SARASOTA, Fla.--He's never held elected office and rarely done interviews up to now, so who is this man named Carlos Beruff who wants you to send him to the United States Senate.
“The first word that comes to my mind when I think of Carlos is honor,” said Eric Robinson, Beurff’s friend and campaign treasurer. “Carlos is fanatical about honor, truth, doing what’s right.”
Born to Cuban refugees Beruff grew up in Miami and in a true, American, rags-to-riches story, worked his way up the business ladder.
“Growing up we had to work,” said Beruff in his campaign video. “If you wanted anything at all that was more than basic food and shelter, you had to make your own money.”
Today he’s one of the wealthiest developers in Southwest Florida, building more than 2,500 homes in three different counties. And as his business grew, so did his political influence fueled by campaign contributions to then Florida Governor Charlie Crist. Crist appointed him to three civic boards. The Southwest Florida Water Management district, the State College of Florida, the Manatee-Sarasota Airport Authority
In 2010 Beruff then shifted his allegiance to Governor Rick Scott, who appointed him to his health panel and reappointed him to positions already held.
“I’ve almost nobody in the history of any organization achieve as much success as Carlos,” said Joe Gruters, Chairman of Sarasota’s GOP.
But those roles have not gone without controversy. Most recently he was involved in the continuing contract debate at the State College of Florida. Ultimately the board voted to do away with continuing contracts in a nearly unanimous 7-1 vote. The decision was nearly unanimously opposed by faculty. Of 120 Faculty Senate members 118 voted no confidence, including President of the Faculty Senate Robyn Bell.
“The community was not in favor of this continuing contract dismissal and I’m not sure that if these people were beholden to the populus that it would’ve happened,” said Bell of the decision.
But Bell says in this position, Beruff would be “beholden to the populus.”
“How I know Carlos Beruff in the public sector is only through appointed positions on boards,” said Bell, “and so now that he’s running for Senator this is going be an elected position, so he’s going to have more than just one person to report to.”
His role as developer has been no less controversial. For example, Long Bar Pointe, a 500-acre development that environmentalists say could cause irreparable damage to the shoreline.
More than 6,500 opponents signed a petition against the Long Bar Pointe development. Ultimately, the county voted Beruff’s proposal down and now Beruff is suing the county government for its actions.
“For a person to have the mindset to destroy the environment for his own personal gain is just not the type of person that we want representing us,” said former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash.
Just up the coast, another controversial project known as Harbour Sound. This one belongs to his friend and fellow developer Pat Neal, and again environmentalists said it would damage the coastline, but even still the Southwest Florida Management District voted to grant Neal a permit to tear down mangroves and build a family compound.
On the board at the time, was Beruff. He was the one who made the motion and the day after, resigned from the board. Swiftmud faces a lawsuit over the decision.
If past actions are any indication of future actions, which usually they are,” said Glenn Compton of environmental group Manasota 88, “then people need to pay very close attention to Mr. Beruff’s past actions, especially when it comes to protection of the environment and the betterment of the public interest.”
Despite the controversy, Beruff is turning his attention to politics, launching a campaign for the U.S. Senate.
“The guy gets things done and that’s why I think he’ll be so successful as a candidate,” said Gruters.