2020-2021 Board of Directors
Chair of the Board | Brian Barakat, Barakat + Bossa
Chair-Elect | Ana Chaoui, Grove Bank & Trust
First Vice Chairman | Thad Adams , The Allen Morris Company
Treasurer | Sara Hernandez, First Citizens Bank
Immediate Past Chairman | Patrick O’Connell, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty
Parliamentarian | Addys Kurlya, Florida Power & Light
Vice Chairman-Global Business Affairs | Deirdre Nero, NERO Immigration Law, P.L.
Vice Chairman-Community Affairs | Mike Lasley, Northwestern Mutual – Coral Gables
Vice Chairman-Business & Economic Development | Carolina Rendiero, Connect2Global
Vice Chairman-Member Affairs | Lauren Dowlen, Lowell International Realty
Vice Chairman-Special Events | Darryl Rosenbaum, Bigfoot Construction
Vice Chairman-Gov’t & Legislative Affairs | Maria Garcia, Kozyk Tropin & Throckmorton, P.A
Trustee Council | Eric Gros-Dubois, EPGD Business Law
Chairman’s Appointee | Martha de la Peña Rojas, Florida Blue
President & CEO | Mark A. Trowbridge
Ricardo Alberty, The Well Groomed Gentleman
Steven Bradley, Clutch Burger
Chris Colston, Second Chance Credit, LLC
Natalia Collazo, Miami HEAT
Amy Donner, Coral Gables Magazine
Frank Fernandez, CenterState Bank
Elsa Figueredo, Doctors Hospital, part of Baptist Health South Florida
Alex Fonseca, Apollo Bank
Matthias Kammerer, The Biltmore Hotel
Alina Menendez, American Airlines
Cristina Miller, Intermedia Touch, Inc.
Rene Negron, Equitable Advisors
Elsa Powers, Doctors Hospital, part of Baptist Health South Florida
Melanie Sanchez, BB&T – Branch Banking & Trust
Monique Selman, Albany Homes Construction
Lillian Ser, Ser & Associates, PLLC
Anabella Smith, Zyschovich Architects
Efrain Sora, Sora Global Risk Advisors
Cinthya Urena, City National Bank of Florida
Myrna Vaca, UHealth
Jessica Wilcox, J. Wilcox Consulting
City of Coral Gables | Commissioner Patricia Keon
City of Coral Gables | Julian Perez
Business Improvement District | Aura Reinhardt
Coral Gables Community Foundation | Mary Snow
The Beacon Council of Miami-Dade | James C. Kohnstamm
Brian Barakat is the founder and owner of Barakat Law, P.A. and Chairman of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, Founded in 2006 and based in Coral Gables, Florida, Barakat Law focuses on business matters such as partnership disputes, non-competes, corporate litigation, breach of contract and financial fraud. A former white-collar prosecutor, Brian provides a unique perspective on resolving business disputes swiftly, efficiently and without disruption to your business.
He began his career as a Prosecutor in Miami-Dade County. While there, Brian worked in the Economic Crimes Division of the Special Prosecution Section. His experience in investing financial frauds gives him a unique prospective on business disputes.
In addition, Brian’s experience in Commercial Litigation includes the full gamut of cases from complex class actions to small business disputes.
In in his free time, Brian serves as an Assistant Scout Master with Boy Scouts of America, is an active member of Kiwanis, and is a member of the Miami-Dade County Bar Association and the Coral Gables Bar Association.
Ana Chaoui Headshot.Ana is a professional banker with over twenty-seven years of commercial and personal banking experience. She believes in delivering a first-rate customized client experience and works closely with small business owners, high-net-worth individuals and business professionals to ensure that their financial needs are met. Ana heads the Coral Gables Office for Grove Bank and Trust and is passionate about her clients and the local community she serves. Ana is a Native Floridian and currently lives with her family in Coral Gables.
O'Connell Senior Vice President, Business Development EWM Realty International Coral Gables, Florida Patrick has worked for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty since 1998. Starting as a Realtor-Associate, he transitioned into management in 2002 and senior management in 2006. Over the last 14 years, Patrick has overseen the Development Sales Division, Corporate Relocation, Foreclosure/REO Sales, and other special projects and initiatives for the company. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Realtor Association of Miami-Dade County, and Florida Realtors. He also served as Vice-Chair of Government Affairs and Board Chairman for the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce. With a focus on improving arts education in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Patrick also serves on the Executive Board of New World School of the Arts and President of the New World School of the Arts Alumni Foundation where he is also co-founder.
Ana is a professional banker with over twenty-seven years of commercial and personal banking experience. She believes in delivering a first-rate customized client experience and works closely with small business owners, high-net-worth individuals and business professionals to ensure that their financial needs are met. Ana heads the Coral Gables Office for Grove Bank and Trust and is passionate about her clients and the local community she serves. Ana is a Native Floridian and currently lives with her family in Coral Gables.
Patrick O'Connell Senior Vice President, Business Development EWM Realty International Coral Gables, Florida Patrick has worked for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty since 1998. Starting as a Realtor-Associate, he transitioned into management in 2002 and senior management in 2006. Over the last 14 years, Patrick has overseen the Development Sales Division, Corporate Relocation, Foreclosure/REO Sales, and other special projects and initiatives for the company. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Realtor Association of Miami-Dade County, and Florida Realtors. He also served as Vice-Chair of Government Affairs and Board Chairman for the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce. With a focus on improving arts education in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Patrick also serves on the Executive Board of New World School of the Arts and President of the New World School of the Arts Alumni Foundation where he is also co-founder.
Deirdre Nero started NERO Immigration Law in 2009 after practicing in large law firms for several years. With 17+ years of experience under her belt, Deirdre has helped hundreds of clients from all over the globe navigate the complicated world of Immigration Law. Originally from NJ, Deirdre has lived in Florida for 20+ years. Deirdre earned a bachelor’s degree Magna Cum Laude from FSU; and graduated with honors from the University of Miami School of Law. Deirdre joined the Coral Gables Chamber in 2004, is a past and current member of the Board of Directors, and previously chaired the Global Business and 20/30 Committees. She is proud to have been named Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2019 AXA Businesswoman of the Year Awards, and as a Merrick-in-the-Making at the 2019 Merrick Awards. Deirdre’s practice focuses on business immigration, including employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visas; working with companies to ensure they are compliant with Immigration laws; family immigration and naturalizations; as well as visas for students and tourists. Deirdre holds an AV® Preeminent™ Rating since 2014, showing she is well-respected by her peers. She was named by Florida Trend Magazine as one of 2019’s Legal Elite.
Mike is a Director of Recruitment at Northwestern Mutual of Coral Gables. He has over 14 years of experience in talent acquisition and employee management in South Florida. Mike grew up in Silver City, New Mexico where he attended Western New Mexico University. Since his arrival to South Florida in 2004, his mission has been to make Miami the friendliest city. He has a passion for bringing people together and making a difference in the lives of others. • He is Northwestern Mutual’s top recruiter for years 2019 & 2020 in the South Florida region • Ranked Northwestern Mutual’s #4, of over 240 recruiters, in the country for his recruitment of people of color in 2020 • He is personally responsible for the recruitment of Financial Advisors in South Miami and regional director responsible for Miami-Dade campus recruiter(s) • In 2015 he created For The Love Of Volleyball, a social volleyball organization that has grown to over 500 local members that come together each week for physical activity, fun, & fellowship • He volunteers providing weekly career and life coaching to disadvantaged youth with HANDY, Inc. (Helping Abused Neglected Disadvantaged Youth) • He is a co-creator of Wilton Onesie Wonderland, a yearly event that has raised over $14,000 for local non-profits • He is the creator of Paws4Paws, a night-time pet parade that raises money to support animals living in the homes of terminal LGBTQ patients • He is Vice-Chair of community affairs for the Coral Gables Chamber of commerce and sits on the Board of Directors • He is co-chair of Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professional Network Mike takes the view that he hasn’t met a stranger, just a friend he hasn’t made yet. This view is reflected in every area of his professional and personal life. Active member of the Coral Gables Chamber since 2017. Active member of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors since 2019. Former co-chair of the 20/30 Committee.
CEO-Connect2Global a high-energy professional with a strong expertise in international development, with a special focus on international marketing and business development, with a proven ability to engage with members of the public and private sector, locally, statewide and internationally. Consistently recognized for contributions in development and marketing efforts, with attention to detail, strong project management skills and developing long-standing professional relationships over her 38-year career. Connect2Global focuses on mutually profitable partnerships that create unparalleled opportunities for executives and organizations to expand their brand across borders and into viable, global markets. Carolina was appointed by the Portuguese Government in May of 2019 to the post of Honorary Consul of Portugal-Miami.
As a Sales Associate with Lowell International Realty, LLC, a boutique residential real estate firm located in Coral Gables, Lauren Billingslea Dowlen has a passion for the South Florida community, building relationships and providing service. With a strong background in marketing, community involvement and business development from her years as a non-profit fundraising professional, Lauren offers clients the perfect package of personal guidance and local expertise. Lauren is a graduate of Miami Palmetto Senior High School and Florida State University where she majored in Communications and Theater. With a deep appreciation for the arts, culture, and education, she has worked with many of the most prestigious independent schools in our area including St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School, Ransom Everglades and Palmer Trinity. Her ability to bring people together and her reputation as a dedicated professional enabled her to raise millions of dollars for our community’s finest educational institutions. Believing in the power of service, Lauren has gotten to know the South Florida community by giving countless hours to others. Her philanthropic involvement includes Past President of Beaux Arts, supporting the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami, as well as Past Board Member of the Junior League of Miami and as the Chairperson of the Ambassadors Committee for the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce. She is also a leader at St. Philip’s Episcopal School and Church. Lauren lives in Coral Gables with her husband, Buddy, and two sons, who love to take long bike rides together as a family. Bringing an unparalleled knowledge of our diverse community, Lauren offers a commitment to providing the absolute best in concierge service and a results-oriented approach that routinely exceeds expectations.
Darryl Rosenbaum is a born and raised Miami native. He attended Palmetto Senior High School and received his Undergraduate Degree from Florida State University. Upon relocating back to South Florida, Darryl accepted a position as a Project Manager with a small construction company located in Coral Gables. With aspirations of opening his own firm, he founded Bigfoot Construction, Inc. in 2016. In just four-years’ time, Bigfoot Construction has grown to employ eight team members, servicing all areas of residential construction in the Miami area. The company’s namesake is an ode to Darryl’s late father, Harvey Allen Rosenbaum, and serves as a commemoration to him, keeping his legacy alive. As an Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War, the elder Rosenbaum was regarded as a true patriot and was given the call sign “Bigfoot” by his fellow soldiers. Throughout Darryl’s upbringing, his father’s pride, love for his family, his country, hard work and ethics, was instilled in him. These core values are the guiding principles of Bigfoot Construction today. Darryl truly loves his team, his career and feels extraordinarily grateful to do the work he does, day in and day out. He strives to become more than just a contractor but a trusted advisor for all the homeowners he and his team serve.
Eric Gros-Dubois was born in New York City, and raised in Dallas, Texas where he attended Jesuit College Preparatory School, and also Southern Methodist University. After living and working in Paris, France, New York City and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, he attended American University in Washington, D.C. where he completed his JD in 2007 and later his MBA with a focus on finance, in 2008. While completing his MBA, Mr. Gros-Dubois began his career in a high-end tax, corporate and estate planning law firm in Bethesda, Maryland. After relocating to Miami, Florida, Mr. Gros-Dubois accepted a position as a Senior Associate with a boutique Corporate and Commercial Litigation law firm. In 2013, he founded EPGD Business Law in Coral Gables, Florida, and has grown the firm to 15 attorneys covering all areas of entrepreneur and business law, with offices in Miami, Palm Beach, Orlando, New York, Washington, D.C, and Bogota, Colombia. Eric truly loves his profession, and feels blessed every day to work with his team and his clients, and strives to become more than just a lawyer but a trusted advisor for all of the businesses and entrepreneurs who count on EPGD Business Law.
MARTHA DE LA PEÑA ROJAS Corporate Social Responsibility Manager
Martha de la Peña Rojas serves as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Manager for Guidewell, Florida Blue and the Florida Blue Foundation. In this role, Ms. de la Peña Rojas leads and manages CSR initiatives that advance the community-driven mission and support strategic growth for Broward, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Indian River, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties. Overseeing community partnerships and investments, Ms. de la Peña Rojas ensures that Florida Blue builds its brand and corporate reputation, engages its workforce and increases organizational effectiveness in the local market. She joined the company in 2002 and has served as Manager of Employee Programs and Events, and of Market Development. Prior to joining Florida Blue, Ms. de la Peña Rojas worked in Banking and Finance as a Chief of Staff and Special Events Manager. She has extensive experience in community relations and investments, corporate marketing, employee engagement and event-planning. Ms. de la Peña Rojas holds a Masters in Business Administration with a specialization in Health Sector Management and Policy from the University of Miami, as well as a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Miami in both Psychology and Sociology. She is active and serves on the Boards of Directors for a variety of local civic and non-profit organizations including the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, where she is the Immediate Past Chair. About Florida Blue Florida Blue, the state’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield company, is a leader in Florida’s health care industry. Its mission is to help people and communities achieve better health. Florida Blue has more than 5 million health care members and serves nearly 18 million people in 12 states, two U.S. territories and the District of Columbia through its affiliated companies. Headquartered in Jacksonville and with regional offices here in South Florida, the company has a rich history of serving and enriching the quality of life in the diverse communities it serves. Florida Blue and the Florida Blue Foundation give back by supporting various organizations and causes that strengthen the places we call home. Florida Blue is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. For more information, visit www.FloridaBlue.com.
Mayors’ Summit of the Americas and International Pow Wow. Mark also previously served as an adjunct professor at both Barry University and St. Thomas University in their respective Sports Management programs for more than six years. His community involvement includes Past President of the national board for the University of Florida Alumni Association, and is a Past-President of the award-winning Gator Club® of Miami. He served as Program Chairman of Leadership Miami, where he was honored with the Bill Colson Leadership Award. Mark is an Executive Board Member for Seraphic Fire and serves on the boards of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, where he is on the Steering Committee for the One Community One Goal initiative, as well as Vice Chairman of New World School of the Arts Executive Board and The Children’s Trust, where he is also Vice Chair. Most recently, Mark joined the Board of City Year. Mark received his Bachelor and Master of Education degrees from the University of Florida in 1990 and 1992, respectively. Mark has lived in Miami Springs, Florida for the past 16 years, with his faithful canine companion Sir Winston Churchill, having moved to South Florida eight weeks before Hurricane Andrew struck in August of 1992. Since then, he has developed a deep and abiding love for the Miami community.
THAD W. ADAMS BIO
As Senior Vice President of The Allen Morris Company, Thad Adams is responsible for creating and managing strategic relationships and alliances with regional and national companies and provides assessment of marketing and business development opportunities for the company. His specialties include commercial real estate investment sales, tenant/owner representation, office and industrial condominiums, development, asset management, corporate services and project consultation. Over the course of his 30-year plus career, Thad has assisted more than 240 companies locate or expand operations in Florida including major Fortune 500 companies, multi-nationals and government entities. He is the past Chief Operating Officer of the Beacon Council and Vice President of Enterprise Florida (Miami and Florida’s official economic development organizations, respectively). Thad is a serves on the Board of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, is an active member of The Orange Bowl Committee, a Board Member of Baptist Health’s Doctors Hospital as well as Fiduciary Trust International (the $70 billion dollar wealth management subsidiary of Franklin Templeton Investments) and a Chairman’s Circle Member of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. He has a long history of involvement with giving back to the local real estate community with his volunteer work on numerous committees within the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce where he founded and is still active with the Annual Commercial Real Estate Forum and the Director of the Coral Gables Permitting Assistance Program, a partnership between the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce and the City of Coral Gables that facilitates permits for new to market and expanding companies. He also serves on the City of Coral Gables Covid-19 Business Recovery Task Force focused on assisting the re-opening of business offices in the city. Thad received the 3rd Annual Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce South Florida Real Estate Achievers and Leaders (R.E.A.L.) Awards in the Commercial Office category, an award that honors professionals in South Florida commercial real estate who have achieved high levels of business success while also being leaders in the community. He also received the Education Fund Alumni Achievement Award given to past Miami-Dade County public school graduates whose entrepreneurship and or leadership have energized the local economy through the creation of jobs. He received the Dale I. Graham Award of Excellence and the Big Hitter Award, given by The Allen Morris Company in recognition of his success in leasing, sales and leadership in the company. Thad Adams is a graduate of the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.
Maria D. Garcia is a Partner and Co-Chair of the Healthcare Practice at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, and focuses her practice on health care law and commercial litigation. She has extensive experience in managed care litigation and advising healthcare providers regarding Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial health plan issues. Maria also provides guidance to health care providers on various legal issues, such as business expansion, federal and state regulatory compliance, practice formation, joint ventures, managed care contracting, and non-compete agreements. Maria has assisted a variety of providers in recovering over $175 million in underpaid reimbursements for healthcare services. She received her B.A., magna cum laude, from Florida International University (FIU), and earned her Juris Doctor from the FIU College of Law, where she was President of the Moot Court. In 2018 and 2019, Maria was named a “Top Lawyer” in Healthcare in the South Florida Legal Guide. In 2019, Florida Trend Magazine named her as one of the 500 Most Influential Business Leaders in the State of Florida. In 2016, she was honored by the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce with the Rising Star “Model Star” Award for her work in the South Florida community and legal profession. Maria’s skills and efforts as an attorney were also recognized in 2010 when the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation named her one of the “40 Under 40 Outstanding Attorneys of Miami Dade County.” Maria is also devoted to the community, has served as President of the Cuban American Bar Association (CABA), President of the Florida International University Alumni Association and is Chairperson of the City of Coral Gables Board of Adjustment.