Bob Gernert of Winter Haven was honored by the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) with Lifetime Membership in the organization for his near four decades of service to the public relations profession and FPRA, the nation’s oldest and largest of public relations professional organization.
Gernert, who joined the Dick Pope/Polk County FPRA chapter in 1978 and subsequently served as president and executive director of the state organization, was honored during the annual President’s Luncheon at FPRA’s 77th Annual Conference in the Omni Resort at Champions Gate. The presentation was made by FPRA President Rachel Smith and Chris Gent, immediate past president. Gernert is one of only a handful of public relations professionals to be accorded this honor.
“We are proud of Bob and his accomplishments. He is an acknowledged leader in our profession. The fact that one of our chapter’s top awards, the ‘Bob Gernert, APR/CPRC Member of the Year’ award, bears his name is a testament to the high esteem in which he is held within our FPRA chapter and the public relations profession,” said Amy Wiggins, president of the local FPRA chapter, in responding to the presentation.
Just two years after joining the Dick Pope/Polk County chapter in 1978 while serving as public relations director at Lakeland Regional Medical Center, Gernert began moving his way up the ranks of FPRA by being elected president of the local chapter. In 1982, he was elected state treasurer and in 1985 became state president. During his career he also earned both Accredited in Public Relations (APR) and Certified Public Relations Consultant (CPRC) status.
Following his term as president, he was tapped to serve as FPRA Executive Director, a position he served with distinction for 10 years. After stepping down as FPRA’s top executive officer, he volunteered to serve as vice president of FPRA’s 1997 and 1998 annual conferences. He earned FPRA’s coveted Dillin Award as Florida’s top PR professional and captured a Golden Image award for the 1998 conference which celebrated FPRA’s 60th anniversary.
In 2005 he produced a video timeline of FPRA and its past presidents and in 2014 earned a Lifetime Public Relations Achievement Award for his contributions to the public relations profession and FPRA.
After many years as executive director of the Greater Winter Haven Area Chamber of Commerce, Gernert officially retired last year but remains active in the public relations profession through FPRA and writes a weekly newspaper column focusing on Winter Haven history.