Board of Directors List

Chairwoman - Maria Hidalgo-Diaz

Maria Hidalgo is a VITAS Community Relations Representative and has over 20 years of experience in public relations, marketing, advertising, government relations and fundraising. She co-hosts a weekly Spanish radio talk show on WRHC, “SIN FRONTERAS” (Without Frontiers); co-hosted “Celebrating Life” on WQBA Univision Radio; and spearheaded the MEGA Creole program on 1020 AM.

First Vice Chair – Bob Kovacevich, MA

Bob Kovacevich, DirectorBob Kovacevich graduated from the Boston College School of Business Administration and has worked internationally in the nonprofit sector in the areas of  research, planning and fund raising since 1968.  He is a founding member and officer of The Association of Philanthropic Counsel and Principal of AVATAR Company, an international consultancy that provides market research, strategic planning and fund-raising services to all types of nonprofit organizations.
Education and Training
• Boston College – Graduate of the School of Business, Marketing
• Antioch College – Strategic Planning and Resource Development for Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA)
• New York Theatre Communication Group Inc. – Audience Development and Marketing
• American Council for the Arts Conferences (80 hours) – Resource Development
• Public Broadcasting Service Conferences (450 hours) – Resource Development, Strategic Planning, Market Research, Membership, Deferred Giving, Capital and Endowment Campaign Administration
• National Public Radio Conferences (320 hours) – Resource Development
• Conrad Teitell and John Brown Seminars (52 hours) – Planned Giving
• American Association of Museums Conferences (80 hours) – Resource Development
• International NSFRE Conferences (240 hours) – Resource Development
• Statistical Research Institute Seminars (20 hours) – Market Research and Analysis
Experience and Skills
Years of Experience

25 Developed volunteer structures for major fund raising programs
25 Designed and conducted annual gift programs
18 Designed and conducted deferred programs
25 Designed and managed major donor programs
18 Designed and conducted capital/endowment campaign programs
20 Prepared proposals and grants for corporate/foundation prospects
29 Designed and managed special events
23 Designed campaign case statements and other fund raising materials
10 Conducted government relations programs
15 Designed fund raising information management software
29 Conducted market research, feasibility studies and management audits
20 Conducted strategic planning initiatives
20 Managed publicity and promotion programs
18 Developed and managed membership programs
Other Related Experiences include:
• Association of Philanthropic Counsel, Founding Board Member
• National Society of Fund Raising Executives, Central FL Chapter, Past President
• National Society of Fund Raising Executives, Former National Board Member
• American Assn of Museums, National Development Committee Former Member
• C.A.R.E., Former State of Florida Advisory Board Member
• Holocaust Memorial and Educational Resource Center, Former Board Member
Awards and Distinctions
• Founding member of The Association of Philanthropic Counsel, a national organization supporting ethical and distinguished service to the nonprofit sector
• Recently invited to become a member of AAFRC American Association of Fundraising Consultants
• AVATAR Company has been evaluated and has received the endorsement of Consultants OnTap an online referral service funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation
• Listed in Contributions magazine’s Who’s Who of National Fund Rasing Firms/Consultants
• Provided commentary on National Public Radio, WMFE-FM, regarding nonprofit organization management, research, planning and fund raising
• Published in Contributions magazines fund raising book, “100 Mistakes”
• Published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy and other national and regional publications
• Recognized for United Arts Fund Advancement: American Council for the Arts
• Recognized for government relations work with the Florida State Legislature
• Counseled clients in awarded Institute of Museum Services Grants
• Prepared awarded facility expansion grants for capital campaigns through the State of Florida Department of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Arts Council
• Received national awards for general resource development programs from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (NPR)
• Received national awards for deferred giving program development from NPR
• Received national awards for special events program development from NPR
• Received national awards for program underwriting initiatives from NPR
Projects funded and/or provides counsel to Institute of Museum Services, National Endowment for the Humanities, Division of Cultural Affairs State of Florida, West Virginia Department of Cultural and History, Sheila Ryan Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation, Farago Foundation, ISTEA Funding-Department of Transportation, Kresge Foundation and others

Second Vice Chair - Naomi Wright

Naomi Wright is Principal of The Lady Speaks a firm specializing in management assistance, networking and personal development.  She was the Public Relations Director for Pro Player Stadium and also served over 15th years with Jefferson-Pilot Communications Company. Mrs. Wright-Warren also served as the director of public affairs for radio stations 101.5 LITE FM, Magic 102.7 FM and WAXY AM-790. Hailing from the City of Brotherly Love – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Naomi brings the principles of that brotherly love to her efforts here in South Florida. She serves on several boards, committees and youth projects. Among those are: Miami Dade Citizens Transportation Task Force Nominating Committee, Citizens Crime Watch, Youth Crime Watch, North Dade Regional Chamber of Commerce, Vision to Victory Human Services, Rotary Club of North Dade, and Victim Services Center. Naomi coordinated the KAPOW program – Kids and the Power of Work. She has been a mentor, and was the spokesperson for a television series with the Dade County Alliance Against Domestic Violence. She was an active member of the National Broadcast Association for Community Affairs. Naomi recently served three years as president of the Florida Association of Nonprofit Organizations, Inc. and now serves as vice chairman.

Secretary - Alyce Zahniser

Alyce Zahniser started her career 25 years ago as the Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity director for the Miami-Dade County Transit Administration.

“That was the beginning of my construction and civil rights and procurement – and working with minorities and women,” she said. The county was looking for someone to write an Affirmative Action plan for the project.
“I didn’t know anything about civil rights as a profession,” she said. “I had 10 months to have a plan accepted by the federal government, or they threatened to shut down this billion-dollar metro rail.

“I got very immersed into civil rights because it was not only external with the contracts but internal for employees,” Zahniser continued. “That’s how it got started.”

Meeting quotas set for women in construction wasn’t easy then, she said. “There was a very large disparity with women. I looked all over Florida to increase women engineers on the project, and I had to go to Texas to find a woman engineer to work on the project with us.
“It was a tremendous amount of pressure for me, too,” Zahniser said. “I didn’t have a legal background or a civil rights background at the time. I had a paratransit, more technical/financial background. But I learned real quick.”

Zahniser’s work to help women and minorities in the industry didn’t stop there.

After work on Miami and Atlanta’s transportation systems, she moved on to the Tri-County Rail Authority of Pompano Beach and the city of Fort Lauderdale as minority business coordinator/EEO officer. Since 2002, she has been director of diversity development at James A. Cummings Inc. There, she has overseen compliance on more than $300 million in projects and coordinated diversity outreach.

For Zahniser, seeing the success and growth of women and minorities in the industry is important. “I love being a facilitator or trainer conducting workshops helping people grow into their success,” she said. Part of facilitating that success involves breaking down stereotypes about work in the construction business.

“In construction, people think it’s just hard hats and steel-toed shoes,” she said. But there’s more – there’s real estate, supplies and services, to name a few. “It’s multifaceted. Many people, especially women, don’t see it as an opportunity for them to be in construction,” Zahniser said. “So, I love being able to change their view and help them or help the industry bring more women into the profession.”

Now, Zahniser is starting to look beyond the region. “I see myself doing more work on a global level,” she said. “Reaching out to more companies through organizations or through board memberships.”
Zahniser said she plans to work with more organizations to reach more people – and to continue informing people on how they can form a business plan, properly run a business and, ultimately, find success. She’s already doing some of this work through the Kellogg Foundation as a certified business facilitator.

“Florida is one of the leading states in failure of small business,” she explained. “So, it’s very important when someone is in business to know how to be successful.”

She also plans to increase her involvement in mentor/protege programs – not surprising for a woman who has helped more than 100 others earn Women in Business Enterprise certification.

And Zahniser – a former chapter president of the National Association of Women in Construction, chair of the Broward Alliance minority/women committee and founding member of Womens Council of Commerce – said this sort of support is what is most needed.

“I’d say that the support system for women, by and with other women, is not always there. I think that women are sometimes their own worst enemies, instead of helping or lending a hand to other women in their careers,” she said.

“I think that’s really a shame and sad that even to this day, women are not able to see that we need to help each other.”

Immediate Past Chairman - Dr. Barry N. Burak, Affiliated Healthcare Centers in Florida

Barry Burak is a Chiropractor and Principal of Affiliated Healthcare Centers in Florida.  The Medical Practice specialized in Chiropractic care, Acupuncture, Massage, TMJ Dentistry, and Oriental Medicine.  He is a well know philanthropist and a community activist.  He is active with many nonprofits in the South Florida Area and has generously raised funds for very important causes.  In 2003 he hosted a progressive dinner at his residence as part of the annual nonprofit conference.  Dr. Burak has served on the FANO board since 2002.

Director - Irene Dupont

Irene Dupont is vice presidenet and branch manager at FirstBank Florida. She attended the State University of New York Empire State College and is very involved in her community.

General Counsel - MICHAEL KOSNITZKY, Boies, Schiller and Flexner, LLP

Michael Kosnitzky is partner in charge of Boies, Schiller & Flexner’s Tax and Middle Market Practice Group resident in the firm’s New York City and Miami offices. He is listed in the publication the Best Lawyers in America in Tax Law, in Chambers USA as a leader in the field of Tax Law and in the Florida and New York-Metro editions of Super Lawyers in Tax.

Mr. Kosnitzky is the immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association’s National Conference of Lawyers and CPAs. He is a member of the American Association of Attorney Certified Public Accountants, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Wall Street Tax Association. He is a certified public accountant in Florida (retired) and New York. Mr. Kosnitzky is a member of the national organization of tax lawyers known as The Group. He has an established practice as an arbitrator of business related disputes and is a member of the Panel of Arbitrators of the American Arbitration Association and a Dispute Resolver for the American Health Lawyers Association. He serves on the American Arbitration Association Healthcare Dispute Resolution Advisory Council.

Mr. Kosnitzky has authored numerous articles which have been published in national and local tax journals in the areas of tax straddles, the use of blocker corporations, hedge fund tax filing obligations, United States real estate investments by Russian residents, mergers and acquisitions, charitable donations of publicly traded and privately held stock, succession planning for family owned businesses, tax-exempt organizations, research and development credits, buying and selling corporate businesses, antenuptial agreements in Florida and consolidated tax returns. He has been a member of the Adjunct Tax Faculty at the University of Miami School of Law Graduate Tax Program and Mr. Kosnitzky also teaches International Taxation as an Adjunct Faculty member at Pericles Law School in Moscow. He is a frequent lecturer for the University of Miami, the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and numerous other organizations, and is a monthly contributor to WORTH magazine.  Mr. Kosnitzky is the co-author of two well-regarded tax treatises in the areas of S Corporations and Consolidated Tax Returns.

Mr. Kosnitzky is the former Chairman of both the University of Miami Jackson Memorial Hospital/Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County, Florida and the Miami Parking System (a/k/a the Miami Parking Authority). He is a former member of the board of the Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center. Mr. Kosnitzky is an active member of the Metro New York City Chapter of YPO, Young Presidents’ Organization, and was formerly a member of both the Florida and Gateway Chapters of YPO, and is pro bono general counsel to the Florida Association of Nonprofits. Mr. Kosnitzky is a Founder and former Next Generation President of the Miami Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged and is currently the Chairman of the Veterans Traumatic Brain Injury Center (VTBIC). Mr. Kosnitzky is also a current member of the New York Attorney General’s Leadership Committee for Nonprofit Revitalization and a member of the Friars Club.

Formerly, Mr. Kosnitzky served as an Executive Committee member of the City of Miami Downtown Development Authority (1987-1990); board member of the City of Miami Beach Transportation and Parking Committee (1994-1996); co-chairperson of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce Parking and Transportation Committee (1994-1996); co-chairperson of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Retention Committee (1994-1997); board member of the Beacon Council (1996-1999); President and board member of the Epilepsy Foundation of South Florida (1995-2002); trustee of Temple Israel of Greater Miami (1991-1996); board member of the Miami Beach Jewish Community Center (1994-1996); board member of the Italian Film Festival (1995); board member of the Health Facilities Authority of the City of Miami Beach (2000-2003); and as pro bono general counsel to the City of Miami Centennial Committee (1994-1996).

Mr. Kosnitzky is a prior recipient of the Nancy Hughes Award given to the Miami community leader and policy maker of the year during Miami-Dade Days in Tallahassee; recipient of the Lawton Chiles Humanitarian Award from the Florida Association of Nonprofits; recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Epilepsy Foundation of South Florida and an inductee to the Miami Dade College Hall of Fame. He also has received the South Florida Magazine/Price Waterhouse Up and Comers Award and a Leadership Award from the Association of African-American Clergy and Professionals. He is the recipient of an Outstanding Committee Award from the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and Distinguished Service Awards from the Greater Biscayne Boulevard Chamber of Commerce and City of Miami. He is a four time recipient of the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants Outstanding Lecturer Award. Mr. Kosnitzky has previously been listed in Leading Florida Attorneys in Mergers and Acquisitions.

Financial Advisor / Treasurer - MICHAEL J. ROBBINS, Robbins and Landino, PA

Mike Robbins is a partner of the Fort Lauderdale accounting firm, Robbins and Landino, P.A. He specializes in accounting procedures, audits, budgets, grant reporting and special projects for nonprofit organizations. Clients include: Baxter Group Homes, Miami City Ballet and the Museum of Science and Discovery. Mr. Robbins is a Past Chairman of the Florida Association of Nonprofits (FANO) and he also served as Treasurer.


Marina Pavlov is the President CEO of the Florida Association of Nonprofits, Inc. (FANO), a statewide resource center for Florida’s 45,000 nonprofit organizations. She helped with the organizing efforts in 1990 and 1991. Under her direction Florida Nonprofits has published a newsletter, now in electronic form, called “WZ New” for over 15 years, conducts the Florida Certificate in Nonprofit Management in association with Nova Southeastern University and CEU credits from Broward College (since 1995), convened annual Florida Nonprofit Conferences throughout the State for 21 years,  and helps influence legislation that benefits all nonprofits in Florida. Current conferences are held in conjenction with the Florida Association of Museums. Florida Nonprofits’ financial training was originally funded by the John S. and James L Knight Foundation and became a national model. Ms. Pavlov received her BFA degree in sculpture from Florida Atlantic University and a MS degree in Education from Florida International University.  She also attended Rutgers University, University of Miami and University of Virginia for both graduate and undergraduate studies. Prior to FANO, Marina was Executive Director of a 1000-member artist organization, with programs including gallery, art school and art festivals. Marina specializes in organizational development.  Under her leadership she has successfully advocated for an overall change in Florida nonprofit sales tax exemption.  Federally she coordinated activities on the Charitable Giving Tax Exemption, the CARE Act, and the Istook Amendment. Over the years, Marina has done extensive fundraising, including capital campaign, direct mail, membership drives, auctions and many special events.  She can be contacted at the FANO office 305.557.1764, for more on FANO go to

Advisory Committee

Past Chairman - Rep. John Cosgrove, Esq. (deceased)

John F. Cosgrove is a Florida native with ancestral roots that reach back to the very founding of the city of Miami in 1896.  His great uncle, Daniel Cosgrove, was elected in the first election in Dade County as a City of Miami Alderman.  He received the highest number of votes in that election 343, countywide.  His mother Vivian was the first woman officer of the Florida Democratic Party, serving as State Vice Chairman in 1956. His godfather is Stephen C. O’Connell, former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice and President Emeritus of the University of Florida.  Public service and politics are in his bloodline!

John F. Cosgrove served with distinction in Florida House of Representatives for 17 years.  He held a number of leadership positions including Democratic Leader Pro Tempore.  Democratic Leader of the Economic Impact Counsel handling all the legislation for insurance, business, finance, transportation and international trade issues.  He previously as served as the Majority Whip and Chairman of the Court Systems, Probate and Consumer Law Sub-Committee of Judiciary.

Probably his most important legislative service to the people of Florida was a Chairman of the Insurance Committee for the four years after Hurricane Andrew.  During this time, Cosgrove was recognized nationally and internationally as an expert on property/homeowner insurance issues.  He has also been a very strong leader on health insurance, legislation particularly children’s health insurance.

Cosgrove served as Chairman of the Commerce and Communications Committee of the National Conference of State Legislators, Chairman of the Property Insurance Committee and Chair of the Executive Committee of the National Conference of Insurance Legislatures.  He is on the Executive Committee of the Reforming States Group, an activist organization of state Legislative and Executive branch leaders who interact with federal officials on state health insurance issues.

He is married to Bernie and has three children:  Michael, a law enforcement officer, Tiffany, a student at the University of Florida, and Colleen, a student at Florida State University.

Bob Gilbertson, YMCA


Ted Granger, United Way of Florida

Ted Granger received his Bachelor of Science degree from Florida State University in 1978, and later received his Juris Doctor degree from the same esteemed institution.  After “hanging his shingle” and engaging in general civil and criminal trial litigation for three years, he was hired by the Florida Senate as a legislative analyst with the Commerce Committee.

In 1986, he joined the Florida Chamber of Commerce as the Vice President of Government Relations and, after four years, left to become President of the United Way of Florida.  The United Way of Florida is a statewide association representing Florida’s 32 United Ways on Florida legislative and administrative issues and implementation of developmental programs for local United Way organizations.

Among others, Ted is Chair of the FEMA State Set-Aside Committee, the Healthy Families Florida Statewide Advisory Committee, and Children’s Week.  He currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Florida Afterschool Network, the Florida Association of Nonprofits, the Florida Nonprofit Alliance, and the One Goal Summer Conference on Children Committee.

He and his wife, Ellen, reside in Tallahassee and have two sons, 24-year-old Colin and 22-year-old Nathan.

Vince Lopez, AT&T


Dennis Pastrana, Goodwill Industries

Dennis Pastrana, Chief Executive Officer of Goodwill Industries of South Florida has created community jobs for over 1518 who were disabled or on welfare.  He created $22.2 million in new earnings and 6.1 million added to federal and social security taxes. Goodwill’s rehabilitation division helps people with disabilities to overcome barriers and develop skills that provide for their economic independence through programs in which they gain skills, acquire work ethics, and develop self-esteem while earning a paycheck from goodwill.  This is based on individual needs and capabilities, and assistance is given to obtain work in the community.  Welfare recipients were also helped in this manor, to become independent.  Under Dennis Pastrana’s leadership, Goodwill has grown since 1979 when he took over a President and CEO, to become one of the most cost effective charities in America as ranked by Smart Money Magazine.  The businesses they operate make them 86% self supporting.  The Miami Dade Goodwill under Mr. Pastrana boosts an incredible 8.1 times faster growth and self sufficiency rate than the entire Goodwill network.  All his ability to raise money, increase donations and expand Goodwill businesses is only to help the helpless forge a new life for themselves.   He selflessly devoted his time and energy to this cause.  Pastrana was the 2000 co-winner of the Lawton’s Heart Humanitarian Award, shared with John Sykes a Tampa industrialist and philanthropist.

Michael Sittig, Florida League of Cities

Judge Edward P. Swan, Barry University (deceased)

HON. EDWARD P. SWAN   Born in Coral Gables, Florida on March 21, 1927, Mr. Swan attended the University of Florida and graduated from the University of Miami School of Law.  Mr. Swan has been married to his wife, Jeanne, for 26 years, and lives in Coral Gables.  He is the father of six children.

Experience – Deputy Clerk, E. B. Leatherman’s Office, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Dade County, Florida, Assistant Attorney General, State of  Florida, Judge Advocate, United States Air Force, 1st Lt., Assistant County Solicitor, Dade County, Florida, Assistant State Attorney for Dade County, Florida appointed by Governor Leroy Collins; served under the late George Brautigam; Reappointed by the late Richard E. Gerstein, Grand Jury Legal Advisory for three Grand Juries, Four years Homicide and Rackets and Fraud Division – State Attorney’s Office, Former United States Commissioner for the Southern District of Florida and practiced law in Coral Gables, Florida.

Also – Past President Miami Junior Chamber of Commerce, Voted “Outstanding Young Man in Miami” – 1958, Awarded “One of the Five Most Outstanding Young Men in the State of Florida” – 1959, Member of the American Bar & Florida Bar Associations, Member of the Miami-Dade County Bar Association and former Board of Directors of Miami-Dade County Bar Association, Former Member of Board of Directors of the University of Miami Alumni Association, Past President of Miami Mid-Town Kiwanis Club, Member of the Board of Trustees, Barry University, Former President of the Board of Directors, Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers, Member of the Board of Directors, Florida Association of Nonprofit Organization, Past President, Ben Sheppard Foundation, a Non-Profit Florida Corporation, Member & Past President of Miami Shores Country  Club Foundation, Riviera Country Club, Golf & Social Membership, Member of Committee of 200 of Miami-Dade County, and Member of Beach Colony Club.

Michael Robbins, Robbins and Landino, PA

Mike Robbins is a partner of the Fort Lauderdale accounting firm, Robbins and Landino, P.A.; He specializes in accounting procedures, audits, budgets, grant reporting and special projects for nonprofit organizations. Clients include: Baxter Group Homes, Miami City Ballet and the Museum of Science and Discovery. Mr. Robbins is a Past Chairman of the Florida Association of Nonprofits (FANO) and he also served as Treasurer.

Founder - Russ H. Marchner, FANO Secretary and Chair Emeritus (deceased)

Russ Marchner is retired and the principal of Local Government, Inc., is a public relations firm, which specializes in organization administration and lobbying.

In addition to regular consulting services and publicity operation, LGI represents clients in various capacities on local, state and national levels. Its principles are registered lobbyists with the Florida Senate, House and Cabinet in Tallahassee, and has represented clients on a regular basis before various state officials and agencies. Mr. Marchner as been a lobbyist registered with Metropolitan Dade County, City of Miami and City of Hialeah.

Mr. Marchner is Executive Director Emeritus of the Miami-Dade County League of Cities, Inc. In addition to cities, the League includes representatives from the Miami-Dade County School Board and Metropolitan Dade County in its membership. He is also associated with the Florida League of Cities, Inc and is the founder of the Gold Coast League of Cities, which includes Leagues of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

He is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Florida Association of Nonprofit Organizations which enhances the operations and administration of Florida’s more than 42,000 nonprofit organizations.

Prior to establishing his own Public Relations Firm he served as a general assignment and suburban reporter for the Miami Herald. He also worked for the Wall Street Journal, Plainfield Courier News, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Russ Marchner received a Masters Degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, New York, and a Bachelors Degree from John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. He served in the 902 detachment of the Counter Intelligence Corps, United States Army.

He is Past Chairman of both Keep Dade Beautiful, and the YMCA. He is active in various committees of the Florida League of Cities & National League of Cities, civic groups, church and youth activities.

It is with a heavy heart that we announce the death of our Founder Russ Marchner

Press Release on the Death of Founds Russ Marchner


October 10, 2011                                                     Contact: Marina Pavlov 954.540.6118

Re: Born in the Great Depression on 3/8/1930 Russ Marchner Executive Director Emeritus of the Miami Dade County League of Cities dies in the Great Recession on 9/25/2011.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Fort Lauderdale: Russell Hugh John Marchner, M.A. award winning statesman, Miami Herald investigative reporter, executive director emeritus Miami-Dade County League of Cities, and founder of Florida Association of Nonprofit Organizations, died at the age of 81 on September 25, 2011 with his wife, Marina Pavlov, at his side.

Born with a Gift:  In the middle of the Great Depression, Russell Hugh John Marchner (Russ) was born, Saturday, March 8, 1930, to George John and Lucy Juliana Memmel Marchner in Irondequoit, NY, a suburb of Rochester.  Always precocious, Russ learned the value of music, sports and school at an early age.  As a musician he was appointed as Marching Band Major, First trumpet in the High School Band, Lead in the regional traveling minstrel show trio and a member of the University Band.  As a baseball player and avid fan, Major League scores were a daily staple for 70 plus years starting at age 4 when his Uncle Rudy taught him to play.  Even on the last days of his life he enjoyed watching the Marlins and the Cardinals on a big screen TV. Russ led his high school and was elected class vice president and edited the school newspaper.  He was educated by the Jesuits at John Carroll University, Cleveland, Ohio, where he also managed football ticket sales; at the same time student Don Shula, future NFL Hall of Fame coach, was a defensive back.  In 1955 Russ earned a masters degree from New York’s Columbia University School of Journalism, preparing him for his dream career as a sports reporter; instead however, he played “tackle football” with local politicians.  His newspaper stories integrated the beaches of Florida, jailed a crooked sheriff and “suspect” State Attorney and shook up accounting procedures at City Hall.  In Russ’s own words, “I must have done a good job because I was sued twice for libel and beat both of them.”

War and Justice: The Korean War set the stage for Russ’s journalism career.   After basic training, he served in the Army’s prestigious CIC (Counter Intelligence Corps processor of the CIA) in a top security post performing special duties and espionage-type assignments.  That training served him well as a reporter Russ managed to be “in the middle of all the action” at the: Wall Street Journal, Plainfield (NJ) Courier News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Palm Beach County bureau and later city desk of the Miami Herald  While in the 2 person bureau of Palm Beach County, also dubbed by many as “the Wild West of the South”, Russ was “center stage” in the courtroom of Florida Judge Curtis Chillingworth, on the day the judge failed to show up. As a rooky reporter Russ was on the scene covering this nationally publicized manhunt starting from the Judge’s Manalapan home, where it was first discovered that Judge and his wife Marjorie were dragged into the sea. The bodies were never found but four-years later three culprits including Judge Peal were sent to prison.

Then at a time when segregation was still the norm at most beaches, Russ wrote a story and quoted a County Commissioner announcing the Palm Beach beaches were “NOT segregated”. Russ was center stage again for the “black versus white standoff” on the beach the next day.  It was during this time that Russ began a lifelong friendship with fellow activist and young civil rights attorney Claude Pepper, who later became Senator and US Representative.

Finally, while covering the city beat in North Miami Beach, Russ wrote a series of investigative reports which resulted in jail time for the local solicitor and earned Russ a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize nomination; supported city editor Al Neuharth founder USA Today and managing editor George H. Beebe who hired Russ when he knocked on his private Waldorf Astoria Hotel room and brazenly applied for a job.

Power of the Pen: Russ’s articles often hit the AP wire.  After one of those incidences on “fixing tickets”, the city of Hialeah realized it was better to be on Marchner’s team than the alternative.  Russ agreed and accepted the newly-created position of Public Relations Director of Hialeah under the Leadership of Mayor Henry Millender which lasted 21 years.  Russ was a master at creating publicity, giving Hialeah national and international prominence which helped make Hialeah one of the fastest growing communities in the nation. To that end, he helped position the city’s interest in Hialeah Race Track and appeared in Guinness Book of World Records for organizing the largest Hula Hoop contest in 1973.

For the next 50 plus years Russ specialized in public relations.  He founded Russ Marchner & Associates, and became a registered state and local lobbyist, testifying regularly before the Senate, House and Cabinet in Tallahassee, Metropolitan Dade County and Broward County.  Clients were: Miami Springs, Opa-Locka, Key Biscayne, Miami, Port of Miami, Municipal Code Corporation, International Longshoremen’s Association, Avis Car Rental, Industrial Association of Dade County (IADC – Executive Secretary); National Association of Industrial Office Parks (NAIOP – Government Relations Director), and Real Estate Action Committee of Dade (REACD – Founder).

His main client was the Miami-Dade County League of Cities.  During his tenure of 41 years as Executive Director of the League, Russ stopped the County from incorporating all existing cities into a single metropolitan government.  He became the voice to retain the rights of cities and fought off challenges year after year by the County and the State protecting the citizens living in municipalities. Under his direction he raised $1 million in startup funds for both Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers and the Homeless Trust through the League membership. In 2005, he was honored by resolution with the perpetual status of “Executive Director Emeritus” of the Miami-Dade County League of Cities allowing his legacy to continue serving the “greater good”.

Legacy of the Heart: Underlying all of Russ’s success was his generosity, good will and sense of community.  As a young humanitarian Russ worked with his like-minded father in the apple-drying business to feed the hungry in Germany during the European depression.

He organized and founded: Gold Coast League of Cities, Municipal Tourism Crime Task Force, Local Government Hurricane Andrew Emergency Response, Earthquake Relieve in Managua, and the Florida Association of Nonprofit Organizations (FANO now serves 54,000 nonprofits in Florida).  Under his leadership and grassroots lobbying a joint resolution of the 1991 Nonprofit Bill of Rights and 2001’s restructured qualification of Nonprofit Sales Tax Exemption was achieved.  He also serve as Chairman of both Keep Dade Beautiful and the Hialeah YMCA

To honor his public service contributions he was awarded: National League of Cities Don Stutz Municipal Government Employee of the Year Award, Art Guild Volunteer of the Year Award, Bill Held Tribute for Government Service, Florida League of Cities Resolution Recognition of Service, 911 Starter Award for founding the widely used emergency system, DOT Appreciation for I-95 Completion, Census 2010 Appreciation, North Miami appreciation for legislation mandating equitable treatment of Haitian immigrants, and Generous Contributions to Summit of the Americas from President Bill Clinton.  Russ was also presented with the key to the Cities of North Miami, North Bay Village and Hialeah.

In 2004, The Russ Marchner Outstanding Municipal Official Service Award was created. Subsequently, the Russ Marchner Award has been presented to seven honorees whose work carries on his legacy. Russ had a personal relationship with eight Florida Governors and thousands of local government officials which established his reputation as the father of local government in Miami-Dade County.

Memorial: In keeping with his love of life and his ever-present sense of humor, a New Orleans-style memorial service to celebrate the life of Russ Marchner will be held ar 2pm on Sunday, October 23, 2011 at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables, 33134.  Please call 954.522.0477 for more information. In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to the Russ Marchner Education Foundation.

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