Leadership spotlight – George Neary

Leadership spotlight - George Neary


George Neary comes to us from Hartford, Connecticut where his interests in history and preservation originated. He chose Miami Beach as home after being introduced to the Tropics when he was a former Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines from 1973-75. He taught high school history and international studies while enjoying the tropical climate. His next venture would be marked by a stark contrast in weather while working in New York for 20 years.

In New York, he worked for AFS International/Intercultural Programs whose mission was to foster world peace by sending American students and teachers to 70 countries all around the world and hosting International students in the United States. He then worked as Director of US Marketing and Sales, leading a staff of 30 and creating TV commercials valued in the millions of dollars with the support of celebrity spokesperson, Clarence Clemons!

George moved to Miami Beach to manage Flamingo Terrace Enterprises with Linda Borst Kolko, a dear friend from his days in the Peace Corps, and Bill Kirk and they formed a business triumvirate to oversee the re-introduction of this L Murray Dixon masterpiece. He began to volunteer and became a trained docent at the Bass Museum and a volunteer at the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL). The first person he met was the then Executive Director, Nancy Liebman who became his mentor and friend to this day.

His first big project was Art Deco Weekend 1992 working with Dennis Whilhelm and the Presidents of Art Deco Societies around the World that were visiting Miami Beach. That’s where the very seed of tourism began!

Nancy Liebman resigned from her position at MDPL in 1992 to run for Commission. With his dedication and volunteer time, George was a natural fit to run the organization. He was appointed as the new Executive Director by Bernard Zyscovich, the chair for the organization at the time.

Working closely with Betty Gutierrez, who was the Chair, and the support of an active board, they were able to successfully designate the now world famous Historic Art Deco District. The move would protect the famed one mile square district from immediate demolition, making it a part of city government. This would ensure that founder Barbara Baer Capitman’s dream would finally be realized.

There would be other successes working with Michael Kinerk and Matti Bower, long time chairs overseeing 8 Art Deco Weekends and creating more historic districts for Miami Beach. Due to the combined hard work of George and the MDPL Board and the world success of Art Deco weekend, Miami Beach became a worldwide phenomenon and the number 1 tourist destination.

In 1998 the Greater Miami Convention & Visitor’s Bureau hired George to oversee their heritage and cultural tourism efforts. During his tenure at the Bureau, he was awarded the Employee of the Year. The Bureau created the award winning Heritage guide- a 134-page booklet that showcases Miami as the amazing destination it has become. Additionally, he became one of the Board members of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the signature preservation organization in the United States with more than 250,000 members. He was invited to become a member of the boards of the Dade Heritage Trust and The Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. He was awarded the Henrietta Harris award –The Dade Heritage Trust’s highest award-for his efforts in historic preservation. He has been the Chair of the advisory board of the Design and Architecture Senior High School (DASH) for 5 years and a mentor for 10 more.

His also oversees the Bureau’s gay & lesbian marketing efforts to promote Miami as the premier LGBT destination. He has traveled throughout the United States internationally showcasing Miami/Miami Beach. He was part of the delegation to Antwerp, Belgium that secured the OutGames, bringing this high profile event to our community. He works at LGBT trade shows to highlight Greater Miami, using the Bureau’s distinctive diversity guide and the Columbia Fun Map. George serves on the Board of the Miami Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and The Gay Pride Committee (who plan the largest LGBT event in Miami- Dade, attracting more than 80,000 attendees this past year.) He was a founding Board member of Miami Beach’s Mayor Matti Bower’s LGBT business committee for 2 years.

He was awarded the President’s award from the Miami Dade Gay Chamber, the organization’s highest award. He has also been a member of the Miami Beach Chamber since 1993, first with the Preservation League and now The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. He has worked with the Miami Beach Chamber on career shadowing for many years, helped developed The Museum Mile, a Chamber/Bureau cultural program involving Miami Beach’s 5 museums; and holds the very first Miami Beach Chamber INcard ever issued.

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