Virg Paul Bernero was born March 31, 1964 in Pontiac, Michigan in the Metro Detroit area. He was the youngest of five children (three sons and two daughters) born to Giulio, an Italian immigrant who arrived in the US in 1948, and Virginia, a first generation Italian-American.
Bernero has said that the diagnosis of schizophrenia in one of his brothers and the death of another brother from AIDS in 1990 (on the same day he was elected to the Ingham County Commission) have helped to shape his life and politics.
While a student at Waterford Mott High School, Bernero was elected class president three times. After graduating from there in 1982, he enrolled at Adrian College (and was also class president there three times), graduating in 1986 with a B.A. in political science.
Bernero served as a legislative aide and an Ingham County, Michigan Commissioner.
Bernero ran for and won a seat in the Michigan House of Representatives in 2000, serving one term before being elected to the Michigan State Senate in 2002.
Bernero was elected to the Michigan Senate on November 5, 2002, and served there until his election as Mayor three years later.
While he was a state senator, Bernero appeared in the documentary Fired! (2006) by Annabelle Gurwitch. The film chronicles the experiences of individuals who have been fired from their jobs. In it, Bernero was interviewed about his efforts to pass Michigan Senate Bill 381 of 2005 ("Employee Privacy Protection Act"), which would make it illegal for Michigan employers to fire workers for engaging in otherwise legal conduct during their off-work hours.
Bernero was elected Mayor of Lansing on November 8, 2005, after defeating incumbent Mayor Tony Benavides.
Bernero was re-elected as mayor of Lansing in November 2009, winning against opponent Carol Wood.
Bernero was elected for his third term as mayor of Lansing in November 2013, winning against opponent Harold Leeman.
During Bernero's tenure, Lansing received more than $2 billion in new private investments that created or retained more than 12,500 jobs. During potential revenue losses and rising costs, Bernero helped to eliminate more than $80 million in city budget deficits.
His tenure as mayor was not without some criticism, as several political adversaries circulated a petition to have him recalled as mayor. The petition ultimately failed to collect enough signatures to be placed on the ballot.
Virg announced he would not run for reelection in 2017 to be with his aging dad.
Bernero officially announced his intention to run for Governor of Michigan on February 8, 2010. On August 3, 2010, Bernero defeated primary challenger Andy Dillon by 90,326 votes or nearly 20 percentage points. In the general election. Bernero lost to Republican Candidate Snyder, garnering 39.9% of the vote to Snyder's 58.11%.
In 2004, Bernero (as a state senator), Rep. Michael Murphy and Rep. Gretchen Whitmer were jointly awarded the Ray of Light PRISM Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community.
He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from his alma mater Adrian College in 2008.
Bernero is married to Teri (née Johnston); they met when both were attending Adrian College. They have two daughters, Kelly and Virginia (named for his mother).