson got his right-hand man.

Williamson said Tuesday he had hired Cairo Cangas as public works director. He will oversee a $250 million set of planned projects to fight sea level rise.  Williamson said he interviewed about 15 candidates over 2 ½ months.

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Cangas comes from the private sector, working most recently at Doral-based ADA Engineering Inc. He will start July 10. He has no public-sector experience. 

Not only will Cangas have his hands full with the projects Williamson has lined up, he will also have to navigate a Village Council that has put the $250 million project to fight sea-level rise on hold until at least August and has voiced opposition to a proposed sea wall ordinance. 

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First on the agenda is a flood mitigation project to help the island that becomes Waterworld with just about every rain storm. The project involves adjusting catch basins, regrading some roadways and installing curbs and gutters.

“We are going to start communications with the community, big picture stuff, probably mid-July. I want him to come because he is going to own it,” Williamson said of the Cangas. “We have flooding now and we need to address it.”

Key Biscayne Village Manager Steve Williamson looks at documents during Council meeting, Oct. 26, 2021. (KBI Photo/Tony Winton)

Cangas replaces Jake Ozyman, who resigned to take a job with Aventura for less money because of the lengthy commute from his home in Davie – which he said sometimes would put him on the road for four hours.

Cangas, 38, lives in Tamiami near Florida International University. 

“It’s a job in my opinion that is worth the travel time,” he said. “This is basically a dream come true for any engineer.”

Public works director is a position, Cangas said, his career trajectory has been heading toward. As associate vice president and transportation department manager for ADA, Cangas has worked closely with the Florida Department of Transportation. He also did a stint as traffic engineer with AECOM, a firm that has been hired to consult on the infrastructure project

Voters approved a $100 million bond measure to fortify the island against sea-level rise,with projects aimed at  flooding, coastline protection, and electrical line undergrounding.  Massive in scope, Williamson aims to get it done in 15 years.

It is a project most engineers can only fantasize about.  “That was definitely the cherry on top,”  Cangas said.

Cangas will make up a trident –  along with Chief Resilience Officer Roland Samimy and Building, Zoning and Planning Director Jeremy Gauger –  that Williamson will employ to get the massive job done. 

He said he is looking forward to interacting with the Council and public on these projects. He said how the Key Biscayne government is set up through its charter makes it one of the best municipalities to join.

A native of Guanabacoa, Cuba, Cangas fled the island when he was 9 years old in April 1994 in the middle of the night with his family on a fishing boat. It was illegal to leave the Communist country at the time.

Key Biscayne Public Works Director Jake Ozyman speaks at a council meeting, June 28, 2022. Ozyman left to accept a position with the City of Aventura, citing the long commute. (KBI Photo/Tony Winton)

He was raised in the New Orleans area but went to school at FIU, graduating in 2006, and has been in Miami  ever since. 

He said at ADA he managed projects all over the state but in Key Biscayne he can really be hands-on.

“This is the first time I will be working in the public sector,” he said. “You can have a very positive and large impact on a community.”

JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.