My Background

I was born in Jacksonville, Florida on New Year’s Eve 1957. One of six siblings, we are a close and loving family.
Money was very tight and I started working in a fiberglass shop at 14 years old. At 15 I had my first construction
job, building pools. I moved to Brevard County in 1975 and worked in the trades for over 10 years. Eventually I
became a skilled carpenter, mason, roofer, rod buster, and heavy equipment operator. I enjoyed the work and
can still swing a hammer.   Read this article on the Brevard County Public Defender Candidate / Seminole County Public Defender Candidate website.

After a few years in construction I started attending Brevard Community College at night. I graduated in 1981
with an Associate of Arts degree. This is the first college degree earned by anyone in my family. That degree
was the hardest to obtain and is the one I am most proud of receiving. During those six years I matured from a
rough Jacksonville street kid into someone that made my family proud. After earning that AA diploma I knew I
could make something of myself.

Now eager for an education I graduated magna cum laude from the University of Central Florida in 1983 and
then from Florida State University’s College of Law in 1985. During a summer internship I had my first jury trial
working for the State Attorney’s Office in Key West.

In 1986 I began working at the Office of the Public Defender, which covers Brevard and Seminole counties. I
worked on thousands of cases in the misdemeanor, juvenile, and felony divisions.

I was responsible for creating and then running the first Early Resolution division in the Public Defender’s office.
This program was designed to settle cases quickly and efficiently. Working in every division of the office I got
to know the agency from top to bottom.

As one of five attorneys chosen to form the experienced Capital Crimes unit I worked exclusively on first-degree murder
and capital sexual battery cases. Death penalty litigation is very high stake and complex work. When a
person’s life is on the line you must know what you are doing and be dedicated to working hard.

Having done all that could be done at the Public Defender’s office I sought new challenges and in 1998 joined
the firm, which is today known as Mario, Gunde, Peters, Rhoden & Kelley. Our firm concentrates in the areas of
criminal and family law. With five attorneys and over 100 years of combined experience we are Brevard’s largest
and most experienced criminal and family law firm.

I have been a small business owner in private practice for the last 13 years. Most of my practice is in family law
with some criminal and general civil litigation. The work is diverse and I may crunch budget numbers, argue a
criminal motion, work on a new marketing concept, and start a divorce trial all in the same day.

Community involvement is important and I volunteer for The Women’s Center, the Florida Supreme Courts’
Justice Teaching program, and have been a scoring judge for mock trial competitions. Speaking to groups at
Brevard Community College, Florida Institute of Technology, and the Law Enforcement Academy gives me the
opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with those that can benefit. I am active in the Cocoa
Beach Area Chamber of Commerce
and participate in many events with other member businesses and am a
member of the Military Affairs Council. I am also a member of the Brevard Republican Executive Committee,
Republican Men’s Club, Brevard County, Seminole County & Florida Bar Associations, Brevard 911, Space Coast Tiger Bay Club,  Melbourne Regional Chamber of East Central Florida, Seminole County Chamber of Commerce, Advent Lutheran Church, Rotary Club.

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