Joe Garcia nominated for federal energy post
The president tapped a longtime political presence in Dade to run a minority economic office.
By LUISA YANEZ
Long-time political mover and shaker Joe Garcia — who has been the voice of a powerful Cuban exile group, chairman of the agency that regulates the state’s utilities and an unsuccessful congressional candidate — has been nominated for a post in the Obama administration.
Garcia, 45, a Democrat from Miami Beach, was nominated Tuesday to be director of the Office of Minority Economic Impact for the U.S. Department of Energy.
Garcia becomes the first Miami-Dade resident to land a high-ranking administration job.
Garcia’s suitability for the post in the Energy Department comes from his years as a member of the Florida Public Service Commission, the regulatory authority that sets electricity and telephone rates.
Garcia joined the commission in 1994. By 1999, he was its first Hispanic chairman.
Garcia, born in Miami-Dade of Cuban exiles, began his political career in 1988 as a protégé of Cuban American National Foundation president Jorge Mas Canosa, who picked Garcia to head the Exodus Project, a program that brought Cuban exiles stranded in third countries to the United States.
Garcia eventually became CANF’s official spokesman.
In 1994, when a spot opened on the regulatory board, he was named to it by Gov. Lawton Chiles.
In 2000, he returned to CANF as its executive director and, following Mas Canosa’s death, led the organization in a new direction in its efforts to bring political change to Cuba.
Garcia left the foundation in 2004. Two years later, he became chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. Last November, Garcia battled Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart for Florida’s 25th Congressional District seat, but lost.
Garcia is expected to commute to Washington, D.C.
His wife, Aileen Ugalde, is general counsel to the University of Miami.