Katy Sorenson

Katy Sorenson is the founder, president and CEO of the Good Government Initiative at the University of Miami.

Sorenson’s commitment to civic activism began in 1965 after attending a civil rights demonstration and continued throughout her career as an elected official. In 1994, Katy was inspired to run for County Commissioner against a six year incumbent after news broke of his scandalous misconduct in and out of office. With strong convictions and a determination to improve local governing, Katy launched a grassroots campaign and worked tirelessly to defeat the incumbent and represent District 8 on the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners. This District included more than 170,000 residents of diverse backgrounds, encompassed three cities, and a significant portion of the agricultural lands of the county.

As a commissioner, Katy was an outspoken advocate for human rights and equality for all residents, for the environment and managed growth, regional cooperation, child welfare issues, and support of the arts. Her proudest achievements were defeating plans for an ill-conceived airport at Homestead Air Reserve Base, a site located between Everglades and Biscayne National Parks, and sponsoring and passing an amendment to the human rights ordinance which guaranteed civil rights to gay and lesbian citizens. After 16 years of service as County Commissioner, Sorenson made the decision to leave the commission and launch the Good Government Initiative at the University of Miami.

Sorenson is a weekly contributor to the Sun Sentinel’s South Florida 100, and is featured regularly as a Roundtable commentator on WPLG Local 10’s This Week in South Florida and on WZAB 880 AM’s The Gray Zone.

Sorenson received a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She served as a legislative aide to Illinois State Senator Dawn Clark Netsch, as a political consultant, and as the executive director of California Women Lawyers Bar Association. She has been married to Janis Dzelzkalns, M.D., since 1978 and they have two adult children, Emma and Arnie. Katy and her husband live in Pinecrest.

Community Leadership

  • Chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Building Better Communities Bond Program of Miami-Dade County (2010–present)
  • Co-Chair of the Dean’s Professional Advisory Board of the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work at Florida International University (2010–present)
  • President-Elect, Florida International Women’s Forum (2013–present)
  • Advisory board member of the LeRoy Collins Institute, Florida State University in Tallahassee (2014–Present)
  • Member, HistoryMiami President’s Council (2014)
  • Member of The CLEO Institute Board of Directors (2010–present)
  • Advisory board member of the New Leaders Council (2011–present)
  • Advisory board member of the Tropical Audubon Society (2011–present)
  • Advisory board member of ReServe Miami (2011–present)

Previous Community Involvement

  • Former board member, Friends of WLRN (2012–2014)
  • Former member, Executive committee of the South Florida Regional Planning Council (1994–2006, 2008–2010)
  • Former member, Board of Directors of the Florida Association of Counties (2006–2010)
  • Vice Chair of the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners (2002–2004)
  • Former Chair of the South Florida Regional Transportation Organization (2001–2002)

Notable Awards and Recognition

  • Named “Best Citizen” by the Miami New Times, 2015
  • Women of Influence Award from Florida International University, 2014
  • Robert Stempel Award from Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work at Florida International University, 2012
  • Champion Farmworkers Award from the Mexican-American Council, Inc., 2010
  • Senator Ron Silver “Dean” Award from Miami-Dade County League of Cities, 2010
  • First Annual Outstanding Commitment to the Arts Award from Gable Stage, 2010
  • Humanitarian award from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2010
  • Green Visionary Award from Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, 2010
  • Champions of Equality Award from SAVE Dade, 2009
  • Environmental Stewardship Award from Dream In Green, 2008
  • The Dan Beard Government Service Award from Tropical Audubon Society, 2007
  • (The first ever) Marjory Stoneman Douglas Environmental Award from the Friends of the Everglades, 2006
  • Ambassador of the Arts Award of from the Dade Cultural Alliance, 2004
  • Graduate of Harvard University’s Senior Executive Program in State and Local Government at the Kennedy School of Government, 2004
  • Elected Official of the Year award from the Dade Cultural Alliance, 2004
  • Public Official of the Year from the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association, 2004
  • South Dade Leadership Award from Perrine-Cutler Ridge Rotary Club, 2003
  • James Webb Public Service Award from the Everglades Coalition, 2001
  • Elaine D. Gordon Award for Advocacy in Public Affairs from Planned Planned Parenthood of Greater Miami and the Florida Keys, Inc, 2000
  • Best Politician Award, Miami New Times, 1999
  • Human Rights Honorary Award from Miami-Dade County Commission for Women, 1999
  • Champion for Children Award from the Children’s Resources and Children’s Services Council, 1999
  • Herbert W. Hoover, Jr. Memorial Conservationist of the Year Award from Biscayne Bay Foundation, 1997
  • John Brooks Memorial Award from Florida Audubon Society, 1997
  • Phoenix Award from American Association of University Women, 1997
  • The Maurice Rosen Act of Courage Award from the Miami Chapter, American Civil Liberties Union, 1997
  • In the Company of Women Award, 1995