PALM BAY – Robert “Rob” Medina can still remember the sights of the concrete canyons of New York City along with the sense of community he shared with others, even while shining shoes in front of his father’s barbershop in the Bronx.
Where some found struggle in the Big Apple, Medina, the Manhattan-born son of Puerto-Rican parents, absorbed his father’s lessons of self-esteem by taking on challenges others would forego.
“I can’t tell you how many times my dad took on kids from the neighborhood as apprentices, he helped them improve their self-worth,” said Medina, who grew up in the Bronx but now lives in Palm Bay.
Those moral lessons helped to shape Medina’s life and are one reason he was among 13 Brevard County residents recognized in July at the First Annual Patriot Dinner sponsored by Honor America, Inc., a Melbourne-based organization dedicated to celebrating U.S. history and heritage.
Medina’s life has taken him from the bright lights of New York to a six-year stint in the U.S. Marines in the early 1980s and, finally, brought him to Palm Bay in 1988.
“I first visited Palm Bay while still in the Marines. My dad had purchased property here and I really liked the feel of the place which, at the time, was a growing little Florida town,” he recalls.
It was also a place where many people decided to settle in a bid to escape the busy big cities of the North for a slice of Florida sunshine.
“Back then, Palm Bay Road had two lanes and a real small town feel. And there weren’t that many Hispanics back in those days.”
Medina worked for the Florida Lottery for 12 years before joining the staff of Brevard County Commissioner Jackie Colon. He served as Colon’s aide for eight years.
“There were opportunities to improve someone’s life by opening a dialogue between county departments and residents. I really got a taste of community involvement,” he says.
The position also was where Medina first connected with U.S. Representative Bill Posey, who was so impressed with his work as Colon’s aide that he offered Medina a position on his staff when his work with Colon ended.
“Rob has a servant’s heart and is one of my best assets,” states Posey, whose 15th Congressional District includes most of Brevard, Osceola and Indian River counties as well as a small section of Polk County.
“Medina is now the director of community relations for the congressman. Part of his job includes reaching out to various groups in the community – including military veterans and those in the Hispanic community – and relating their issues to the congressman’s staff.
He has also been known to represent the congressman at local events Posey was unable to attend in person. Posey stated having Medina on staff has been nothing but joy.
“You need effective people who can be a surrogate, and Rob understands what we’re doing and communicates that to the community,” Posey explained.
His press secretary, George Cecala, agreed that Medina is an effective communicator.
“Rob’s personality is what makes him stand out. He is always very friendly with people and has a lot of patience. Perhaps his biggest attribute is his caring attitude,” Cecala said.
“Rob genuinely cares about Brevard County and its residents.”
Medina readily admits most of that comes from his strong faith in God.
His life took a spiritual turn in 2000 when he became a Christian. He’s been on fire for God ever since.
“Once I tasted God’s power, I couldn’t turn back,” he said, adding that he is a member of the International House of Prayer in Palm Bay, now called The House. He has an associates degree in Theology from Life Christian University and is about to get his bachelor’s degree in Theology as well.
“I like to think that I help to put God in government by helping people,” he said.
Kenneth “Pastor Ken” Delgado, pastor of The House, said Medina is dedicated to touching people’s lives in a positive way.
“He is always conscious of other people’s situations and needs. He’s always on the lookout to make something good happen for those around him,” Delgado said.
Rob Medina is honored by his boss, congressman Bill Posey as Osceola Commissioner John Quiñonez looks. Medina sees the discipline he learned from his father, the Marines and from the Holy Scriptures as pointing to the same thing: working to make the community a better place and finding good mentors for the area’s children.
“This is my purpose and it gives me great joy just to be able to help someone in need,” he said.
Medina is married to Lissette, a stay-at-home mother. They have a total of five children. Rob also has two grandchildren.
“Most of my family is here and I’ve seen more Hispanics move to the area in recent years, he says.
“Palm Bay, indeed all of Brevard, is really becoming a good place for diversity. The quality of life is great here,” he said.
By Rolanda Gallop
Al Día Today