Last week, Tavernier resident Tom Raffanello announced his candidacy for Monroe County Commissioner, District 4, to run against David Rice in 2022. Rice is a longstanding member of the BOCC, with four four-year terms under his belt. Both Rice and Raffanello are registered as candidates with the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections.
The district includes part of Marathon, through Plantation Key with a small west end of Tavernier.
“I’m excited about it,” Raffanello told Keys Weekly. “I’ve got a lot of energy, and I want to learn more and listen to the people.”
When Raffanello ended a 32-year career with the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2004, he was Special Agent in Charge at the Miami field office. In this position, he commanded the DEA’s largest field division, which includes 22 offices throughout Florida and the Bahamas; directed the activities of 900 special agents, task force officers, intelligence analysts, diversion investigators and administrative employees; and oversaw a discretionary budget of $15 million.
Other career highlights: “I served for Congress in the ’90s as the DEA’s Chief of Congressional Affairs. I worked with Joe Biden’s office on the crime bill. It’s when I got hooked on politics. I was there during Waco, through Nicaragua, several intense situations. I learned a lot and met wonderful people. And a lot of people who weren’t so wonderful. I learned how laws are passed, how the budget process is done, and how influential lobbyists can be. And I learned that people shouldn’t be in offices for most of their adult life.”
During his DEA career, Raffanello moved to Florida several different times, including once during the early ’80s on temporary duty during the Mariel boatlift, then as a supervisor in investigating Colombian cartels and Miami drug trafficking.
“I worked as chief investigator in the Noriega case,” he said. “It was something.”
He was transferred for a time to Washington, D.C., then back to Miami in 2002 as special agent in charge of Florida and the Bahamas.
He landed in the Florida Keys 12 years ago as a retired family man. He had a mandatory retirement at age 56 from the DEA.
“I got married at 60. And even though I’m 73, I have a 12-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son. The school system here is one of the best in the state. We love the Keys.”
Raffanello describes himself as a conservative. “I’m a registered Republican. I worked for Ronald Reagan,” he said. “I think you need to participate at the local level to affect good, positive change in the community. For me, running for county commissioner was the next logical step.”
He sees affordable housing, traffic and safety as crucial issues. “We need to make sure affordable housing is for the workforce and citizens with limited income. I’m not sure we’re doing that right now. What I would do is see what issues have not been resolved, such as affordable housing, safety and hurricane evacuation. I want to talk to the people. I’m a decision maker and a problem solver. If you have a problem, I see my responsibility is to offer suggestions of how to solve it. I have a track record of 20 years as an executive manager. ”
Raffanello wants everyone to know he’s not a fan of raising taxes. “I’ve handled budgets over $200 million, and I had to make decisions all the time. Being a conservative, I think low incomes taxes are imperative. … If I saw there was a proposed tax increase, I would question it. It’s incumbent on [the elected officials] to figure out a different way.”
After 30 years as a DEA agent, Raffanello had worked as global security chief for Stanford Financial Group.
Its founder, Allen Stanford, is currently serving a 110-year federal prison sentence for orchestrating an $80 billion, international Ponzi scheme.
During the Stanford investigation, Raffanello, the former law enforcement agent, found himself — temporarily — on the other side of the law.
The Justice Department indicted Raffanello in September 2009, claiming he had destroyed evidence by shredding documents and obstructed an SEC (Securities & Exchange Commission) proceeding.
Vehemently denying the allegations, Raffanello refused to accept a plea bargain and went to trial in February 2010.
While the jury was deliberating, the judge interrupted and acquitted Raffanello and his co-defendant of all charges,
saying the evidence against him was “substantially lacking,” ABC News reported on Feb. 12, 2010.
“I was an agent for over 30 years and I believed in the United States and I believed in the system and the system didn’t fail me,” Raffanello told ABC News at the time of his acquittal, adding that he’d never considered plea bargaining.
“I said from day one it wasn’t true. I offered to correct the record, but no one would listen,” he said.
Raffanello could have faced up to 50 years in federal prison if convicted.
Before the judge acquitted him during the jury’s deliberations, Raffanello’s defense attorneys had told the jury that document- shredding was a routine process and the data contained in the documents was backed up digitally, ABC News reported.
Several DEA and other law enforcement agents — retired and active – attended Raffanello’s eight-day trial to show their support, the ABC News report states.
For more information about Tom Raffanello’s County Commission campaign, email [email protected] or call 305-440-2375.