Just as Loretta Lynch is making history by becoming the first black woman to serve as the nation’s Attorney General, Miami-Dade County is poised to experience a similar milestone next fall when Abigail Price-Williams will become the first black woman to assume the role of Miami-Dade County Attorney.
During the April 21 County Commission meeting, which was televised, Chairperson Jean Monestime made the motion to appoint the attorney whom several commissioners said worked in tandem with outgoing County Attorney, Robert Cuevas, to create a top notch, family oriented legal department.
“She and her predecessor, Bob Cuevas, have worked as a team and that sense of harmony has spread throughout the County Attorney’s Office,” said Commissioner Jordan.
Unlike the partisan battle that
stretched Lynch’s confirmation out for five months, Price-Williams’ ascension to the county’s top legal post comes with unanimous praise and admiration. Rebeca Sosa joined Monestime in the motion which was eagerly seconded by several commissioners.
“Abigail is more than capable to head the best ‘law firm’ in Miami-Dade County having worked within its ranks and alongside [Miami Dade County Attorney] Robert Cuevas for many years,” said Commissioner Audrey Edmonson.
Not only was she universally approved by all commissioners, Price-Williams, who has been with the legal department for more than 25 years, was lauded with a standing ovation from the audience, many of whom were attorneys from the County Attorney’s office.
The newest commissioner, Daniella Levine-Cava, has a unique history with Price-Williams. “I’ve known [her] since she was a law student and she was an intern with me at Legal Services of Greater Miami,” she said
of Price-Williams, who earned her law degree from the University of Miami
in 1984. With a vote of confidence, Levine-Cava added, “Just watch out.”
One of the benefits of Price-Williams’ selection is the smooth transition that the legal department is likely to experience.
“Abi can step in and make an immediate impact having worked in our legal office at the Aviation Department, Jackson Health System and with all of our administrators. Having that experience and institutional knowledge gave her a unique advantage to fill the role as our County Attorney,” Jordan said.
Praise for the Howard University graduate extends beyond county hall.
Legendary attorney H. T. Smith was the first black assistant county attorney in 1976. As a defense attorney, he wasn’t particularly interested in county government, but because “I wanted to knock down the all-white private club that had been established at the county attorney’s office,” Smith shared. “Somebody had to do it.”
Smith said that he’s thrilled about Price-Williams’ historic appointment.
“I never thought I’d live to see a black person head that prestigious and well respected office,” he said of Price-Williams, whom he called “brilliant,” and “an even better human being.”
Another legal legend, actually deemed so by the by the 11th Judicial Circuit Historical Society, is attorney George Knox. His background bears striking similarities to Price-Williams because he, too, was a “first” as the first black to join the faculty of the University of Arkansas’ School of Law. His background also includes legal service in the public sector as the Miami City Attorney from 1976-1982.
Knox said that he’s very proud of Price-Williams’ momentous feat. “As important, she is by far the most qualified, most experienced person. Knox added “It says something about her brilliance and capacity, that there was no opposition to the idea of following the tradition of the succession of attorneys appointed from within.”
Commissioner Dennis Moss saluted the outgoing and incoming County Attorneys. “Bob, you’ve done a wonderful job. You and Abi are a team,” Moss said.
Price-Williams smiled as the commissioners and audience members applauded her. Then she shared the spotlight.
“I wouldn’t be sitting here but for his confidence in me and for his unselfish leadership, Cuevar (sic), as I call him, thank you very much for your support and your guidance,” she said to Cuevas, who has been the county attorney for the past eight years. She told the commission that by appointing her, “You also honor the entire county attorney’s office. I work with the most wonderful people in this community. Not only the lawyers, but the staff too.”
The Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office provides legal representation to all aspects of Miami-Dade County government, including the Mayor and the 13-member Board of County Commissioners, the Property Appraiser, 25 county departments and numerous boards, authorities, councils and commissions. Although a governmental body, the County Attorney’s Office has a diverse legal practice that includes virtually every area of law in existence except criminal.
Price-Williams informed the commissioners that her mother, Mildred Price, was watching the historic event on television; as she does most of their televised proceedings. She credits her parents with instilling in her a strong work ethic and faith in God.
In addition to her historic appointment, Price-Williams and her husband celebrated their 29th wedding anniversary last week.