The dean of the Florida congressional delegation heads into 2016 with new key staff and representing different parts of Miami-Dade County.
First elected to Congress in 1989, winning a special election after the death of longtime U.S. Rep. Claude Pepper, D-Fla., U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., currently serves as the chairwoman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee. Before that, she was the first woman to chair the U.S. H.ouse Foreign Affairs Committee.
Last month, the congresswoman was honored in the Capitol on Wednesday with a portrait unveiling. A painting of Ros-Lehtinen, the first Hispanic woman and the first Cuban-American elected to Congress, now hangs in the House Foreign Affairs Committee room. Public funds were not used for the portrait which came through private donations to the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.
Already gearing up for another election in 2016, Ros-Lehtinen announced some changes this week as longtime staffer Arthur “Art” Estopiñan is stepping down as her chief of staff effective at the start of the new year. Maytee Sanz, currently Estopiñan’s deputy, will move up to chief of staff while Joshua Salpeter, Ros-Lehtinen’s legislative director, will take over in Washington, D.C. as the chief of that office.
“Art has been a trusted counselor, leader, and an important member of my congressional staff for over 25 years,” Ros-Lehtinen said when she made the announcement this week. “Art’s hard work and dedication to South Florida are well known by our community leaders and his contributions to mentoring and guiding staff and interns have earned him much respect throughout his years on the Hill. Art’s grace in the face of adversity has inspired us all and his leadership in our office will be missed. I know he will be pursuing a new and exciting chapter in his life and I wish him, his wife, Olga, and their son, Arturito, all the very best.
“I am also excited for what the future holds,” Ros-Lehtinen added. “I know that Maytee, Joshua, and my entire team capture the essence of public service. They are consummate professionals who know the demands of the jobs they are taking on and relish their duties. My office will continue to work hard for our South Florida community to ensure that our residents have access to the very best constituent service and that their voices are heard on Capitol Hill.”
After the Florida Supreme Court decided to enact the map from the League of Women Voters (LWV) when it comes to congressional redistricting, Ros-Lehtinen will face a more Democratic district. But she is not considered vulnerable in 2016 even as educator and Navy veteran Thomas Cruz-Wiggins and businessman and Army veteran Frank Perez line up to run for the Democratic nod.
Ros-Lehtinen certainly didn’t sound worried after the state Supreme Court released its decision.
“My love for South Florida knows no boundaries and every part of it is special to me,” the congresswoman said. “How can it not be when we live in paradise? I know it’s a humbling honor to represent our community and I’ll continue to work hard every day to continue to earn the trust so many have placed in me. I’m ready for the road ahead and hope South Floridians will join me in working to improve our home.”
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