In the past two weeks, SFGN has made it clear our award winners for 2017 celebrate individuals who have achieved success over the test of time.
This week’s recipient of our ‘Achievements in Excellence’ Award goes to attorney George Castrataro, first written up in SFGN in our very first issue, on January 25, 2010.
It was the beginning of a series of articles featuring his pro bono representation of a gay Hollywood cop who was unjustly fired from the city’s police department. George would ensure the officer kept his state license.
Eight years later, Castrataro continues to make news as an attorney standing up for his clients and LGBT rights. Already well known for developing a promising legal career in the field of bankruptcy law, Castrataro is now attempting to carve out a new career as a public servant, offering his name up as a candidate for City commission in Fort Lauderdale.
Win or lose that particular race, he has cultivated a reputation for decency, serving on and underwriting charitable boards, undertaking civic minded cases, and sponsoring LGBT issues and candidates for office. Our community has been well served by his conscientiousness and commitment to causes that matter to us.
Castrataro grew up in Amityville, New York. He was an out high schooler with an atypically understanding and supportive Italian Catholic family. "I was the popular nerd. The homecoming king who would leave the party early and sneak into a gay bar with a fake ID."
A family move to Florida meant an undergraduate degree followed by an MA in Public Health from University of South Florida. George had considered becoming a doctor, and became involved in the public health field first with the Tampa Bay Red Cross, followed by a move to DC to become National Manager for the Red Cross Disease Prevention Program.
This was followed by a stint with the Miami Behavioral Health Center, and a year as Assistant Director of the Broward County Health Department. Concurrently, he founded his own consultancy, Non-Profit Capacity Builders, Inc.
"I began to think that becoming a lawyer would make me a better epidemiologist."
Back in Florida, George began law school at night and graduated in the inaugural class of Florida International University (FIU). He began working at Legal Aid of Broward, leading the HIV legal program. There, he established the Broward Human Rights Initiative, protecting the civil rights of the LGBT community through legal representation, education and mobilization.
With this in mind, George became a lawyer in 2005, and was Supervising Attorney of Legal Aid Service of Broward County for two years before starting his own practice in 2008 specializing in litigation and bankruptcy, now expanded to foreclosure with more attorneys and a social conscience making him worthy of this award.
Over ten years, George has devoted a sizable amount of time to pro bono work and community service, exposing predatory lending, lack of protections for LGBT couples, and workplace injustice. Along the way, he has broken new ground, like a year ago when he convinced a bankruptcy court to write off a federal student loan.
A big techno geek into the most modern computer equipment, he now wants to bring that technical savvy and expertise to city hall as a commissioner representing District 2. His office features software platforms for all practice areas, and his skill set is highly rated by a host of legal evaluators, including a Super Lawyers Rising Star ranking from Westlaw.
This is George’s first foray into politics, and his candidacy challenged a qualified, popular gay opponent, a former city commissioner, along with a young West Point graduate. George wants to champion causes and people he thinks the city is forgetting. His past performance, ethics and advocacy makes him a worthy candidate. The top two vote getters in last night’s elections will move into the second round of the race if none achieve 50 percent of the vote.
George is used to handling clients whose lives are in crisis in an orderly and professional manner. Our SFGN award recognizes not the votes in a particular race, but the values expressed and shared over time. As a volunteer and spokesperson, George has represented our community honorably.
Having been a spokesperson for the LGBT community for the past eight years, acting with dignity, decorum, and distinction, SFGN honors him with its Annual Achievements in Excellence Award, to be presented January 25 at Hunter’s Nightclub in Wilton Manors.