EAST MANATEE -- The way that Willie Miranda goes about his business, you might never suspect that he recently received a national honor as Radio Technologist of the Year.
Miranda, radio communications manager for Manatee County, was at a communications tower site near Parrish this week, working with a contractor who was installing fiber-optic cable.
"It was a surprise. I was nominated by one of my clients, and my boss Paul Alexander, who is the county information technology manager. They all conspired together," Miranda said, smiling.
The award was presented by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International and the National Emergency Number Association.
Miranda, a Lakewood Ranch resident, will help oversee the installation of a new digital radio system
for Manatee and Sarasota counties, replacing an analog system. The system will help bring emergency radio systems into the 21st century, local officials say.
Miranda, 53, became a ham radio operator by the age of 12, working with his grandfather, and earned his commercial license from the Federal Communications Commission at age 16.
He earned an engineering degree in college and had his own business for several years. Before moving to Manatee County three years ago, he had a job similar to the one he has now in the Phoenix, Ariz., area.
"Willie is very well deserving. He manages a team of seven and is responsible for the public radio system for police, fire, EMS, public works and utilities. He's a technical expert, and he's a professional beyond that. He's highly collaborative," Public Safety Director Ron Koper said. "It's clear why he was selected for this honor. He's a catalyst for change. He challenges the status quo at every turn. He's always trying to seek a better way to do something. In a nutshell, he delivers."
IT Director Alexander lauded Miranda for his customer service skills, sound judgment and sense of urgency.
Miranda is a great ambassador for the department and the county mission, Alexander said.
County officials believe that a joint project by Manatee and Sarasota counties could save millions of dollars on equipment costs, the Herald previously reported.
"We will be changing this all out in the next two years," Miranda said of nine communications nodes around the county.
The new system will be linked with fiber and microwave, and the towers will be synchronized with GPS. The new equipment will be about a third the size of the equipment it is replacing.
Miranda and his wife Jeanette have five children, but only one who still lives at home. Their daughter Jennifer is a student at Lakewood Ranch High School.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.