Member Spotlight: An Interview with Commissioner Mark Samuelian & Laura Dominguez
by Lynare Robbins
Global Ties Miami shines a spotlight each month on its members, as they are the foundation for accomplishing so much of its work.
For this month’s member spotlight, Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian and his life partner, Laura Dominguez, are highlighted. The two are great examples of the values that the organization promotes. It was a pleasure to be able to interview them about their background, professional contributions and perspectives; and share the information with our members.
Commissioner Samuelian was born in Boston, Massachusetts, where his grandparents settled after immigrating to the United States from Armenia. He attended public schools and was the first person in his family to earn a college degree. He graduated cum laude from Georgia Tech with an industrial engineering degree and later earned an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Laura Dominguez is a Miami native of Cuban and Spanish descent. She earned an Associate degree in business administration from Miami Dade College and a Bachelor of general studies, with a concentration in digital marketing, from the University of Miami. The two met in 2012, and they live on the Venetian Islands in Miami. “We love the weather and the people. There are also many neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County that are quite walkable, with Miami Beach being one of them. And, stone crab season (from October 15 through May 15) is an annual treat,” explained Ms. Dominguez.
They are both highly involved in the local community and both graduated from the City of Miami Beach Leadership Academy. Commissioner Samuelian serves on the Board of Governors of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce. As a former national chess champion, he has supported Miami Beach scholastic chess as a coach and mentor. The Commissioner is also the past President of Miami Beach United, an established city-wide resident advocacy organization, and served on the Belle Isle Residents’ Association board and the Pets’ Trust Advisory board. He has both attended and lectured for the Good Government Initiative. Commissioner Samuelian was elected as Miami Beach Commissioner in 2017. Although Ms. Dominguez has spent most of her career in the travel industry, she recently launched a digital marketing agency and will begin her tenure on the Belle Isle Residents’ Association board in January 2021. She has been a member of the Miami Design Preservation League supporting historic preservation and serves on the Equality Florida steering committee, and is a member of Miami Beach United.
For this civically active couple, creating sustainability for the environment is also an important cause. “Sustainability is one of the most critical issues of our times that impacts the future and therefore should be part of any and all long-term plans,” said Commissioner Samuelian. He added that it is also important from a communications and leadership perspective. “If you have citizens and bloggers claiming that this is a doom scenario, by not acknowledging this issue, many local and national leaders are allowing a space from which hopelessness and despair can grow.” When asked how sustainable goals can be accomplished, Commissioner Samuelian suggested that through effective policy and public private partnerships, a future can be created where we work and thrive in concert with nature. He emphasized that we, in fact, must create this type of future.
While discussing the current challenges and opportunities that exist in South Florida, and the best ways where people can work together to seize the opportunities and tackle the challenges, Ms. Dominguez pointed out that South Florida is renowned for its immense natural beauty and lush landscape. “We are also known for just how vulnerable our ecosystems are. As such, we have a unique opportunity to be the example the world can follow in conservation, preservation, and sustainability.” Commissioner Samuelian highlighted the increasing numbers of individuals and businesses that want to move to Miami-Dade County. “This trend has indeed been accelerated by the pandemic with many from the Northeast looking to migrate here with their businesses in tow. We have the opportunity to capitalize on this trend in a way that enriches all of us while not harming the beauty and balance that buttresses that desirability.”
When asked about their thoughts on the Coronavirus pandemic, the couple says that the primary issue of COVID-19 has been finding the balance between public health, safety and private enterprise. Commissioner Samuelian cited the difference of our nation’s governmental structure compared to other countries. “The United States, unlike other developed nations, has placed the brunt of the responsibility of this pandemic on state and local governments. This complicates matters as it is difficult to ask residents to stay at home without acknowledging that many do need to expose themselves in order to work and feed their families.” He added, “With that said, Miami Beach has been very fortunate to have public health experts and business professionals working in concert to provide my colleagues on the Commission and myself with recommendations on how to thread that needle and keep our residents safe.”
Aside from the causes that they are involved with at home, the Commissioner and Ms. Dominguez are avid travelers. They shared that their most memorable visits were to Santorini in Greece, Yerevan in Armenia, and Hong Kong. Additionally, they are advocates for peace in Armenia. “ We participated in a peaceful march in Miami Beach in support of an independent Artsakh. Also, last year Mark (Commissioner Samuelian) successfully sponsored a resolution in the City of Miami Beach officially recognizing the Armenian genocide,” explained Ms. Dominguez.
Their concern for peace and diplomacy extends globally as Commissioner Samuelian and Ms. Dominguez have been active with Global Ties Miami programs. In November 2018, the Commissioner participated in a Fireside Chat during Global Ties Miami’s Diplomacy Begins Here Summit on community resilience with co-panelists, Charisse Grant, Senior Vice-President of Programs, The Miami Foundation; and Wifredo Fernandez, Legal Fellow, The Launch Pad at the University of Miami. In March 2020, the couple met and spoke with a group of ninety International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) participants from all over the world who were in Miami through the U.S. Department of State sponsored IVLP program to learn about the U.S. electoral system. Commissioner Samuelian shared his professional insights with the group on the topic. The couple says what they have enjoyed the most are the life-long friends that they have made at Global Ties Miami. “We have enjoyed hosting dinners in our home for people from around the world. Learning about their backgrounds and the work that they do is fascinating,” added Ms. Dominguez.
In their view, programs like the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) are important drivers for realizing the exchange of cultures and ideas. “Miami Beach and South Florida do not have a monopoly on good ideas; no municipality or region does. So, programs such as these allow for a positive dialogue. This is important because it promotes good, long-term relationships with other people and cultures and broadens our scope of understanding,” explained Commissioner Samuelian.
When asked if there was anything else that readers should be aware of, they offered the following message, “We love connecting with people from around the world and exchanging ideas. If you’re going to be in Miami Beach, do let us know! We welcome sharing some time with you if we are in town.”