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Conversations with the Council featuring Gary Lesser, Managing Partner, Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC.

What can I say about Gary Lesser that hasn’t already been said by others who have bestowed honors and accolades on him? To me, Gary is that friend that you can always depend on. The steady rock. He is wise beyond his years, always ready to offer sage advice when you need it most, and is the definition of the Yiddish word mensch, a person of integrity. Simply put, Gary is special, so writing this piece is a privilege. It also presents a challenge, as there are not enough words to capture the goodness he embodies.

Giving back is at the core of who Gary is. There are way too many nonprofits to list that have benefitted from his time and energy. “Everything I learned from community involvement, I learned from my family. My grandfather moved here and started our firm in 1927, and the first thing he did was get involved in the community, starting the first conservative synagogue and getting involved with the Salvation Army. My father followed in my grandfather’s footsteps and became President of the Center for Child Services of Palm Beach County, and he and my mother were involved in leadership of many community serving organizations.”

Gary is a champion of every cause that sparks his interest, with a unique superpower of recruiting friends to join him on the journey, a trait he learned early on from his mom. “The thing that most impressed me about my mom, and left a lasting impression, was seeing all these get-togethers at our house. It was all about bringing people together to help the community. She liked recruiting people and building the community - not brick by brick but person by person, which had a meaningful impact.”

Family is everything to Gary. As a child, he “wanted to work with Grandpa,” a smalltown lawyer who moved to Palm Beach County 97 years ago from Rome, Georgia. Joe Lesser believed a lawyer’s job was to help people, and if a client could not afford to pay much, “he was alright making it up on the next one.” Gary’s Dad, Shepard, known as Shep, soon joined the firm and was the same way, working with people on a sliding-scale fee, so they did not feel like they were getting a handout.

The firm was built on honesty, trust, and a strong sense of community. Today, those same values hold true with Gary as the Managing Partner of Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith. “Every case at our office has two lawyers looking at it, so the client gets better communication, while the extra set of eyes allows us to work collaboratively to get a better result on the case.” The firm, which runs on referrals and word of mouth only, helps individuals and their families across South Florida in personal injury and wrongful death matters. Their team of skilled trial attorneys and professional staff have a people-first focus, a valuable lesson Gary learned early on from a mentor. “Tod Aronovitz, my first law boss over thirty years ago, was an enormous influence on me in many ways. He always treated clients so well. He treated people in his office so well, and he worked very hard on his cases. He had a good relationship and reputation with judges and opposing counsel. He was my ideal of the lawyer I wanted to be.”

Like Aronovitz, Gary has a passion for his profession. He served ten years on the Florida Bar Board of Governors and currently serves as President of the Florida Bar, doing so with an easy-going collaborative leadership style. “I like working with other people. Maybe a good idea isn’t so good, or maybe it’s a good idea that can be a better idea if people really vet and discuss it. And once there’s a good idea, making it happen works best when you are working with and speaking with others to make that happen.”

That is exactly what he does as a member of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County since 2011. “It is very gratifying to be involved in an organization focused just on policy. It’s good for business, and that is good for everybody. I find that very rewarding to be able to work with community leaders on how we can make things better in substantial ways. What else drew me was their commitment to the community, and that’s the reason why I joined and have been a long-term member.” Over his twelve-year tenure on the council, he has seen a great deal of change. “I was born and raised here, and I’ve seen the growth for a long time, and it was slow and steady.

Over the last few years, it’s been very rapid”. Gary says that poses problems that need to be addressed. “We are behind in transportation. Just drive on any road or highway and see the congestion. We need a more vibrant east-west system of transportation. We need to improve our current transportation grid, or we will struggle because we need to connect our communities so there is no segmentation. I think our school system is really great but has been very challenged, and we need to continue to support them in keeping up with this continued growth.”

Change doesn’t happen overnight, and despite the obstacles, Gary is optimistic that the business climate will continue to thrive over the next ten years. “The growth in Palm Beach County has been and will continue to be significant. The business community has the opportunity to help lead our community through this period of growth and opportunity. We need to be less reactive and have a vision for what that growth will look like and help make that happen.”

Who better to help get it done than Gary Lesser. He is a selfless man of principle and strong ethics who often models the behaviors of President Harry Truman, the leader he admires most. “He made it his priority to try to do the right thing, not the popular thing. He led with integrity, and history has judged him well. The buck stopped with him, meaning he took accountability for his decisions at a time when our world was very precarious. His presidency saw the Cold War escalate, and he made many decisions that were criticized by many people at the time. However, he was very focused on what was going to be the best outcome for the country, and I admire that and try to exemplify that.” And as any of his friends can tell you, this one included, no one does it better.

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