Category Archives: Press Release

FL Armenians Press Release

Mark Samuelian Elected Miami Beach City Commissioner

On Tuesday night, Mark Samuelian became the first Armenian American elected official in Miami-Dade County history.

MIAMI BEACH, FL –On Tuesday night, Mark Samuelian won his race for the Miami Beach City Commission. With all precincts reporting, Samuelian received 7,535 votes out of a total of 11,111 votes cast, or 67.82%. He is the first Armenian American to hold public office in Miami-Dade County.

In a wild race that once had five people vying for the Group II seat, Mark Samuelian stayed above the fray throughout the campaign. He ran a clean, professional, and solid grassroots campaign, and he kept working until the very end, despite his opponents’ woes.

Miami Beach Commissioner-Elect Mark Samuelian and Florida Armenians Editor Taniel Koushakjian on Election Night, Tuesday, November 7, 2017.

Surrounded by family, friends, and supporters at the Betsy Hotel in South Beach, Samuelian shared the big news to a long and celebratory applause. In his victory speech, he outlined his governing principles and campaign priorities. He reiterated his vow to work hard to ensure his policies are adopted and that residents are well represented on the commission.

In addition to Samuelian, two other endorsed candidates won their races. Dan Gelber was elected Miami Beach Mayor with 82.38%, and Michael Gongora was elected to the Miami Beach Commission Group III seat with 64.81%.

“Florida Armenians congratulate all the winners in Miami Beach and throughout Miami-Dade County,” stated Florida Armenians Editor Taniel Koushakjian. “We are especially proud of Mark Samuelian on his historic, and resounding victory. I expect there to be many more Armenian Americans holding public office in Florida in the years to come,” Koushakjian said.


Exclusive Interview: Mark Samuelian, Candidate for Miami Beach Commission

By Taniel Koushakjian
Florida Armenians Editor

MIAMI BEACH, FL – Next week, Mark Samuelian could be the first Armenian American elected official in Miami-Dade County. He is a candidate for Miami Beach City Commission, Group II. It is a non-partisan race, and Election Day is Tuesday, November 7, 2017.

Originally from Dedham, Massachusetts, Samuelian bought his first home in Miami Beach in 2003. He has been active in various civic and community-based organizations. In an effort to familiarize Florida’s Armenian American community with Mr. Samuelian, reached out to him and he graciously agreed to talk to us about his Armenian American heritage, academic and business background, local community service, how he became a national chess master, and his campaign for Miami Beach City Commission.

Taniel Koushakjian (TK): Thank you, Mr. Samuelian for talking to us today.

Mark Samuelian (MS): Thank you, Taniel, I’m happy to speak with you.

TK: When I saw your first campaign video advertisement, where you asked people on the streets of Miami Beach to pronounce your name, I literally laughed out loud. Of course, practically every Armenian American has had his or her name mispronounced, but I think it’s fair to say you have it easy compared with some of us. So let’s begin there. Where is your family from and when did they arrive in the United States?

MS: I’m a a third generation Armenian American. My grandparents are from Sivas and Malatya, and they survived the Armenian Genocide before immigrating to the United States. Several family members were killed in 1915. One of my grandmothers went through Ellis Island, and my grandfather, Margos Derderian, served in the U.S. Army in World War I.

TK: You have quite an impressive resume and professional background. You graduated cum laude from Georgia Tech and received your degree in Industrial Engineering. You also earned your MBA from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s top business schools. You’re also a seasoned executive, with three decades of engineering and business management experience. How has this education and professional career influenced you and prepared you for a life in public service?

MS: While some of the most urgent and serious issues our City faces have to do with flood risk, the City Commission currently holds no engineers. My industrial engineering degree will prove to be an invaluable tool in dealing with some of our most pressing issues. Whether it’s a more climate change resilient city, or better preparing the City to withstand the devastating effects of a Hurricane like Irma, or confronting out of control development that could weaken our city’s character, or developing meaningful traffic solutions, I am committed to the principle of making “Miami Beach Strong.”

TK: You also served as the President of Miami Beach United, a resident friendly community organization, and you have advocated aggressively on behalf of Miami Beach homeowners. Tell us about your work in this regard?

MS: Community participation is essential to sound, responsible government. I highly support and will proactively encourage greater civic engagement. I want the people to have a greater voice. Toward that end, being accessible to residents is extremely important to me. As a commissioner I intend to make my office as available and accessible as is reasonably possible. I also plan on being out in the community by attending Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club meetings, and regularly attending neighborhood meetings. I will also be available consistently and frequently to the press.

TK: This is your second campaign for Miami Beach City Commission, having lost in the 2015 election by just 77 votes. However, everyone I talked to said that you ran an impressive, outsider campaign and earned the respect of Miami Beach residents and other elected officials in the process. How did that race prepare you for this campaign and what advise would you give to young Armenian Americans who are thinking about a career in public service?

MS: I believe you should never give up. I am proud that in this campaign I once again qualified for the ballot with nearly 1,300 certified petition signatures because my campaign has been structured around door-to-door access to residents. This allowed me to interact on a personal level, and to better understand their concerns.

TK: Lastly, I have to ask you about being a national chess master. Please tell our readers about that experience. What does chess means to you? Also, if you were ever matched up against Levon Aronian, who do you think would win?

MS: I learned how to play chess from my older brother, when I was 5 years old visiting family in Coral Gables. I took to the game immediately, and it has been an important part of my life ever since. I was the state high school chess champion back in Massachusetts. Being able to excel at something outside of school is thrilling, and for me chess was that thing. I later found out that I was one of five people in Massachusetts’ history to become a national chess master while in high school. When I was at Georgia Tech, we were in the top 10 every year. Later, I got into speed chess, and wrote about it’s effect on me in a column for Atlantic Magazine. Today, I’m ranked in the top 1% in the world in speed chess in my category.

Chess has brought me many things including analytical thinking, discipline, personal responsibility, and patience.

It would be a privilege to play against Levon Aronian, no matter the outcome.

TK: Thank you, Mr. Samuelian, for taking the time to speak with us and best of luck on Election Day.

MS: Thank you for the opportunity to speak about my campaign. I encourage everyone to stay engaged and get involved, whether it’s in this election cycle or future ones because an active community is what makes us stronger as a city.

Every Armenian American has a similar, yet unique story. Whether we’re talking about his life accomplishments, family history, passion for public service, or the things that bring joy to his life, getting to know Mark Samuelian was truly inspiring. We encourage everyone living in Miami-Dade County to vote on November 7th. By this time next week, we may very well have the first Armenian American elected official in Miami-Dade County.

To learn more about the Mark Samuelian for Miami Beach Commission campaign, you can visit his website here.

For election night results, follow us on Twitter @FLArmenians, or check our Facebook Page, on Tuesday, November 7. Polls close at 7:00pm.

Jack Latvala Announces Bid for Florida Governor

Senator Jack Latvala announces his campaign for Governor of Florida in Clearwater, FL.

By Taniel Koushakjian
Florida Armenians Editor

On a bright and sunny August day at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, State Senator Jack Latvala (R-Pinellas) made a highly anticipated announcement; he if officially running for Governor of Florida.

Surrounded by family, friends, and supporters, Senator Latvala made his campaign official, and told a riled up crowd why he says he is the best candidate.

“I will be the candidate who tells it to you straight. Who, when he gives you his word, will keep my word,” he said. “Anyone who I have ever served with will tell you that if you don’t think Jack Latvala keeps his word than you don’t know jack.”

Latvala is term-limited in the State Senate, as is Governor Rick Scott, whom he is seeking to replace in Tallahassee.

Jack Latvala joins Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (R-Bartow) in the race for the Republican nomination. State House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Pasco), and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6) are also expected to join the Florida primary race for Governor.

Prior to his 2010 election as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam represented Florida’s 12th Congressional District (2000-2010). He did not support or oppose any Armenian American issues or legislative initiatives during his 10-year career in Congress. A former U.S. Navy JAG officer, Rep. DeSantis, was elected to Congress in 2012 and also has no record in support of or opposition to Armenian American issues. However, it is noteworthy that Rep. DeSantis joined about a dozen of his colleagues in condemning Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan and his “goon squad,” after the Turkish President’s security service brutally assaulted several peaceful American demonstrators outside of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C. this past May.

Armenian Americans at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee with Senator Jack Latvala (R-Pinellas) following passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution outside the Senate Chambers, April 24, 2013.

As Florida Armenians reported in 2013, Senator Latvala introduced SR 1878,  recognizing “Armenian Martyrs Remembrance Day.” It was the first Armenian Genocide resolution ever passed in the Florida Senate. Armenian Americans from Tallahassee and across the state of Florida were on hand to witness the historic occasion. Latvala is the only Republican running for Governor of Florida with a positive record in support of Armenian American issues, and his leadership on genocide affirmation and human rights education in the state could be an important factor for the state’s 30,000+ Armenian Americans.

Announced Democrats for Governor of Florida include former one-term Congresswoman Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King. Gwen Graham is the daughter of former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) who withdrew his cosponsorship of an Armenian Genocide recognition resolution and then voted against breaking a filibuster in a historic Senate cloture vote in 1990. The younger Graham, however, had no record in support of or opposition to Armenian American issues during her short time in Congress. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine (D-Miami) and Orlando attorney John Morgan are also expected to run for the Democratic nomination for Florida Governor.

Primary elections will be held in Florida on August 28, 2018.