MANATEE -- Before a crowd of 500 in Orlando, West Bradenton's Mike Pender received one of Leadership Florida's highest statewide awards Friday.
Pender, a certified public accountant with Cavanaugh & Co., received Leadership Florida's 2013 Distinguished Member Award during the 31st annual conference at Walt Disney World.
Leadership Florida is an organization whose mission is to connect leaders throughout the state to make the state the best it can be, said Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston, himself a Leadership Florida member for 30 years.
"Mike didn't know he was going to get the award," said local member John Horne. "Even his wife, Maria, asked him later if he knew and he said, 'I had no idea'."
Pender was chosen out of the 1,800 statewide membership, said Horne, owner of Anna Maria Oyster Bar restaurants.
"It was an extremely competitive field of candidates this year," Horne added. "This is like a lifetime achievement award."
Described by friends as being exceedingly humble, Pender squirmed in his seat throughout a speech about him by Barbara Zdravecky of Planned Parenthood, a speech that cited his vast achievements."Remarkably, Mike has been responsible for assisting more than 75 new not-for-profits with obtaining their 501-C-3 status," Zdravecky told the gathering.
"So many that Florida Trend Magazine called him the Pro Bono Pro in their July, 2006 issue."
Pender is so highly regarded for his integrity and knowledge that many boards seek his involvement as president or treasurer, Zdravecky said.
"It's a tremendous honor," an emotional Pender said when he received the award.
Pender is on the board of directors of, just to name a few, the Historic Asolo Theater, Pines of Sarasota, New College Foundation, Sarasota Community Foundation, The Manatee Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation and Ringling Museum of Art, Horne said.
"This is a wonderful honor for Mike and well earned," Poston said. "He does so much in the community."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.