Lesser becomes Florida Bar president-elect
Former Bar President Bill Schifino had some fun introducing new Bar President-elect Gary Lesser at the Bar’s June 11 General Assembly during the Annual Convention, noting Lesser is a huge Homer Simpson fan.
Not only does he have a life-size color cardboard cut out of the cartoon character in his office, he also has a picture that will, upon the wave of a hand, spout some of Homer’s more famous sayings. Which include, “Stupidity got us into this mess, and stupidity will get us out,” “Trying is the first step to failure,” and “Operator! Get me the number for 911!”
But if you want to know the words Lesser lives by, Schifino said, check with his family and friends.
“Gary is a third generation lawyer and his grandfather passed on a code to live by to Gary: Every person is born a debtor, indebted to their family, their community, their church or synagogue, and they are indebted to this country, and no one should die leaving that debt unpaid,” Schifino said. “That’s a code Gary has stood by his entire life.”
To show how Lesser has met that goal, he quoted his three daughters and wife.
Daughter Lillian noted that her father has been a great attorney, father, husband, friend, and colleague. “But he never forgets about what it means to be kind,” Schifino said, quoting her. “Most people forget about being kind once they are successful, but not my dad. He has always been an advocate for the less fortunate. He is one of the most genuinely caring and charitable people that I have ever known.”
From daughter Josie: “My dad will do a great job because of his compassion for others. I’m certain he will approach the mindset of what he can do to help the most people and be an advocate for the little guy.”
From daughter Rebecca: “One trait that I admire about my dad is his heart of gold. My dad is the kindest, most selfless person that I know. I grew up learning the importance of kindness and charity and the importance of bringing happiness to other people’s lives.”
And from wife Jennifer: “I’m so proud of his true desire to help people. When he first practiced, his first true love was representing the homeless. We would forever talk about the different people that Gary was trying to help.”
Doing extra has always been part of Lesser’s life, Schifino said. While getting his undergraduate degree from George Washington University, he was president of the student Senate and editor in chief of a monthly university political commentary journal.
While at law school at the University of Miami, he was editor in chief of the school’s newspaper with a reputation for pushing staff to meet deadlines. One of his classmates and opinions editor for the paper was former Senate President Bill Galvano who returned to his room one day to find a spate of phone messages from Lesser about an approaching deadline.
Lesser has been a community activist with involvement in a variety of civic organizations, Schifino said, with a particular interest in the Palm Beach Economic Council, the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach, and the Homeless Coalition.
“He’s not afraid to make the right decision, to support the right cause or person, even knowing it may not be the popular decision, and it actually may cost him some political capital,” Schifino said.
A three-term chair of the Board of Governors Legislation Committee, Lesser used his contacts and abilities to successfully lobby then Senate President Joe Negron to appoint a Board of Governors member to the Constitution Revision Commission in 2017. Negron’s choice was then Bar President Schifino.
“You are all going to find that Gary is a consensus builder,” Schifino said. “At the Supreme Court, you will find he will work very well with you, I assure you. And when…he’s president, he will work well with our executive and legislative branches.
“One of Gary’s good friends, my law partner Brian Seymour, had this to say: ‘So much about Gary will make him a great Bar leader but the most important thing is his ability to hear and care about perspectives not his own, to craft policy and provide direction that will benefit the entire Bar.’”
Schifino concluded: “Professionalism starts at the top, and there is no one who will set a better example than you and [new Bar President] Mike Tanner. You’re honorable, trustworthy, and of impeccable character as we have all seen first-hand throughout your entire career. Without question, the future of our Florida Bar is in very good hands with you and Mike Tanner.”