Christi Fraga has impeccable timing. Just months before the pandemic hit, she and her husband Gabriel sold a chain of six ice cream stores they had started in 2015, Brainfreeze Nitrogen Ice Cream & Yogurt Lab. Lockdown had made business more difficult, and since then all stores have closed down.
“We did sell it just at the right time,” Fraga said. “I owned it for almost six years, but developed the entire brand and everything from scratch.”
From becoming the youngest ever council member in the city’s history a decade ago to now running for mayor, candidate Fraga has come a long way during her time serving Doral.
Currently the owner of an accounting company and a Miami-Dade school board member, Fraga has long aspired to become a mayor. Now with the present office holder Juan Carlos Bermudez leaving to run for county commission, she believes the time is right to finally make her dream a reality.
“I feel that I have the experience and preparation needed to face the challenges that this city will face in the next six to eight years,” she added.
Fraga is set to go against three other candidates in the race for mayor, two of which are currently on the city council. Pete Cabrera (Seat 2), Claudia Mariaca (Seat 1) and Hiram Otero are all running.
She announced her candidacy on January 3 and officially kicked off her campaign on June 2.
Doral, since its incorporation in 2003, has seen steady growth. In 2020, the U.S. Census calculated a population of 62,367. In 2011, it was 43,212, meaning Doral gains around 2,000 to 3,000 new residents annually.
Fraga says the biggest challenges Doral currently faces are congested traffic and building infrastructure. Fraga looks to implement efficient solutions in Doral in order to remedy these problems from the ground up.
“We’re just an ever-evolving community,” Fraga said. “Globally, all eyes are on South Florida. Even nationally, after the pandemic, we’ve seen a huge migration of people… coming down to South Florida because of our weather, because of our tax structures, because of the state that we are.”
Fraga explains how Miami-Dade County as a whole lacks quality mass transit. She plans to implement solutions using technology in order to improve traffic flow in Doral. She also aims to target the newer generation, who she says are more willing to take public transportation, something she has already succeeded with in the past.
Fraga is one of the creators of the Doral trolley route to FIU, which was approved in late 2017 and began in 2018. She says it is a project she had worked on with former FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg since her election.
“How do we [improve] our traffic to help these students and faculty get to campus without having to worry about parking, cutting their expenses on gas, things like that?” Fraga asks herself.
“These are the types of initiatives that we need to be thinking about when we’re thinking about connecting that final mile in regards to public transportation.”
Born to immigrant parents, Fraga understood the importance of hard work and preserverance at an early age. Her parents arrived in the United States from Cuba in 1969 and settled in Miami.
Fraga feels very strong ties to her Cuban roots despite not having visited her parents’ homeland.
“I mean, I think more than anything being Cuban, what it’s made me do is fight for democracy,” she says.
Fraga attended Miami Christian School, then later went to St. Brendan’s High School. Growing up, she had a passion for horses and was an equestrian hunter. Once she began high school, she left equestrian activities for cheerleading, and was on a team that won five national championships.
“I was always a very girly girl,” Fraga explains. “I didn’t have any extreme talent or anything like that. I really dedicated a lot of my life to my studies and to my horses.”
She graduated from Miami-Dade College with a degree in business administration in 2008 and went on to complete a Bachelor’s degree in finance management and accounting at Florida International University.
She ran for a vacant seat on the Doral City Council in 2012.
She competed against people who had much more experience, but that did not stop her. At 24 years old, she won the election for Seat 3 with 55% of the vote against Robert Van Name, who served on the city council from 2003 to 2010. He received 44% of the vote.
A year later, Fraga was appointed as the city’s vice mayor, and held this position for three of her eight years on the council.
In 2020, Fraga decided to resign from the city council to run for the Miami-Dade School Board for District 5. She won with a 55.7% majority against Mara Zapata, a former Miami Springs council member who has been involved in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system for over 20 years.
Belinda Leon, 52, recalls the 10-plus years of friendship she has shared with Fraga.
“I was so impressed that someone that young had so much enthusiasm for public service and the drive to help her community,” she said.
Leon met Fraga when she first ran for the city council.
“I had no idea who she was at first,” she said. “My husband went to vote and I asked him who he voted for. He told me ‘I have no idea but her name is Christi Fraga,’” she explained.
Leon at the time was confused as to why her husband would vote for someone he had not done his research on. He later explained that Fraga’s father was campaigning for her and asked for him to vote for his daughter, reasoning that he was such a humble and nice guy that his instinct told him to listen.
That led Leon down the path to learn more about Fraga. It would turn out to be one of the most meaningful friendships in Leon’s life.
Leon’s husband passed away from a sudden heart attack a few years later.
“My husband’s gut instinct worked that day,” she said. “When you lose someone, you try to remember the good times and it’s good that Christi is part of that memory.”
Jesus Tundidor, 33, councilman of Hialeah wants people to know that Fraga is a force no one should ever underestimate.
Tundidor and Fraga’s friendship grew in 2019 right before her reelection.
“Her tenacity has pushed through all of her adversities,” says Tundidor as he recalls how tough the reelection campaign was for Fraga.
“The main opponent [Zapata] was very formidable, especially on paper. She was a teacher and principal for over 20 years. It was an uphill battle but she did it,” he said.
Tundidor knows the backbone of Doral is the businesses and says that an experienced business owner is an important qualification that is needed to be a successful mayor in Doral.
“She is part of the younger generation and brings a 21st century approach to government but also understands all walks of life,” said Tundidor. “Christi has really shown everybody in politics that she is part of the next generation’s movement leadership.”
Fraga has plans to build up Doral more than ever. The city is listed as one of the safest cities in the nation with a 19% lower crime rate than the nation’s average. But with the steady growth of the community, Fraga wants to ensure Doral remains the safe and family friendly community it has always been.
She looks to open up three task forces in the city police department as soon as she can.
Fraga is aware that with the continuous growth in the community, it is imperative to keep the people safe. A drug force, a human trafficking force and a HOA fraud task force are on her list.
Throughout her career, Fraga has worked to empower women and break the cycle within the political world that has seen women fail to succeed over and over again. She sees herself as an example of a young woman that has made it far in this area primarily dominated by men, specifically older men.
She hopes that, with her election, she can continue breaking down the glass ceiling.
“Some of my ideas wouldn’t be taken seriously, and then they ended up being the solution,” Fraga said. “I still think we are kind of looked at as a taboo, in a certain sense.”
All candidates must meet all qualification requirements by July 15. Voting takes place on November 8.