LGBTQ South Florida

LGBTQ chamber to honor big-hearted Miami Beach insurance executive

Health insurance executive Bill Warren of Miami Beach has been named 2017 Business Person of the Year by the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
Health insurance executive Bill Warren of Miami Beach has been named 2017 Business Person of the Year by the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Miami Beach health insurance executive Bill Warren on Saturday will be honored as Business Person of the Year by the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Commerce.

“Bill’s been with us forever. A member of the chamber for 12-plus years. He’s been doing this work for quite a while. He’s the go-to guy for all of us when we’re trying to maneuver our way through the healthcare landscape,” said Steve Adkins, the LGBTQ chamber’s president and CEO.

“He has helped me and a lot of our members — people in the community — with their healthcare decisions,” Adkins continued. “On top of that he’s a very spiritual person, devoted to his church, which is a very diverse and welcoming institution. When you add all that up, he’s the perfect candidate for Business Person of Year.”

The chamber’s 16th annual awards dinner —this year “topaz” themed — will be Saturday night at the Hilton Miami Downtown hotel. The honorees: Jewish Community Services of South Florida consultant Joan Schaeffer, the Morgan Stanley Bob Balsam Civic Achievement Award; Royal Caribbean International cruises, AT&T Business of the Year Award; ACLU of Florida, Non-Profit Organization of the Year Award; and Warren, whose award is sponsored by Regions Bank.

Warren, who owns Benefits Design Resources, moved from his home state of Virginia to the Miami area about 35 years ago, after he earned a bachelor’s degree from Virginia State University.

“I was hired by an insurance company after college and they transferred me to Miami. I came with a job,” said Warren, who subsequently worked for Travelers Insurance, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida (now Florida Blue) and Humana before starting his own company in 2005.

“It was a vision I always had to own my own company,” said Warren, who in 2000 earned an MBA from University of Miami. “Corporate America had become more than I bargained for. I really wanted to leave Corporate America and to venture out to start this business and to serve the local community.”

Warren, 59, said that running his own business also “gave me an opportunity to volunteer” for nonprofits that are important to him.

He recalled the first time, years ago, when he volunteered for an LGBTQ group. Well-known South Florida attorney Elizabeth Schwartz had “recruited me to work for the Equality Florida gala,” Warren said.

Since then, he has also volunteered for the chamber; 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project; the city of Miami Beach Human Rights Committee; at Unity on the Bay near downtown Miami, where he is a longtime member; and, most recently, the Miami-Dade LGBT Democratic Caucus.

“The reason I joined the LGBT Democratic Caucus is that I want to get more involved in politics, to make a difference with our elected officials, become involved in both midterm and the major elections. ... Healthcare — it’s very volatile right now and we don’t know the outcome. It could have a major impact on a lot of people.”

What’s in it for Warren? “The satisfaction of giving back my time and talents, to try to move forward with the LGBT agenda and try to make a difference in the community. To be more involved rather than sitting in the sidelines watching other people make a difference,” he said.

Warren is a humble man, said his friend Juan Del Hierro, associate minister at Unity on the Bay.

“Bill’s been a volunteer at Unity on the Bay for over 15 years. He has been a committed usher at the same door for those 15 years and he is so beloved by our community that when he’s not there at that door, people will come up and ask where is he,” Del Hierro said. “On a personal level, Bill is one of those people you can always count on to be generous with his time and energy. He does things with his whole heart.”

If you go

▪ What: Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce 16th annual Gala and Awards Celebration, “The Topaz Gala,” presented by Wells Fargo.

▪ When: 6 p.m. Saturday, May 13, 2017.

▪ Where: Hilton Miami Downtown, 1601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

▪ Tickets: $200 each or $2,000 for table of 10. To purchase or for more information, visit www.gaybizmiami.com, call 305-673-4440 or email RSVP@gaybizmiami.com.

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