Luis Bernal MPP was one of the honorees of the 25 over 50 Awards presented by the Naples Daily News on April 22, 2015 at the Hilton Naples.
“The annual 25 over 50 Awards Program salutes Collier and southern Lee counties’ accomplished and exceptional leaders who continue to leave an imprint on our thriving community through their achievements, leadership abilities, philanthropic efforts, and dedication to the betterment of Collier and southern Lee counties,” said Robin Lankton, regional marketing director for the Naples Daily News.
“Citizens and peers nominated 70 people during a two-month process that a committee of civic and newspaper leaders whittled down to the eventual list of 25 winners.
Lankton said winners’ names would be featured in a Daily News special section April 26.
“These people are from all walks of life, from those who have lived here a long time to those who have moved here in the last couple of years,” she said. “What they all share in common is that they are accomplished leaders who continue to make an impact on the community through their professional achievement and leadership abilities.”
Honorees receive a plaque laminated with a full-page, tabloid-sized write-up from the special section. The plaque reads:
Luis Bernal says giving back to the community in Southwest Florida comes down to one simple thing.
“I’m thankful. It is my responsibility to give back.”
Bernal has turned his abundance of gratitude into 10 years of volunteer work spanning everything from economic development to education. Bernal came to the United States from his native Colombia when he was 37, and lived for a time in Broward County.
He moved to Collier County in 2005 and immediately felt welcomed. He also saw places where he could help.
With his background in international economic development, he helped start the Council of Hispanic Business Professionals. He’s also involved with the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce and Opportunity Naples, a group dedicated to economic growth in Collier.
Bernal, who ran for a School Board seat in 2014, also volunteers at local schools, and has served on the school advisory council at Veterans Memorial Elementary and North Naples Middle, where his son attends classes.
He says his love for Collier County makes him passionate about economic growth, promoting diversity and bolstering education.
“When you’re in the cemetery, you have nothing to give back,” he said. “But I have time to give, and to me that is how I can make the best investment in the community that has been so good to me.”
EIGHT QUESTIONS WITH LUIS BERNAL
Where and when were you happiest?
“The last 15 years of my life, which I have lived in Florida, have been my happiest years as they have revolved around family-building. My family is happy, I am happy.”
Which word or phrase do you most overuse?
“My wife says that it is: ‘Let me ask you something.’ ”
What was your most embarrassing/worst job?
“Through my career as a researcher, consultant, business association leader, top level government adviser, and even volunteer, I have been fortunate to work always doing what I most like to do. I believe what is embarrassing is not having a job.”
If you could meet anyone living or dead who would it be?
“I would like to meet somebody who is both living and dead: Jesus Christ. It would be quite interesting to hear what he would personally say about today’s religions, values, faith, churches, and my own spiritual journey.”
What is your favorite invention?
“Being the author of the first-ever law promoting small business in Colombia.”
What are you most proud of accomplishing?
“Almost 10 years of volunteer service to Collier County during, which this generous community has allowed me to serve in areas such as economic development, diversity, civics and education.”
Who is your real-life hero?
“My real life hero is that multitude of anonymous, dedicated, and enthusiastic women and men who on a daily basis transform people’s lives forever, for good: Our teachers.”
What is your biggest pet peeve?
“People poking my arm to get my attention while they talk to me. Wait, wait, seriously: It is disrespectful people, disrespectful attitudes and disrespectful words.”