Her story forms a part of the great American narrative. Growing up in the Midwest, Maria was raised with a middle class upbringing in a household where family values were a priority and honest work and a good education were the means of getting ahead. Even as a child, Maria held a lifelong conviction that part of the American call was to be in service to others.
Maria’s story has its roots in a World War II romance. Her father, born and raised on a Michigan dairy farm, was a commissioned officer in the United States Army Infantry in World War II. Having traveled up through the Italian coast to liberate Italy, he was struck by the beauty of a young girl in Napoli. They fell in love, and the two of them married and returned back to his dairy farm in Michigan. Maria’s mother was so proud of becoming an American citizen, and she instilled in Maria a strong sense of American patriotism.
Maria’s first experience in serving others began in her youth, when her father returned to military service and brought his family to Southeast Asia. She volunteered at the Malaria Control Center in upcountry Thailand while her father served in Vietnam and was gone for months at a time. She also worked as a nurse assistant at the Air Force military hospital.
Working her way through an undergraduate and a master’s degree, Maria became a lecturer of International Politics for the University of Maryland at military bases throughout Western Europe and North Africa.
Never forgetting her family’s values of education, Maria returned to the States to pursue a law degree at the University of Miami. She began her law career under Janet Reno’s direction, and in 1985 moved to Palm Beach county where she has been practicing law ever since.
She has been a successful professional, maintaining offices in Boca Raton and Delray Beach.
Her ties to the community are strong and lasting. She is founder and president of a professional women’s organization, the Women for Excellence (WE). The WE has over 150 members and continues to meet monthly. She was also the past president of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, Broward Chapter, and is a member of the women’s Chamber of Commerce and Executive Women’s Organization and NOW.
Maria has a profound attachment to America’s veterans, from her father, Russell. For the last seven years of his life, Russell was a resident at the Extended Care Facility of the Veterans Administration Medical Center in West Palm Beach. She has seen firsthand the lack of adequate treatment for our nation’s most treasured servicemen, and is absolutely committed to improving the lives of our retired veterans and all current servicemen and women. Her first bill as a State Representative endows certain benefits to our veterans in honor of their service, lest they ever be forgotten.
Growing up in a multicultural household, Maria is keenly aware of our American tapestry. She understood the needs of Florida’s students to compete in a global economy. To this end, she sponsored a bill that expands the number of foreign languages available for teacher certification from 4 to 15. This foresight will help fuel Florida’s need for high-tech workers and encourage the business community to find a highly-skilled labor force right here in our state.
She and her husband, Peter, are the proud parents of three children who were born, raised and schooled in Palm Beach county: Natasha, Marcello, and Taylor.
The story doesn’t end here. Maria’s commitment to the people of Palm Beach county extends beyond mortgage foreclosure workshops, anti-gang summits, and constitutional advocacy. Her work is the embodiment of the values set by her parents, and are what she hopes to set as an example to her own children.