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Florida Realtors Honors Barry Grooms: 2021 Realtor of the Year

ORLANDO, Fla. – Aug. 26, 2021 – Florida Realtors® recognized Barry Grooms, 2020 Florida Realtors president, as its 2021 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.

“Wow, what a year, guys – and let’s set the record straight, it (2020) wasn’t a bad year,” Grooms told the audience of about 425 people on accepting his award. “It was a different year and challenging at times. But, when my leadership team picked our theme for last year, ‘Better, Faster, Stronger,’ who knew that by April, during a pandemic, we would have crushed our goals. And that’s all because of you – you took safety practices seriously and you acted with care, kindness and responsibility.”

He thanked his leadership team, his wife Sherry, his family, his office, the Florida Realtors staff, all Realtor members and especially Florida Realtors CEO Margy Grant for working together to weather the challenges created by COVID-19.

“Thank you for choosing me as your 2020 president,” Grooms said. “It truly was an honor. … One day, COVID will be over. This will pass, and life will then return somewhat to normalcy. And when that happens, I’ll be disappointed if you don’t keep something up: During COVID, you guys called each other, you checked in on each other and you took care of each other.

“Don’t stop.”

Florida Realtors has presented Realtor of the Year and Associate Realtor of the Year awards for 67 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 the course of his real estate career, Grooms has passionately worked to make a positive impact on his profession, advance the industry and help his Realtor colleagues. He is a member of the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee.

A leader in regional, state and national real estate organizations, Grooms served his local association on countless committees and as president in 2009. He was recognized as its Realtor of the Year in 2010, and most recently, was honored with its Distinguished Service Award in 2019. The Distinguished Service Award recognized his contributions to the local, state and national Realtor organizations and the community.

At the state level, Grooms has served on countless Florida Realtors committees, forums, task forces and subcommittees over the years, ranging from chairing Public Policy to Finance to the Business Trends & Technology Forum. He has been a key contact for Florida Realtors with state legislators, helping to provide information and research on issues important to all Floridians; and, he has served in every officer position, from District 13 vice president to Florida Realtors president in 2020.

During his year as president, Grooms faced unprecedented challenges caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting economic lockdowns, turmoil and concerns created by COVID-19. He realized that 2020 was going to be completely different than what he’d dreamed of, but he took on the challenge with dedication, perseverance, good humor and a can-do attitude, all with the goal of helping Realtor members manage their business and get through the pandemic safely.

His leadership and advocacy during this time helped to encourage Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare real estate “an essential service.” That declaration enabled Realtors across the state to follow COVID-19 guidelines, turn to virtual and digital technology, and use recommended practices to continue to conduct business and safely help their clients even during the pandemic.

Grooms has always felt passionately that “Realtors do so much more” and “are so much more” than most people realize. In 2020, Florida Realtors created and produced its “Celebrating the Realtor Heart” project, which culminated in a large-scale, black and white photo gallery showcasing Realtors across Florida and the positive impact they have on their communities.

On the national level, Grooms currently serves on the National Association of Realtors’ Board of Directors and the 2021 Major Investor Council. He also has served on NAR’s State and Local Issues Mobilization Support Committee, the State and Local Issues Policy Committee, Meeting and Conference Committee and the Realtor Safety Advisory Committee. A strong supporter of Realtor advocacy and public policy efforts, he is a major investor in RPAC (Realtors Political Action Committee).

He also finds time to give back to his community. Grooms volunteers for a variety of causes and community efforts, including Realize Bradenton, Boy Scouts of America, Hope Family Services, Keep Manatee Beautiful, Meals on Wheels, Children’s Miracle Network, the Anna Maria Privateers and Hurricane Irma relief. He has served as a director for the Anna Maria Chamber of Commerce and for Feeding Empty Little Tummies.

Associate Realtor of the Year

Florida Realtors honored Ann DeFries of the Broward, Palm Beaches and St. Lucie Realtors as Associate Realtor of the Year for 2021. A real estate professional for more than 30 years, DeFries has consistently advocated for homeowners’ rights, fair taxation and the protection of the real estate profession.

In 2008, a survey from The Swanepoel Trends Report named DeFries one of the 25 most influential women in real estate in 2008; that same year, she served as president of the National Women’s Council of Realtors (WCR). She has made great contributions to the local chapters of WCR in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

DeFries has served on her local association’s Board of Directors for over 15 years, and well as on numerous committees; currently, she chairs the Leadership Academy and serves on the Past Presidents Council and Strategic Advisory Group, among others. She was president of the former Realtors Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale in 2005 and recognized as its Realtor of the Year in 2006. In 2017, she was awarded the Jo M. Wright Political Involvement Award by the Broward, Palm Beaches and St. Lucie Realtors for her advocacy and drive to involve others in political action and fundraising.

On the state level, DeFries has been a member of Florida Realtors Board of Directors for more than 20 years and served on many committees including as chair of Public Policy and Florida Realtors PAC Trustees. She also was a legislative key contact for state Rep. George R. Moraitis Jr., (R-Fort Lauderdale). She was honored by Florida Realtors with its Realtor Achievement Award in 2015. In 2000, DeFries served as the Florida chapter president for WCR.

On the national level, she is a federal political coordinator for the National Association of Realtors, a member of the NAR Strategy Committee and its Board of Directors, and also serves Florida Realtors on the NAR Director Committee.

In her community, DeFries is active in local networking events and volunteers with the Palm Beach County Habitat for Humanity. She served on the Deerfield Beach Planning and Zoning Committee for over 15 years.

Realtor Achievement Award

Jack Rodriguez, a member of Greater Tampa Realtors, was named the winner of Florida Realtors 2021 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.

Rodriguez has served on numerous committees at his local association, including as chair of the Governmental Affairs, Finance, Nominating, Fair Housing and Long Range Planning committees. In fact, his local association service history has 195 entries – he was president of the association in 2009 and president of its Realtors Care Foundation in 2021. He was named Realtor of the Year for Greater Tampa Realtors in 2013, received its Meritorious Award for Extended Service in 2012 and the C. Ed Owings Award for Outstanding Community Service in 1995.

He has also been active in Florida Realtors, serving on the Board of Directors from 2002-2020 and on numerous committees, including the Commercial Alliance, Public Policy, Legislative Think Tank, Local Board President Exchange and as chair of the Building Committee. He has served on and as chair of the Florida Real Estate Commission, during 1991-1995.

On the national level, Rodriguez has served on the National Association of Realtors Board of Directors and the Land Use, Property Rights and Environmental Committee. He also has been a federal political coordinator for NAR and named to its RPAC Hall of Fame in 2019.

He has long supported the Tampa Bay community, including as a Hillsborough County Zoning Hearing Master, a member of the Central Bank of Tampa Board of Directors, a member of the Hillsborough County-City Planning Commission, a University of Tampa trustee and president of the University of Tampa National Alumni Association. He also has been active with the Tampa Bay Little League and on the Board of Directors for the local Red Cross.

Newcomer of the Year Award

Winning Florida Realtors Newcomer Award for 2021 was Sara Brand Estrada, a member of the Naples Area Board of Realtors (NABOR). 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.

She has been active with NABOR since 2018, working with several committees, including its Young Professionals Network (YPN) and the Realtors Political Action Committee (RPAC). Estrada recently became a major investor in RPAC to support advocacy and public policy issues. She was honored with NABOR’s Realtor Rising Star Award in 2020.

She is currently a member of her local association’s Leadership Academy and works with NABOR’s outreach programs to help support needs in the local community. She also volunteers with Valerie’s House, a local organization that helps grieving children.

Estrada has been involved with the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) and also supported Florida Realtors “Clean Up Florida Waters” efforts with others from her local board.

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. Tina Marie Eloian, a member of Greater Tampa Realtors and the Florida Gulfcoast Commercial Association of Realtors, received the 2021 Commercial Realtor Achievement Award.

After 25 years as an instructor, Eloian remains passionate about teaching colleagues the ins and outs of specializing in commercial real estate. Her courses have ranged from “Discovering Commercial Real Estate” to “Multi-Family 101” to “Tampa Bay Brownfields, an Economic and Environmental Opportunity.” She served as president of the local West Coast chapter of CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member).

At the state level, Eloian was president of the CCIM state of Florida chapter in 2019. Highlights that occurred during her year as president included: the first graduating class of a mentorship program started throughout the state; the revitalization of a sponsorship program for skills and business tools for the commercial Realtor; and an increase of membership to over 1,000 members. She also played a significant role in 2017 (she was vice president of finance) when CCIM Florida was named the No. 1 CCIM chapter globally. She received the CCIM Florida President’s Appreciation Award in 2016.

Nationally, she is the CCIM representative to the Commercial Real Estate Research Advisory Board in 2021. Eloian served on the Board of Directors for CCIM as regional vice president for the state of Florida in 2020 and has been a member of NAR’s Commercial Alliance. She also is a graduate of the Jay W. Levine Leadership Academy, CCIM Global.

As a Tampa native, Eloian remains active in her local community. She is the current chair-elect for the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce and has been on its Board of Directors since 2016. Since 1996, she has been a member of the Board of Directors of McClain Inc., and was a past president of this nonprofit organization that helps persons with developmental disabilities.

Humanitarian of the Year

Proving that Realtors make a difference, Steven David, a member of the Broward, Palm Beaches and St. Lucie Realtors, was named the 2021 Humanitarian of the Year by Florida Realtors. David has long supported efforts to combat homelessness as well as provide assistance to military veterans who may be struggling with injuries or other issues.

He was instrumental in starting a program, the Broward Partnership, that provides temporary shelter to those facing homelessness – often well under market value and in some cases at no charge, along with medical attention, behavioral health services, rental placement and more. David reached out to other like-minded property owners, who joined in his efforts with the Broward Partnership, which now provides shelter assistance in multiple properties throughout greater Fort Lauderdale. Currently, he is responsible for housing “homeless to homed” families in 27 homes or apartments, several of which are in his personal property portfolio.

What inspired David? He has owned residential investment property for 47 years and has seen good people find themselves in tough times. An instructor for many years, he was conducting research for some of his training courses and discovered research by John Hopkins Medicine and others that found approximately 26% of the population faces mental health issues. Thus, in a group of 20 people, at least five are facing challenges that no one may realize.

This reality hit home for David, due to his own learning disability, and that ultimately lead to the creation of his “compassion portfolio” – the units he keeps available for those in need through the Broward Partnership and other organizations.

The Broward Partnership has been going strong since 1986, making a difference in so many lives in David’s community.

Spirit of Advocacy Award

William A. “Bill” Watson Jr., the 1981 president of Florida Realtors and a member of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors, was recognized as the 2021 winner of the Spirit of Advocacy Award.

This award honors a member of Florida Realtors who has demonstrated excellence in advocacy at the local board, state association, national association and community within the governmental or political arena over their lifetime. Monetary donations are not a consideration for the award.

At the local level, Watson has been an active voice for real estate and the profession with elected officials since the late 1970s. He has voted in every election since 1961. Florida’s 10-mill limitation on school taxes exists because Watson and a colleague introduced legislation to the Florida Speaker of the House in 1968. He served on the Board of Governors Multiple Listing Service from 1967-1975. He was president of the Jacksonville Area Mortgage Brokers in 1966 and president of Jacksonville Association of Realtors in 1968. His local association named him its Realtor of the Year in 1972.

At the state level, Watson organized the largest Legislative Days in history with 2,500 Realtors attending in 1981. The event is now called Great American Realtor Days and continues to serve as a dedicated forum enabling Realtors to meet their legislators and share their voice on issues of importance to all Floridians. Over the years, he has chaired or been a member of numerous committees for Florida Realtors and was the District 1 vice president in 1973, in addition to serving as Florida Realtors president in 1981. He has been a member of the state association’s Board of Directors since 1962 – and, since 1961, has only missed the Florida Realtors convention twice.

At the national level, through the National Association of Realtors, Watson was one of 20 Realtors in 2003 who met with Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, and made a presentation to the board.

In the Jacksonville area community, the list of committees and local organizations that Watson has chaired or been a member of goes on and on. In 2011 and 2012, he served as the chair of the Board of Directors for the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World and continues to be a member of that board. He served on the 1966 Advisory Committee to the local Government Commission that recommended consolidation of the City of Jacksonville and Duval County. Watson also is a past member of the Mayor’s Economic Council for Jacksonville and a former director of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce for many years.

Watson is a dedicated advocate for private property rights, a strong voice for Realtor engagement and investment, and he represents the real estate profession at its best.

Education Volunteer of the Year

The Education Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes members who volunteered their time and energy to advance professional development for Realtors. This year’s Education Volunteer of the Year winner is Jean Garcia Dorazio from Greater Tampa Realtors.

A Realtor in Florida for over 30 years, Dorazio is a licensed real estate instructor and a licensed title agent. She has sold residential and commercial real estate, and has worked in property management as well as land development. She managed a successful real estate brokerage with over 30 agents for seven years, and is an active agent in the Tampa Bay area.

Her resume includes serving as president of the Women’s Council of Realtors (WCR) Tampa chapter and chairing various committees for WCR, Greater Tampa Realtors and the Tampa Bay Builders Association. She has also been a member of the Board of Directors for Greater Tampa Realtors and the Tampa Bay Builders Association for over 10 years.

Instructing courses to help fellow Realtors grow their knowledge is how Dorazio gives back to her industry.

Educator of the Year

This year’s Florida Realtors Educator of the Year is Deborah Bethune, a member of the Broward, Palm Beaches and St. Lucie Realtors. As a Realtor licensed in Florida and Georgia, Bethune provides strategic marketing and transaction management services to her clients across South Florida markets.

She is a graduate of Tuskegee University and a graduate student at Southern New Hampshire University, completing her studies for a master’s degree in Human Resource Management. Bethune is passionate about educating individuals through community initiatives that address economic empowerment.

In 2019, she was recognized by the Global Trade Chamber as one of its “100 Successful Women in Business” as well by the Atlanta Business League.

Bethune’s primary goal for each class she instructs is to inspire participants to continually seek professional development. A published writer and poised public speaker, she prides herself on sharpening the skills of others.

Florida Realtor magazine awards

Florida Realtor Magazine Best Article: Ellen Mitchel, Miami Association of Realtors, for the article, “Become the Go-To Resource in Your Community,” August 2020, Florida Realtor magazine

Florida Realtor Magazine Editorial Excellence: Ray Collins, Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee, for the article, “Producing Professional Videos,” October 2020, Florida Realtor magazine

© 2021 Florida Realtors

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