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At 6:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning just after rain poured down in sheets, Mayor Maria Marino was next in line to speak in front of 500 people for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. As she walked toward the microphone, a man behind her collapsed. Instantly, a police officer jumped into action assisting the distressed man. Within minutes paramedics arrived and treated him, then carried him away in an ambulance. Moments later, someone handed Marino the microphone—she was up.
“This is why you live in the city of Palm Beach Gardens—you demand excellent services from us and that’s what you get,” Marino said to the crowd. She thanked the police and fire department for their award-winning commitment and service to the community, wished the new business good luck and cut the ribbon.
Just another day in the life as Mayor of Palm Beach Gardens, FL.
If you told Marino ten years ago that one day she’d be a city Mayor, she wouldn’t have believed it. The LPGA professional defined herself as a golfer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.
“I never thought I’d be in politics—it was never part of the plan,” Marino said. “But golf is the reason for everything I do and has given me many opportunities. It’s because of the people you meet and the networking you do on the course.”
As fate would have it, her entry into politics happened on a golf course. Palm Beach Gardens was weeks away from voting for term limits. If the vote passed, every current Councilmember would be unable to run again. While talking to a few councilmembers at a golf outing, they all wondered who would run for office.
“I stuck my hand up in the air and said ‘I will’,” Marino said. “As luck would have it, I ran unopposed, and after one year, I was the senior member on City Council.”
When it came time for Councilmembers to vote for Mayor, they chose Marino for the one-year term. Last month she was voted in as Mayor for the second year in a row.
Marino never had experience in the political arena prior to running for City Council, but her role as Mayor was a natural fit, and at the center of it all was golf.
In the mid-1980s she moved to Florida to pursue a career as a professional golfer. During her third trip to qualifying school, she dislocated her knee on the driving range and took that as a sign to redirect her career path.
Throughout the next few decades, she built her LPGA teaching career, started her own real estate business and was actively involved on the boards of multiple organizations and non-profits. By the time she entered her role as Mayor, she was used to juggling a packed schedule and was a familiar face in the community through her many philanthropic efforts on and off the golf course.
Marino’s driven, “yes I can” mentality began early in her life when she would rise to any challenge. One time, in her 20s, she got paired up with three lawyers—all men—who were put off when they saw her walking up to the first tee.
“They said ‘do we have to play with a woman?’,” Marino said. “I said, ‘Hope you don’t mind’, and I walked to the men’s back tees. I birdied the first hole, and by the fifth hole they were asking for lessons.”
In addition to her Mayoral duties, which added about 12 meetings to her monthly schedule, she sits on half a dozen boards, mentors youth, and speaks at seminars. Recently, she won ‘Woman of the Year’ honors from the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce.
“The city never had a Mayor or even Councilmember who played golf at a professional level,” Marino said. “I’ll go to golf outings and do a Beat the Mayor contest. It’s a great chance to meet people in a relaxed setting—on a level playing ground. We’re having fun, raising money for charity and the Mayor is an athlete and approachable.”
Every day Marino appreciated her role as Mayor. Her goal for the community is to continue to grow in a smart manner, as well as listen and talk to people, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You can only do this job if you really love what you’re doing,” Marino said. “I’m just me—just Maria. Not a politician, just someone doing public service.”
If public service is her true passion, perhaps being a golfing Mayor is just the first step in a long and bright political career for Marino.