Bob arrived in Willmar in 2008, accompanied by his disabled brother Michael (for whom he is the primary caregiver), and service dog Joni. The first thing people noticed about Bob was that he wasn’t from here. Maybe it was the swarthy complexion inherited from Portuguese ancestors, the Boston accent, or a New York City attitude he picked up during a decade in the Big Apple. Despite the wariness that Midwesterners show people from the East Coast, he’s won over Willmarites.
At 61 years of age, Bob has lived a lot of life. Having earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration, he became a senior administrator to the Mayor of Providence, the capitol city of Rhode Island. Later, he moved into the private sector, where he reinvented himself in New York city as an entrepreneur, consultant, and Wall Street executive. He’s been an advisor to political leaders, fundraiser for special causes, advocate for people with disabilities, volunteer teacher, and family caregiver. Taking an early retirement to attend to family needs, he decided to leave the East Coast for a slower, rural pace, and all roads led to Willmar, Minnesota.
In 2012, Bob was introduced to then-Mayor Frank Yanish. The Mayor recognized in Bob a go-getter with curiosity and a quick mind; a creative thinker, with a confident, assertive attitude; an accomplished writer, skillful team-builder, and motivator. In turn, Bob felt humbled and flattered by the mayor’s interest and confidence in him.
Bob spent the next four years doing what he’d done for over 20 years in his professional life: pouring himself into the analysis of this public business called Willmar. He pored over budgets, attended city council meetings, worked closely with half of Willmar’s elected officials, as well as members of the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, became a board member of the Economic Development Commission, and got to know the people who shape and influence public affairs. He has since advised members of the St. Cloud City Council and the Minnesota State legislature. He has been the subject of political interviews by radio personalities in Willmar, St. Cloud, and Minneapolis, and has been a featured writer in newspapers and websites around the country. Bob is now recognized around the country as an expert on the refugee resettlement program, a program of which he has been an outspoken critic. He has been a tireless advocate for people with disabilities in Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. He’s been a fundraiser and promoter for organizations that provide assistance dogs to people with disabilities. Bob’s a busy guy with a full plate. But as his late friend Harry Johnson used to say, “if you want to get something done, ask a busy man!”