Meet Virg Bernero
A public servant with immigrant roots.
The son of an Italian-immigrant grocer family, Virg learned the value of a dollar early -- and learned to give accurate change by counting back -- since the register did not do the math. He graduated from Adrian College, where he studied political science and history, and met his wife, Teri.
Virg's work at the State Capitol brought them to Lansing, where Teri began a long (and ongoing) career with the Lansing School District. Virg worked for the state House and Senate as a legislative aide and was elected to four terms on the Ingham County Commission. He joined forces with fellow commissioners Linda Sims and the late John Jackson to sponsor the Youth Violence Prevention Coalition, a first-of-its-kind program to stop violence before it happens and address the overrepresentation of black youth in our criminal justice system.
Putting people first .
In 2000, Virg was elected State Representative for south Lansing and two years later was promoted to the State Senate, representing Ingham County. As Senator, Virg worked across the aisle to pass Kevin’s Law, a key mental health reform that allows family members to penetrate the bureaucracy to get help for a loved one in trouble.
Long before the Flint Water Crisis, Virg held Senate hearings on the potential dangers of lead pipes in Lansing’s water system, uncovering key details that led the BWL to accelerate its lead pipe replacement project. The last pipe was removed in 2016, making Lansing just the second city in the country to complete the job. Virg's foresight helped protect generations of Lansing children and their families from the dangers of lead poisoning.
Energetic new leadership for Lansing.
In 2005, Virg was elected Mayor of Lansing on the promise of bringing renewed energy and economic activity to the city. And he made good on the promise. Virg asked former Mayor David Hollister to chair the transition team and assembled a top-notch cabinet - that looked like Lansing.
The next 12 years were a whirlwind of activity and accomplishment - both for Lansing and the Bernero family. During the Great Recession, Virg fought like hell to save an aging city from facing the same fate as Detroit, Pontiac or Flint, which all got emergency managers from the state. With help from business and labor alike, Virg's bold leadership put Lansing “back on the map,” with over $3 billion in new investment and thousands of new jobs.
Family comes first.
After three terms as Mayor, Virg decided to step back in 2017 to invest more time at home, and did not seek re-election. He entered the private sector as a business consultant, where he represented the Capital Area Manufacturing Council, among other clients. 2020 was an eventful year for the Berneros, as it was for all Americans. The Bernero family said goodbye to Virg’s father, Giulio, at 95 years old, after a brief battle with cancer. Virg and Teri welcomed their first grandchildren, Logan and Miles, with great joy.
“I’ve never felt more blessed than I do right now,” says Virg. “The grandkids have a way of putting everything in perspective. With my wife and family at my side, I couldn’t ask for a happier home life. But I do miss public service. And there’s much to do to get Lansing back on track.”