Ecuadorian Latina Has Made Great Strides As Director of Miami-Dade County’s Parks

Maria I. Nardi, Director, 2018 Hispanic Woman of Distinction, Miami-Dade County’s Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department


“I believe the most important role of a Hispanic woman leader in today’s society is to serve as a role model, mentor and educator for the next generation of women leaders.”

If you enjoy living a healthy lifestyle, improving your mental and physical health by exercising outdoors, kayaking, hiking, boating, fishing, playing soccer or baseball, taking your child to a playground, walking or cycling on greenways and trails, seeing lions and elephants in the recreation of their natural habitats, and relishing year-round beautiful weather on one of over 13,000 acres of park land and 14 miles of beaches in Miami-Dade County, chances are you have Maria Nardi and her dedicated team of employees to thank.

Maria i. NardiAs Director of Miami-Dade County’s Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, Maria and her staff are in charge of the third largest park system in the country in the most populated county in the state.

Her department is also charged with managing 26,000-plus acres of natural areas, marinas, campgrounds, beaches, causeways, “Neat Streets” Miami, golf enterprises, agricultural land, Zoo Miami, the historic Deering Estate, sports and other varied recreational programming for youth, senior citizens and people with disabilities.

All these facilities and programs are public and accessible to Miami-Dade County’s 2.7 million residents. And that number doesn’t even count the approximately 15 million tourists annually that come to enjoy all that the county has to offer each year, including its parks. 

Prior to being named Director, Maria was the department’s Deputy Director. She led the creation and passing of the Parks and Open Space Master Plan: the blueprint for a seamless and sustainable model park system. This plan is the key guiding document for building a greener and healthier Miami-Dade County, and now serves as a national model.  

Working with University of Miami School of Architecture and the Miller School of Medicine faculty, Maria and her team implemented a county-wide recreation and nutrition program, Fit-2-Play, that has been demonstrated to reduce obesity in participating children.

She also worked on fitness programs for the community’s seniors. These highly-successful programs received special recognition from former First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her “Let’s Move” initiative. 

A native of Ecuador, Maria earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami School of Architecture and her Master’s in Landscape Architecture from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Maria is member of the prestigious International Women’s Forum.  Her park planning and design projects, as well as her health and fitness programs, have been recognized by the University of Miami, the National Recreation and Park Association, the Health Foundation of South Florida, the Urban Environment League, and the Miami-Dade Health Department.  She is a Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Pioneer Award winner.  

Maria and her husband of more than 23 years, Rocco Ceo, architect and University of Miami Professor of Architecture, like visiting parks around the country, where they enjoy kayaking, hiking, and other outdoor recreation. 

2018 Hispanic Women of Distinction Honorees

For more information, visit or 954-601-6550 or email:  

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Here are last year’s 2017 Hispanic Women of Distinction were:

GLORIA L.  DIAZ-DANIELS –Div Sales Mgr Sales-Pharmacy Walmart – Palm Beach Colombian Born Latina Shines As Mentor and Walmart Sales Exec

ADRIANA FAZZANO FICANO – Chief of Staff, Broward College – Broward County Colombian-American Latina Leads College PR and Community Organizations

BLANCA GUERRA -Broward County Schools-Curriculum Sup/Dual Languages –Dade Cuban Latina Excels at Education and Preserving Heritage Languages  

KARINA GOMEZ-HERRERA – Pres. CEO Karnna Fashion & Company – Broward:  Outstanding Venezuelan Latina Excels as a “Hispanic Fashion Advisor”

Dr IVERIS LUZ MARTINEZ- Assoc Prof. Herbert Werthein College/Medicine FIU-Dade Cuban-American Latina Is a Premier Healthcare Anthropologist 

LORENA MASTRARRIGO -Assistant Public Defender, Broward County – Broward  Argentinian-American Latina Attorney Helping Hispanic Community

CHRISTINA PEREZ McDOWELL – Founder, Solutions by CPM, LLC – Dade- Cuban-American Latina Brand Manger and Executive Consultant

JACQUELINE NUNEZ – Co-owner, SOMA Medical Centers PA – Palm Beach Colombian Latina Healthcare Financial Officer Supports Those In Need

Dr. JACQUELINE PENA – Dean Academic Affairs – Miami Dade College –  Dade Dominican Bronx Latina Secure Grants to Drive Student Success

MICHELLE MARTINEZ-REYES- CMO, Greenspoon Marder Law Firm – Broward  Latina Cuban-American Chief Marketing Officer Is Growing Brands

MARIELLE SOLOGUREN – Vice President. Pierson Grant Public Relations – Broward Latina of Ancestry Cuban-Peruvian Making Waves in PR

RACHEL TOURGEMAN –Community Relations Dir.- Florida National University-Dade Panamanian-American Latina Community Relations Professional Advocates for Victims


DAISY EXPOSITO-ULLA – Chairman, CEO of d exposito & Partnersa visionary creative leader in cross-cultural brand building for more than 30 years, Daisy has been recognized by numerous organizations and named as one of the most influential Latinas in the United States. 


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