Conversations: Karyn Cunningham

Conversations: July 2, 2020

On July 2nd, Mayor Karyn Cunningham of Palmetto Bay and artist Xavier Cortada discussed the attitudes of the people of the village during this time of uncertainty and change. Mayor Cunningham discusses the challenges she’s faced in leading her constituents through a pandemic without a playbook, what a path to preparedness during future outbreaks should look like for a future mayor, and learning how to care for other people in new ways. She also addresses inequalities throughout the community and suggests that one way we can make meaningful change is through the next generation who make up a fifth of Palmetto Bay’s population – children.


“From a Village Mayor perspective, it has really been a challenge since there has been no play book for a pandemic emergency. We have relied on the County to lead the charge as it relates to the data and science and that has not always been coordinated in a way that is digestible to the community. I think coordinated communication is key especially when folks are scared.  In the same way we approach a natural disaster like a hurricane, a pandemic plan should be prepared for a before during and after plan that is easy to understand. In Palmetto Bay, like many cities we are a Manager/Council form of government and I think overall we did a good job of reaching consensus to make decisions.

Having one message and one messenger who is an expert would be helpful.  There has been a lot of conflicting messaging provided and little coordination with the county.  I have been fortunate as we have a very strong South Dade coalition and the Mayors of Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay and Homestead/Florida City have worked closely together, meeting on a weekly basis to discuss issues and concerns.  Now that does not mean we have come to the same conclusions but we are least able to vet our ideas with each other and then work to build consensus for our South Dade Community.”

About Karyn Cunningham

Mayor Karyn Cunningham is a Miami-Dade native and Miami Palmetto Senior High alumna. Upon graduating from the University of South Florida with degrees in elementary education and psychology and from Florida International University with her Urban Education Certification, Karyn became a first grade teacher, working with Miami-Dade County Public Schools for 18 years. In 2004, she took her career outside the classroom by serving with United Teachers of Dade where she continued to advocate for education for fourteen years.

In 2014, Mayor Cunningham became Councilwoman for the Village of Palmetto Bay, ultimately elected as mayor in 2018. She remains active in her community as board member for the Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment, co-chair for the South Dade Coalition for Chamber South, and committee member for the Florida League of Cities Transportation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee. She is on the boards for Common Threads, the Year Foundation, the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Board, the Palmetto Bay Business Association, and the Green Corridor Peace District.

Mayor Cunningham and her family has lived in the Village of Palmetto Bay since 1995 and has one daughter, Megan.

Facebook: /CouncilwomanKarynCunningham

Instagram: @karyn.cunningham

Twitter: @CouncilwomanKC


About Xavier Cortada

Click here to read the artist’s bio.