Commissioner Juan C. Zapata became the first Colombian-American elected to the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners on November 6, 2012.
A resident of West Miami-Dade since 1977, Zapata earned a reputation for his commitment to his community, resulting in his election to the West Kendall Community Council in 1996 and later to the State Legislature in 2002. That year, Juan C. Zapata became the first Colombian-American elected to the Florida House of Representatives. He was subsequently re-elected three times.
During his eight years as a state legislator, Zapata sponsored many pieces of noteworthy legislation to protect the interests of children and the elderly, expand health care options for the uninsured and promote Florida's economy. Zapata developed an expertise in health care policy and budgetary matters while serving in leadership roles on health and human services committees. His acquired knowledge led him to sponsor bills to improve child nutrition in schools, increase access to health care and reduce burdensome homeowner taxes and fees.
In 2008, Zapata was elected Chairman of the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation, earning him positions on the boards of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the Beacon Council and the Public Health Trust Nominating Council. During his unprecedented three-year tenure as Chairman of the delegation, Zapata ushered in a new era of cooperation among legislators and local elected officials, protected vital infrastructure projects such as the Miami port tunnel and defended South Florida's public education system, proving a committed leader can produce results.
Following his passion for education and understanding that reading is the basis for learning, Zapata also founded the non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization Read 2 Succeed, which filled a void in the West Miami-Dade community for free tutoring services and provided children with books and supplies. As an immigrant, he founded CASA in 1994, a nonprofit dedicated to helping fellow immigrants integrate and contribute to our community.
His public service includes elected and appointed positions on local planning and advisory boards such as the West Kendall Community Council, which he chaired for two terms. He also chaired the Municipal Advisory Committee that developed West Kendall's first study on incorporation and served in the Miami-Dade Commission on Human Rights. Most recently, he served as Chair of the Jackson Hospital Governance Taskforce.
Zapata's leadership has been sought after by many organizations throughout the years including multiple national boards of elected officials. He is currently Chairman of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund. He also chaired the Labor and Economic Development Committee at the National Conference of State Legislators and the Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs.
Zapata's knowledge and experience along with his commitment to South Florida, especially his hometown community of West Miami-Dade, has earned him appearances in national, state and local media. His service and results-based leadership has also earned him numerous accolades and recognitions including Legislator of the Year awards and the Order of Congress and the Great Cross Golden Plaque from the Colombian Congress.
Aside from his role as a public servant, Juan C. Zapata is also a businessman, focusing on real estate, advertising and consulting services. He is from Colombia, but has lived in Miami-Dade County for more than 35 years and currently resides in West Kendall. Zapata holds a degree in Finance and International Business from Florida International University, where he was awarded the Torch Award - the university's highest alumni recognition - in a nod to his proven commitment, proven results and proven leadership.