What’s Bill Johnson doing in my sewer?
And who is that ad saleswoman heading the editorial board?
Bill Johnson, one of the most versatile and bulletproof of Miami Dade County’s corps of career bureaucrats calmly walked out of his PortaMiami county office the other day and calmly took control of the Miami Dade County Department of Water and Sewer.
Ironically the move came at the same time Alexandra Villoch, the Miami Herald’s top advertising sales person was designated to be president and publisher of the Miami Herald and its dark shadow, el Nuevo Herald.
Only in Miami could the two most important institutions in the region undergo such dramatic leadership change by people of such limited background and the entire local media, timid to apoplexy missed the story.
Johnson is set to retire next year. Juan Kuryla, another former county employee with no port experience other than on-the-job had been designated as his successor. Miami-Dade County Carlos Gimenez agreed to pay Kuryla more than Johnson to keep him in Miami in the face of an offer to be port director at the Port of Jacksonville where a bi-lingual port director was considered a major coup.
For the past several years Kuryla and Kevin Lynsky, a former fired county bean-counter, have been doing the best they can running the port’s day to day operations while Johnson and his close friends at the World Trade Center Miami have roamed the globe. Since the port only rents to terminals, the businesses they were seeking were tenants for the huge new World Trade Center that Johnson, the WTC Miami chairman, envisioned as his exist strategy upon retirement on the corner of the port facing downtown Miami.
That plan and its problems were revealed along with the silliness of the idea of planting acres of lawn at the port, drawing lines on the sod and letting that huge space sit empty and unused until athletic men ran across the lawn a few times a year in front of sweating fans who had willingly walked a mile or so in the night heat from unsafe downtown Miami parking to finally get to the soccer stadium.
No one yet has explained how this particular soccer crowd would be contained after hours of shouting and drinking and rooting when it was compelled to stagger back across that risky bridge in the dark of midnight to reach lost vehicles somewhere downtown.
It doesn’t matter now. Johnson will spend his final years at the county dealing with a sewer system in far worse shape than the PortaMiami. His fundamental job will be to keep the water pressure high enough to move treated drinking water vast distances through very old and leaky pipes while limiting the pressure just enough to prevent the pipes from bursting.
Johnson prepared from this job by working for 27 years among the county’s best leaders heading the parks and recreation department, the tourist development council and then as assistant to the County manager, finishing the Arscht center over budget and late. He leaves the port about $1 billion in debt and contemplating any bill-paying scheme, even a sports stadium tenant, to offset the long term debt.
Johnson is no more prepared for his job as sewer baron than Villoch, who is regarded as a real supporter of Miami business with absolutely no journalism background
She replaces David Landsburg who is leaving; yes he is, to run Goodwill Industries of South Florida where he sits on the board.
Villoch was available for this test because, a few years ago when advertising sales plummeted at the Herald and elsewhere, she resigned her sales leadership job to take over the Zoological Society of Florida, which raises money for Zoo Miami, then changed her mind.
Villoch joined the Herald as national advertising director in 2000, and was named its director of retail advertising and event marketing in 2001.
She became senior vice president for advertising and marketing in 2005. In that role, Villoch was responsible for leading and developing marketing, sales and advertising strategies, as well as for directing HCP/Aboard, the company’s custom-publishing division. Under Villoch’s watch, the company launched niche products like Indulge, a glossy lifestyle magazine that she oversees, and Caliente, a Spanish-language entertainment tabloid.
Asked to explain her newspaper experience Villoch told the Herald, “Newspapers have played a big role in my life. When I was a little kid, I would get up real early in the morning and run to get the newspaper and read it before my father woke up. I still to this day like being the first one to take the newspaper out of the bag, the first to touch it and read it.”
Villoch graduated from Miami Dade College and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in business administration from the University of Miami. She also received management and leadership training at Northwestern University and Florida International University.
According to the Herald’s in depth report, “Before coming to the Herald in 2000, Villoch worked at United Airlines as its general manager for Miami International Airport and the Caribbean with responsibility for all passenger and cargo operations, sales and government relations. She also worked in financial and strategic planning roles at Eastern Airlines and at several banks prior to United.
The report said, “She also is active in civic affairs, serving on the executive committee of the Beacon Council and as its former chairwoman, as well as on the board of governors of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and on the board of directors of the Miami Dade College Foundation.
“Alex showed great leadership skills as chairman of the Beacon Council, and it has been a pleasure working with her as a member of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. She’s a great communicator and the definition of class,” said Alberto Dosal, chairman of the chamber. “I’m a big believer in hiring the right person, and Alex is tremendously qualified. The Herald is in good hands.”
With Villoch’s promotion to president and publisher, Hispanic women now fill three key positions at the Miami Herald Media Co., including Miami Herald Executive Editor Aminda Marqués and el Nuevo Herald Executive Editor Myriam Márquez.Villoch is married to Cesar Mendoza, a McClatchy IT executive. They live in Coral Gables and have four adult children. Bill Johnson is not married.