Is Philip Levine the Bloomberg of the South?

Leif Parsons

Meet Miami Beach's ambitious new mayor.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine makes no secret of his political inspiration. “My model is Michael Bloomberg. We’re a mini New York, and I hope to have just a portion of the success he’s had.” Apart from being a registered Democrat, Levine is indeed following the former New York City mayor’s example. He earned millions—not quite billions—in the private sector, as the CEO of a cruise media services company, and funded his own campaign.

As with Bloomberg, Levine’s financial independence gives him the freedom to speak his mind, which has earned him both fans and critics. In January, for example, he made headlines when he called the trendy notion that Miami Beach could suddenly transform into a tech leader “the dumbest idea in the world.”

Levine’s political career got off to a choppy start. “I had no endorsements,” he says of last year’s elections. “The police union was against me, the fire union was against me, the AFL-CIO was against me and The Miami Herald acted like a tool for my opponents.” His fortunes changed when his friend Bill Clinton endorsed him at the eleventh hour. That and an expertly run campaign helped Levine secure the mayorship with 50.48 percent of the vote.

Since then, he’s brought an unusual level of energy to the job, at times tweeting photographs of himself walking up and down Alton Road in workout clothes (there’s where he differs from Bloomberg). And he can point to several concrete accomplishments. He commissioned a complete audit of the police department in the wake of recent incidents, such as the accidental killing of a teenage graffiti artist. Levine appointed a new police chief, longtime NYPD veteran Dan Oates. And he’s approved the long-overdue overhaul of the convention center, including plans for the largest new green space in recent Miami Beach history.

But Levine is most proud of the $300 million system of flood-mitigation pumps that will be installed in the city. “We went fast and furious,” he says, “because we believe that climate change and sea-level rise is a reality, and as a mayor, you don’t have time to debate it.”