Reelected in 2016, Broward County, Florida’s first African-American and first Muslim Mayor Barbara Sharief has set forth a plan to strengthen the local economy and end homelessness in her community.
A Profile in American Success
Born to a loving mother and father on November 7th, 1971, Barbara Sharief spent her early life as one of eight children in a ten-person household. A native Floridian, she was raised in both Dade and Broward counties along with her seven other siblings and eventually attended North Miami Senior High School.
Her father, James Sharief, was a spiritual family man and self-employed clothing salesman who had a knack for negotiating and buying wholesale dresses. Dresses he would then sell out of his white truck and collapsible stall at various locations around the city.
“Unless he had to go out of town, one of us, usually me, was always with him,” said Sharief in a recent interview. “The truck had only one passenger seat and my oldest sister and I would tussle to ride with my father.”
During this time Sharief’s father also ran a food pantry to help give back to his community by feeding the less fortunate.
“He believed that feeding the hungry and helping the homeless allowed blessings to be bestowed upon him.”
Sharief’s mother Bobbie Sharief, a retired schoolteacher, spent her time assisting James with the financial aspects of the business and tending to the household. A household that worked in as much harmony as any household where the children outnumbered the parents four to one until it was shattered one fateful Saturday.
Sharief was 14 years old when her sister won that day’s tussle to ride with her father. That Saturday, a young 15-year-old mugger attempted to rob James at gunpoint.
“He told my father to put his hands up, which he did,” Sharief recalled. “My father said, ‘Take whatever you want. I’ve got eight kids.’ That’s when the boy shot my father one time, in the heart.”
Later that same day James Sharief was pronounced dead.
“That changed the course of my life,” said Sharief. “I was top of my class and always wanted to go to medical school. I wanted to be a pediatric physician.”
Only the family’s financial stability was now in jeopardy. Bobbie, who had at one time been a schoolteacher, had been out of the workforce for 26 years. On top of that, the family was close to losing their comfortable North Miami home and cars to the threat of foreclosure.
Thankfully, due to their father’s social security benefits and the help of some federal assistance, they managed to stay afloat. Sharief’s mother landed a job as a secretary while Sharief, now age 15, took up a job at a local retirement home where she ran the restaurant and balanced the books.
Sharief, however, was determined to continue her dream of going into the medical field. Thanks to a special program at her high school, Sharief was able to attend classes from 7 am to 2 pm before going to work until around ten at night. She graduated high school in 1989.
Becoming A Business Leader
Freshly out of high school, Barbara Sharief dove straight into studying at Miami Dade Junior College in order to earn her Associate of Science, a degree that was a prerequisite for a registered nursing diploma. After two years there, she transferred to the Jackson Memorial Hospital School of Nursing to finalize her training to become a registered nurse.
“I took 20 credits or more each semester so I could finish fast and help my mom with my younger brothers and sisters, especially a brother who was health challenged,” explained Sharief.
And in 1992, four years after leaving high school, Sharief passed the registered nursing board, becoming one of the youngest people in Florida to do so.
“I didn’t know that then,” she said. “I just did it because I had to.”
As a Registered Nurse (RN), Sharief worked mainly at Jackson Memorial Hospital and for a home health care agency.
She later obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Florida International University (FIU).
During her down time, Sharief continued to help her mother in caring for her brother and started to do freelance home health care work using the experience she gained from working for a private home health care firm since 1992.
“I was responsible for the day-to-day operations and running of a very large national home health care company. My responsibilities included budgeting, interviewing, hiring, training staff, marketing, and assistance with expansion to other service areas.”
Once word got out about her outstanding work, the offers came flooding in. And, after she graduated in 2000, with honors, from FIU with a Masters of Science in Nursing and an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner Certification, she decided to strike out on her own.
In 2001, Barbara Sharief decided to carry on her father’s legacy by continuing his entrepreneurial spirit and founding South Florida Pediatric Homecare, Inc. With her mother as secretary and the expertise she gained through experience combined with her new master’s degree, Sharief’s new business took off.
Specializing in providing the highest quality home health care to infants, children and adults, South Florida Pediatric Homecare, Inc. (SFPH) worked to provide necessary services to Broward County, including private duty skilled and unskilled nursing care, visits, wound care, IV therapy, chemotherapy visits, lab drawing from home and medication compliance monitoring. SFPH is a Medicare and Medicaid certified practice that seeks to provide care and comfort for patients both old and young that need consistent, daily medical support.
Sharief’s passion for caring for the sick comes from growing up with a younger brother that was diagnosed with several medically complex conditions. Observing his plight, she quickly came to the conclusion that his quality of life was significantly better if he was cared for in his own home, which was a far more comfortable environment. This philosophy was later cemented during her time practicing hospital nursing and working for a large home healthcare company.
Her work in providing comfortable skilled nursing services and medical facilities available to those in need has seen SFPH grow from its initial staff of 30 nurses to over 600 nurses and therapists. SFPH now also boasts locations in both Pembroke Pines and Miami, Florida. Now considered one of the top healthcare facilities in both Broward and Miami-Dade counties, SFPH has developed a reputation for their quality services and high-tech facilities.
A Call to Public Service
It wasn’t until 2009 when her career took a very different turn. That year, Barbara Sharief was elected to the Miramar City Commission.
“I never imagined myself in elected office. I was always a community activist assisting friends or neighbors with information and issues. Owning a business really opened my eyes to the effect that local government can have on its residents. I became more involved and entered the political field based on my desire to help people and advocate for those less fortunate.”
In 2010, Sharief served as the City Commission’s Vice Mayor until November when she was elected to the Broward County Commission District 8 seat where she currently serves the diverse population of the cities of Hallandale Beach, Miramar, Pembroke Park, Pembroke Pines, and West Park.
As Commissioner she is responsible for setting policy according to the Broward County charter, promoting economic development, making infrastructure improvements and creating jobs by supporting small business development in the Broward County community. In addition, she is also responsible for supporting the county’s legislative agenda during the annual legislative session in the state capitol of Tallahassee.
Due to her personal experiences, Commissioner Sharief has used her position to advocate for solutions to homelessness and the prevention of foreclosures in Broward County. Her programs, including Commissioner on a Mission and Broward Means Business, utilize Sharief’s experience in the business world and offer free foreclosure prevention seminars, job fairs, and a variety of business workshops geared towards keeping Broward County’s small business owners up-to-date and ahead of key trends that can help their businesses to flourish.
Thanks to her expansive healthcare background, Sharief was selected to serve as Chair of the Health and Human Services Policy Committee for The Florida Association of Counties. In addition, she served as a board member of the Broward County Metropolitan Planning Organization, The Homeless Initiative Partnership, and The Value Adjustment Board of Broward County. In 2016, she was elected President of the Florida Association of Counties.
On November 19, 2013, Barbara Sharief was elected as the first African-American and first Muslim Mayor of Broward County where she served until 2014. During her time in office, she completed the Certified County Commissioner Program, Advanced County Commissioner Program, and the National Association of Counties Leadership program.
Also in 2013, Barbara received the Florida Association of Counties Presidential Advocacy Award for representing the 67 counties of Florida effectively during the 2013 legislative session.
In 2014, Barbara Sharief was reelected to a second term on the Broward County Commission. In November of 2015, Barbara was once again named Vice Mayor and just one year later was reelected as Mayor of Broward County for her second term.
Sharief’s goals and dreams include representing her constituents on a national level to advocate for economic stability through job creation, small business support and advocating for affordable healthcare.