2017 Florida Realtors President Maria Wells presents Matey Veissi with her award as the 2017 Realtor of the Year during the awards luncheon at the recent convention and trade expo.
Matey Veissi recognized as 2017 Realtor of the Year
ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 28, 2017 – Florida Realtors® recognized Matey H. Veissi, 2016 Florida Realtors president, as its 2017 Realtor of the Year. The award – one of several – was presented Thursday during the state association’s annual Convention & Trade Expo at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Fla.
“Thank you very much, this is an amazing honor – I’ve always been so proud and privileged to be in this profession,” Veissi said. “And this makes me even more proud, because this is a very prestigious honor. As I’ve seen so many of you in this room receive this award, I never would have imagined I’d be here. So thank you very much, and thank you to my local association because they made it all possible.”
Florida Realtors has presented Realtor of the Year and Associate Realtor of the Year awards for more than 60 years. Winners are honored as the greatest individual lifetime contributors to their local Realtor board, community, state association and the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Over a career that spans nearly 40 years, Veissi has donated her time and expertise to enhance the Realtor brand, promote the profession and advance the real estate industry. As a leader in regional, state and national real estate organizations, Veissi has chaired virtually every committee for the Miami Association of Realtors®, her local association, and was named its Realtor of the Year in 1996.
She was the creator and a charter member of the association’s International Council, a founding member of its Honor Society and launched its award-winning Miami International Real Estate Congress. In 2005, Veissi received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Miami association.
At the state level, not only has Veissi served as a Florida Realtors director and District 4 vice president, but she has also served in every officer position, including as president during the state association’s 100th anniversary in 2016.
A strong advocate for the Realtor brand, Veissi served two years on the Florida Real Estate Commission, including a stint as the FREC chair in 2003. She remains committed to elevating professional standards in the real estate industry. She also has served as chair of the National Association of Realtors® Global Business and Alliances Committee, and was NAR’s presidential liaison to the real estate associations of Jamaica and The Bahamas.
Veissi is an associate professor at Florida International University’s College of Finance and a member of FIU’s Real Estate Institute Advisory Board and Women’s Mentoring Program. She is a member of the Women’s Council of Realtors® (WCR) and the Master Brokers Forum. In the community, Veissi has volunteered for Camillus House for the Homeless, Habitat for Humanity, youth athletics, the YMCA and March of Dimes.
Associate Realtor of the Year
Florida Realtors honored Connie M. Johnson of Greater Tampa Realtors as Associate Realtor of the Year. She has been an active participant with her local board since joining in 1988. Her local committee history of service began in the early 1990s, eventually leading her to serve as president of her association.
For her continued dedication and service to Greater Tampa Realtors, she received the Edward T. Starr Award for outstanding leadership and committee accomplishments, was named its 2003 Realtor of the Year and won the Meritorious Award in 2004. And, for her outstanding service to the community, the association named her as the 2009 winner of the C. Ed Owings Award.
At the state level, Johnson’s involvement includes 26 years of service through 135 committee positions. She is the 2017 chair of the Florida Realtors Public Policy Committee and currently serves on the Nominating and Executive committees, as well as the Board of Directors. In 2008, Johnson received the RPAC (Realtors Political Action Committee) Lifetime Achievement Award.
Nationally, she was inducted into the RPAC Hall of Fame at the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Legislative Meetings and Expo in Washington, D.C. She has been a member of several NAR committees, including serving as a federal political coordinator/advisor for NAR since 2004.
Giving back to her community is one of Johnson’s guiding principles: in fact, NAR honored her dedication with a National Community Hero of the Year award in 2012. In 2010, Johnson was recognized as Florida Realtors Humanitarian of the Year for her community service. She was president for Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay (RTTB) in 2009. RTTB’s mission is to repair, preserve and revitalize houses and communities in the Tampa Bay area, assuring that low-income homeowners live in warmth, safety and independence. While partnering with the NFL during the Super Bowl in Tampa, Johnson played a key role in the project to rebuild an entire neighborhood of 22 homes in historic West Tampa.
In addition, she was the 2010 vice president of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, the chair of the Hillsborough County Animal Advisory Board and founder of Florida Big Dog Rescue. She also formed the Best Friends Program that helps troubled teens by bringing them to volunteer at the animal shelter in Tampa.
Realtor Achievement Award
Michael “Mike” Hughes, a member of the Naples Area Board of Realtors (NABOR), was named the winner of Florida Realtors 2017 Realtor Achievement Award, which recognizes a Realtor who serves as manager, broker of record or officer in his or her company. The award acknowledges the winner’s previous three years’ contributions to the community, local, state and national Realtor associations.
Hughes has served and chaired numerous committees for his local board over the years; in 2015, he served as NABOR president. That year also marked his ninth consecutive year on NABOR’s board of directors. He has served on the local Media Relations Committee since its inception and is frequently interviewed by local media as a voice for the Realtor community. He was named his local Realtor of the Year in 2016, and currently serves on NABOR’s Budget and Finance Committee.
At the state level, Hughes has served or chaired many Florida Realtors committees, including the Broker/Manager Forum, Top Broker, Audit, Executive and the Risk Management committees. He is currently on the Public Policy Committee and serves on Florida Realtors’ Board of Directors, a position he’s held for 11 years. He also is the 2017 District 5 vice president for Florida Realtors and continues to serve as a trustee for the Florida Realtor Disaster Relief Fund.
Hughes was a National Association of Realtors’ director for 2014 and 2015 and served on NAR’s State and Local Issues Committee from 2014-2016.
In the community, he frequently coaches Girls Varsity volleyball for St. Elizabeth Seton School. He served as head coach in 2015 and 2016. And recently, Collier County experienced several devastating brush fires. When Hughes learned that six families lost their homes in the blaze, he helped spearhead an effort through NABOR that raised $15,000 for the victims.
Commercial Realtor Achievement Award
The Commercial Realtor Achievement Award honors a Realtor’s lifetime of contributions to commercial activities at the local, state, national and community levels. Jose Maria Serrano, a member of the Miami Association of Realtors, received the 2017 Commercial Realtor Achievement Award.
A CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member), he is the 2017 president of the Realtors Commercial Alliance of his local association. Serrano also serves as vice president of his local CCIM chapter.
In addition to his commercial real estate activities at the local level, Serrano has served on some 33 committees for Florida Realtors. He is a Florida Realtors-accredited instructor and teaches regularly at the local and state level.
Serrano also is active with the National Association of Realtors, currently as a member of its Global Business and Alliance Committee. He helped launch the NAR Pilot Grant Program, designed to actively give back to and enhance local communities.
Serrano earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Florida International University and remains involved with the university’s alumni association. He teaches as an adjunct professor at Miami-Dade College and is active with his local church, often leading retreats.
Humanitarian of the Year
Proving that Realtors make a difference, Anthony “Tony” Canizares, a member of Greater Tampa Realtors, was named the 2017 Humanitarian of the Year by Florida Realtors. Why? He saved the life of his friend Gary Lopez.
Canizares first met Lopez when they both attended the University of South Florida; Lopez belonged to the same fraternity as Canizares’s brother. Over the years, they celebrated birthdays, enjoyed vacations, did business together and supported each other through hard times.
Diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in 2001, Lopez managed the disease for years. However, by the fall of 2014, he was suffering kidney failure and in dire need of a new kidney. Canizares didn’t hesitate and offered to donate one of his own kidneys to save his friend’s life, without even knowing if he would be a match.
Miraculously, Canizares turned out to be a perfect match for Lopez – he was the right blood type, right age, height, weight and even the right kidney size match. It took a lot of testing, time and determination to get to a successful transplant, but the surgery was completed in July 2015.
With so much time spent away from his real estate office both before the surgery and afterwards in recovery, Canizares did experience serious physical, financial and emotional setbacks. However, he and Lopez are both doing well now.
Winning Florida Realtors Newcomer Award for 2017 was Julia Montei, a member of the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee. The Newcomer Award recognizes someone who entered the Realtor profession within the past three years, and, during that time, made notable contributions to the local and state associations, as well as to his or her community.
Since she joined her local association in 2015, Montei has participated in more than 30 education classes, seminars and local tours, along with numerous Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee luncheons. She is a 2016 graduate of its Leadership Academy, a graduate of Coldwell Banker University and a member of the Sarasota chapter of WCR (Women’s Council of Realtors).
In the community, Montei volunteers with the Sarasota Humane Society, helping with its fundraising activities and adoption outreach. She is a certified volunteer administrator (CVA) and advises other nonprofit organizations on volunteer program development, recruitment, retention and recognition, data management and how to improve staff/volunteer/client relationships.
Education Volunteer of the Year
New to 2017, the Education Volunteer of the Year Award was developed through the efforts of Vicky McPhee. As a former chair of Florida Realtors Professional Development Committee several years ago, McPhee wanted to recognize members who volunteered their time and energy to advance professional development for Realtors.
Paula Angelopoulos Urbinati from the Naples Area Board of Realtors is the first winner of the Education Volunteer of the Year Award. When it comes to professional development, Urbinati offers an extensive resume of participation. She assists in new member orientation at her local board, serves as a monitor for classes, helps market education classes and has been a chair/vice chair of its Professional Development Committee. She also served on Florida Realtors Professional Development Committee and the National Association of Realtors Professional Development Committee.
Urbinati participates in homebuyer workshops in her community and speaks to the public about the value of working with a Realtor at various community events. Every month, she volunteers for the Harry Chapin Food Bank of SWFL and encourages others to donate their time packing meals for families in need. Habitat for Humanity in Collier County also benefits from Urbinati’s volunteerism, as she’s happy to “swing a hammer” or do whatever she can to help build these homes.
She’s been a guest speaker for the national CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) Council, often speaks to new Realtors and others about the benefits of investing in RPAC (Realtors Political Action Committee) … and is an irrepressible ambassador for education at the local, state and national level.
Educator of the Year
This year’s winner of Florida Realtors Educator of the Year is Steven David, a member of the Realtors of the Palm Beaches and Greater Fort Lauderdale. David has spent more than 40 years as a Realtor – and during much of that time, he’s also been a popular and productive instructor.
He has served on numerous committees for both his local association and Florida Realtors, and graduated from both organization’s Leadership Academies. In fact, he served as the chairman of the very first Florida Realtors Leadership Academy.
Not only has David taught a variety of classes at the local and state level, he also has been an instructor for the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) and served as a NAR speaker. He has developed tax, risk management and leadership programs for other states – including Tennessee, Wisconsin, Virginia and North Carolina – and for low-income housing agencies. David recently taught close to 20 classes at several local associations, including contracts, negotiating skills, tax, investments, business planning, goal setting and more.
He puts his skills as an educator to work in the community. David often participates in community events sponsored by his local Realtor association, teaching area residents about responsible homeownership and how to become a homeowner. And he helps to provide counseling and housing placement for homeless families and individuals through the nonprofit, The Broward Partnership, which is committed to reducing homelessness by promoting independence and self-worth through advocacy, housing and comprehensive services.
Florida Realtor magazine awards
Florida Realtor Magazine Best Article: Gia Arvin, Gainesville Alachua County Association of Realtors, for the article, “Build It and Referrals Will Come,” May 2017
Florida Realtor Magazine Editorial Excellence: Andre Brown, Miami Association of Realtors, for the article “Power Up Your Professional Network,” November/December 2016