Mel Martinez

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Melquiades R. “Mel” Martinez was born in Sagua la Grande, Cuba, but came to the U.S. in 1962 as part of a Roman Catholic humanitarian effort called Operation Peter Pan. He lived with two foster families in Orlando until his parents’ arrival in 1966.

He graduated from Bishop Moore High School in 1964 and later attended Florida State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and a law degree.

During his 25 years of law practice in Orlando, he also served as president of the Orlando Utilities Commission and chairman of the Orlando Housing Authority.

Martinez was elected Orange County Mayor (then Orange County Chairman) in 1998 and served in this capacity for two years. While in office, he implemented what became known as the “Martinez doctrine” which prohibits development from taking place unless adequate public infrastructure, specifically school capacity, is able to support such development.

Following the election of President George W. Bush, Martinez was appointed, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, as the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and was the first Cuban-American to serve in a presidential cabinet. Martinez is best known for his efforts to increase homeownership among all Americans and to eradicate homelessness.

In 2004, he became the first Cuban-American elected to the U.S. Senate and retired Sept. 9, 2010. Currently, he serves as chairman of the Southeast U.S. and Latin America for JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Martinez and his wife Kitty reside in Winter Park and have three children and five grandchildren.

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