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Neil E. Pacheco of Graton Resort and Casino is a winner of North Bay Business Journal's 2018 Latino Business Leadership Award.

Tell us your story: I was born in Texas. I was raised in Oaxaca, Mexico, and moved to New Jersey when I was a teenager. Moved to Sonoma County in 2004. I am married and have three lovely kids.

I have been in the gaming and hospitality industry for 17 years. It’s been a pleasure to work for Graton Resort Casino since day one in the marketing department for Latino Community. As a director of community engagement the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce helped me connect with business owners and community leaders. Teaching hospitality has inspired me and developed my confidences and helping student pursue a career.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?

A major accomplishment in the past year was being able to impact the lives of young children from my home town in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico who don’t have access to educational resources. With the collaboration of the Healdsburg Education Foundation we set up a computer lab that will give these children opportunities to realize their hopes and dreams for generations to come.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

Becoming a hospitality instructor and being able to impact the lives of over 150 students that are pursuing careers in the hospitality and tourism industry.

What is your biggest challenge today?

Time…..Not having enough time to work on other projects being that there is so much need in our community.

As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

The biggest obstacle was being underestimated as a professional. I was able to overcome this by staying positive and always looking for growth opportunities by going out of my comfort zone.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

The marketing business is a constant renovation and technology is playing a big roll, so definitely. I will look for new ways to keep updating myself.

Who was your most important mentor?

My most important mentor has been Marcos J. Suarez. Marcos is past-president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Business Diversity Manager at the Sonoma County Economic Development Board. Marcos helped me realize my value. He was one of the first people that didn’t underestimate my worth. Instead, Marcos pushed me to get a little more out of my comfort zone and just go for it because I didn’t realize at the time that I was ready.

Tell us about your community involvement: Casino Host, at Graton Resort & Casino. Director of Community Engagement of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Social Media Influencer. Hospitality Teacher at Sonoma County Office of Education/SRJC. Radio host at La Morenita FM, with my show “What’s Cookin’, Sonoma County?”

What advice would you give to a young person today?

Don’t let people discourage you from what you want to accomplish. Stay focused and work harder every day.

Quick takes…

Words that best describe you: Passionate, positive, connectedness, entrepreneur, learner, hard worker, giving.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Willie Tamayo of La Tortilla Factory

Current reading: Yuval Noah Harrari, “Sapiens, a Brief History of Humankind”

Most want to meet: Lawrence Edward Page, computer scientist and internet entrepreneur. co-founded Google with Sergey Brin.

Stress relievers: Running in the foothills of Windsor

Favorite hobbies: Swimming and running.

Is there something we didn’t ask that you would like to add?

Thank you to my beautiful wife Grace, for supporting me in all my adventures and for been a role model to our kids.