Personality: April 2016
● By Aimee Cormier
Chairman, Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce 2016 – Born To Run
By Lisa Hanchey • Submitted Photos
This year’s chairman of the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce, New Iberia native Kevin Romero, was a born leader. His father, Fred Romero, Jr., owned a local radiator business, which depended heavily on the oil and gas industry. Fred encouraged his son to get an education so that he would not have to weather the ups and downs of the volatile market. “He always inspired me to go to college and get an education so I wouldn’t have to rely on the oilfield,” he recalls. “He wanted me to do something else.”
From an early age, Kevin excelled at sports, playing from football at New Iberia Middle School, (former) New Iberia Freshman High and New Iberia Senior High, as well as recreational soccer. His knack for athletics led him to obtain a degree in sports medicine and exercise science from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. He is also a licensed athletic trainer and a registered clinical exercise physiologist. “I enjoyed sports, rehab therapy, working with physicially active people and getting them better,” he explains.
Twenty-five years ago, he met his future wife, Angela, a Houston native, at the Sugar Cane Festival in New Iberia. Now married 23 years, the couple has three children: Alexis, age, 22; Kiersten, 18, and Hannah, 15. Kevin’s brother, Todd still works at radiator shop started by his father, who sold the business to Parkway Radiator and Cooler Division.
After completing his Master’s degree in business from Mississippi State University, Romero returned to his hometown for good. He landed a job at Dauterive Hospital, where he worked in cardiac rehab and sports medicine for several years. During that time, he became involved in the community, volunteering in sports medicine at youth sporting events. “I started with organizing sports medicine coverage for youth football in Iberia Parish, helping people with their children who were injured,” he explains. “Then, it just progressed to more youth and to soccer.”
When Romero moved up to management at Dauterive, he was encouraged to join the Leadership Iberia program. “It really opened my eyes up to everything in the community, and inspired me to want to do more,” he reveals.
Through Leadership Iberia, he started volunteering with the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce, helping with World Championship Gumbo Cook Off and many other community events. Four years ago, he was asked to join the board. He moved up to the executive committee, then third vice chair. In January 2016, he assumed the helm as chairman of the board.
This past year has been an eventful one for the ambitious New Iberian. In 2015, he was appointed as a member of the Iberia Parish Airport Authority, where he currently serves as treasurer. Last spring, he started a new job with the Perret Group as director of clinical operations. At the Perret Group, he oversees three clinics in New Iberia, Lafayette and Opelousas. “I’m in charge of all of the clinical operations to make sure all of our daily operations and finances are going smoothly,” he explains. “I also do business development, supervise the nursing and medical staff throughout all of the clinics, make sure all of our physicians have everything they need for appropriate patient care and talk to patients to get feedback as much as possible on their care from physicians and staff.”
For his role as GICC chair, one of Romero’s main goals is to launch a junior Leadership Iberia program in collaboration with the Leadership Iberia program, the Iberia Parish School System and several local private high schools. “We are developing a youth leadership program, just like the Leadership Iberia program, to get some of the kids of Iberia Parish involved and open their eyes to the community and the community’s needs,” Romero says. “We see so many kids who go off to college and move to other places throughout the country. And, we want them to realize what our community has to offer and, hopefully, come back and make it a better community.”
With over 400 graduates, the Leadership Iberia program continues to succeed. “Leadership Iberia, the flagship community leadership development program in the parish, flourishes with 22 class members who are off to a great start immersing themselves in learning how they fit into building better community,” the former LI member proudly boasts.
Romero also hopes to continue the good work started by the Chamber in 2015. “The Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce had a successful year in 2015 and my focus for 2016 as Chairman of the Board and the Board of Directors is to continue along a similar path, which includes the Chamber’s work in providing unbiased information on issues of concern to local businesses, providing opportunities to better inform citizens, facilitating a platform for discussing new and innovative ideas for community improvement through the Operation Progress Initiative and Project Front Yard and encouraging engaged community leadership,” he says. “Specifically, we want to see continued increase in the economic impact of the World Championship Gumbo Cook Off on the parish and see our own membership increase as a means of strengthening Iberia.”
The Chamber’s theme for 2016 is “Leading Forward.” “We’re trying to make our business community a place where we can grow and develop leaders,” Romero explains. “We are there to support our businesses with any governmental or legislative changes. The Chamber has that bargaining power where we can affect positive change for our businesses. We are the voice for businesses in Iberia Parish.“
To meet this goal, the Chamber will hold political forums this fall for City of New Iberia elections, similar to the forums held last year for the Iberia Parish government political races. “We want our partners to be educated in making informed decisions at the voting polls to elect the appropriate leaders to lead this community forward,” Romero says.
This summer, GICC will host the second annual women’s leadership conference. Additionally, the organization will hold its second annual seminar to help citizens learn how to get involved with non-profit boards, governmental boards and commissions – and even run for elected office.
“In short, our goal for 2016 is to continue to develop an informed business community and citizenry that is personally engaged in building a better community in which to work, live and play,” Romero says.