Wasserman Rubin, Pioneer In Promoting Minorities & Women, Dead At 73

 

BY BUDDY NEVINS

 

 

Before Broward Mayor Dale Holness. Before Broward Sheriff Greg Tony. Before Commissioner Angelo Castillo of Pembroke Pines.  

Four decades ago Diana Wasserman-Rubin was the face and an outspoken voice of the minority community in Broward. 

She died this week after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 73.

 

 

Diana Wasserman-Rubin (Picture from Twitter)

 

It was a long, unlikely journey —a 14-year old immigrant girl who spoke no English becoming one of Broward’s most powerful politicians and a champion for minorities and women. 

Oh, what a trip it was: 

  • The first Hispanic woman to win countywide office in 1988 when elected to Broward School Board. 
  • The first Hispanic elected to Broward County Commission in 2000.
  • The first Broward Mayor in 2002.
  • The president and a founder of Hispanic Unity. 
  • A member of the President’s Advisory Committee on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.
  • Started the Multicultural Education Department in Broward schools to help foreign students.
  • Became Broward’s most visible supporter during her career of increasing treatment for mental health and substance abuse.
  • Became the major force in obtaining more help for women and families in need.  

While doing all this work she metamorphosed into a major political power broker. Her clout stemmed from being a conduit between those who had money and privilege.  And those who didn’t. 

I imagine that some of her old friends were surprised by her lifelong quest for those in need because her life in Cuba was filled with advantages.

Her father was a commercial pilot and her mother was a homemaker who didn’t have to work. Her uncle was a concert pianist for the Cuban ballet. Her great uncle was a famous impressionist Cuban painter.

Like so many others, Wasserman-Rubin arrived in South Florida in the early 1960s as Fidel Castro tightened his grip on Cuba. Landing in Miami Beach at 14, she attended Nautilus Middle School and St. Patrick’s High School. 

After moving to Pembroke Pines in 1971, she dipped her toe into politics.  She started registering residents to vote.  She had learned by then that politics was the route to improving lives, she later told me.  

Her political work as a rare Cuban who was a Democrat impressed party leaders. In 1984 Gov. Bob Graham appointed her to the South Broward Hospital District governing board, the public health care system now know as Memorial Healthcare. 

In 1988, she ran for School Board and won.

 

The young Wasserman-Rubin

 

 

She never hid her heritage, but no doubt many voters from the start didn’t know she was Hispanic. Her name at the time was Diana Wasserman because of her first marriage to lawyer Jeffrey Wasserman. The Jewish-sounding name surely helped in 1980s elections which were dominated by Jewish condominium voters.

Although her marriage collapsed in a nasty and very public divorce several years later while on the School Board, she kept the name Wasserman because of her children, she explained. 

Wasserman-Rubin — She hyphenated her name after marrying lobbyist/consultant Richard Rubin — later got in serious trouble. 

Arrested in 2010 on five felonies for voting on grants that benefited her husband, she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor after three years of negotiations.

Wasserman-Rubin later insisted to me that she was innocent. She dismissed her guilty plea to the misdemeanor like this: A felony conviction would have robbed her of her pension, leaving her penniless and fighting Parkinson’s. She wasn’t willing to take the chance.

It was a sad end for a rare politician who truly helped others. 

I’ve lived long enough to believe that people aren’t one dimensional. The sweep of their lives aren’t black and white. 

This is not to diminish what she did. It was wrong and she paid the price.

Despite the serious stumble, Diana Wasserman-Rubin should also be remembered for the good she did. The work she accomplished improving lives and offering help to those in need.

RIP, Diana. 

 

(I wish that those anonymous knuckle-dragging troglodytes anxious to anonymously criticize Wasserman-Rubin on the Internet would remember what someone much wiser than me said: “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged.”)



10 Responses to “Wasserman Rubin, Pioneer In Promoting Minorities & Women, Dead At 73”

  1. Sally Hanson says:

    She was a loving person who would listen to your life and cry when you told her. Thank you for the tribute

  2. PandaBear says:

    I loved her dearly. Diana was the sweetest, the most generous, and kindest person I’ve ever met. She was a wonderful citizen, a model daughter, sister, niece, wife, grandmother, and friend. She estoically survived lots of injustices in life and also survived Mike S. May she now rest in everlasting peace. Heaven has earned an angel. Will always miss her, but forever thankful we met and enriched our lives. ♡♡

  3. A reader says:

    As a person who was raised to respect people, I must respect what you have told us about Ms. Wasserman-Rubin. However, I sometimes spoke as a citizen at a few Broward County Commission meetings near the end of her political career. Ms. Wasserman-Rubin often disappeared from her seat when citizens were speaking, which showed total disrespect and disregard for constituents’ views. Maybe this is an indication that sometimes politicians outlive their terms.

  4. Friend of Diana says:

    Diana was a very fine person. I will remember her fondly and send my sympathies to Richard and the rest of her family.
    @#3 When your time on this earth is over, I hope that no one finds to the time to point to some personal grievance they had with you and post it on the internet to attempt tarnish your legacy. A really very small minded and petty effort on your part which speaks volumes about you and fell woefully short of the mark.

  5. PandaBear says:

    Please don’t judge. She must’ve had reasons to leave. Perhaps it was her illness. Who knows? Parkinson’s is no piece-a-cake you know. Don’t take your views of her absence dictate an opinion about an extremely marvelous lady. She truly worried about people to the extent that others wouldn’t. At the moment, I recall a truly horrible and scary thunderstorm one day, where an average person wouldn’t be so overly worried about whoever was out and about and met the storm without cover. That was true anguish for her. Worrying about people she didn’t even know existed. That was the true Diana. Thoughtful and kind beyond words. Always concerned about others’ well-being. Without knowing her you shouldn’t pass judgement. But, I respect your opinion if it doesn’t change.

  6. City activist Robert walsh says:

    ….(blame) State Atty.Sachs (Satz).It was he and his office that lowered the charges from felonies to misdemeanors. Which I did not agree and many others shared that opinion.

    FROM BUDDY:

    Satz was only facing reality. It was a tough case against her with lots of potential reasonable doubt. Most of all, it was believed that no jury — no jury — would convict a woman who was already visibly suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

  7. Patti Lynn says:

    She was loved.
    She mentored women, when it wasn’t the “thing” to do.
    She helped create Hispanic Unity, which continues to help families new to America.
    She was, and is, an inspiration to many.
    She has been missed since she resigned from the Commission.
    Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  8. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    The evil men do dies with them YHE GOOD LIVES ON. May the earth rest lightly on her grave

  9. Tell the Truth says:

    Richard Rubin became a ‘lobbyist/consultant’ later in his career once DWR was on BCC. He was an architect when they met and married.
    Sadly the votes cast that became the issue listed in the write-up were for her husband’s architecture practice work.
    May she rest in peace.

  10. Truth Be Known says:

    As a school board member, she listened and offered an opportunity to present your case. That’s more than can be said of many school board members.

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