Man(ager) of the year
PAMELA GLINSKISEBRING - Joseph "Joe" DeCerbo was stunned when his name was called out June 7 as the District Manager of the Year at the Florida Association of Special Districts' annual conference in Bonita Springs.
Published: July 30, 2012
Published: July 30, 2012
The Spring Lake Improvement District manager had filled out the paperwork nominating his entire team.
It wasn't until after he received the award that his staff told him they had changed the paperwork to nominate him instead.
"It was really kind of neat. It is nice for your peers to appreciate what you do," said DeCerbo.
DeCerbo is being recognized for his four-year effort to get approval of a provisional accredited levee system along Arbuckle Creek.
His work prevented Spring Lake from being considered a high-risk flood zone and helped residents save more than $1 million in insurance costs.
"We are very fortunate to have his management skills," said Spring Lake Assistant District Manager Clay Shrum, who feels "very positive" about the award.
"The community of Spring Lake has Mr. DeCerbo to thank for his hard work and tireless dedication that this process ended successfully for the residents."
The Spring Lake Improvement District is a government agency with elected officials who oversee the Spring Lake area.
There are 1,618 special districts statewide with the authority to levy assessments for community development, libraries, water management and road improvement.
A Spring Lake resident since 1994, DeCerbo served two terms on the district's board before becoming district manager in 2006.
Since then, he has worked to improve staffing and enhance cooperation with the airport authority, Department of Transportation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, South Florida Water Management District and Highlands County politicians.
He also keeps residents informed of projects by writing articles for the Spring Lake Breeze newsletter.
In an organized office filled with district maps, resource materials, family photos, Las Vegas memorabilia and Frank Sinatra albums, it is easy to see this New York native is serious about both his work and enjoying life.
DeCerbo was graduated from Akron University with a bachelor's in education and a master's in school administration.
He worked as an educator, coach, and assistant principal for St. Matthews in Ohio before going to work for the Boys Clubs of America in 1976.
In 1978, he took a position with the national staff at the Boys Clubs of America regional offices in Chicago.
DeCerbo said he was promoted to the position of regional director of the Midwest Region just as the organization was transitioning to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
For 17 years, he oversaw a $60 million budget and 278 facilities across 13 states. His board of directors had several Fortune 500 executives, including James Kemper of Kemper Insurance, Tupperware CEO Rick Goings, William Clay Ford and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
"They were all helping to raise funds for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America," he said.
After moving his family to Highlands County, DeCerbo opened the Yellow Brick Road consulting firm, which teaches organizational and management skills, personnel training and board development to companies and nonprofit organizations. He speaks at workshops, conventions and conferences across the country.
"Problems are just opportunities for solutions," said DeCerbo, whose positive outlook always perceives the glass as half full.
DeCerbo has been active in the community over the years, starting a chapter of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, volunteering with NU-HOPE and the YMCA, and helping with fundraising for several organizations.
When asked where he would like to be in five years, this avid golfer and reader said he would like to be spending more time with his wife of 33 years, Debbie, his son, daughter and the granddaughter he fondly refers to as "Little Princess."
"I would like to play golf at St. Andrews (in Scotland), visit Tahiti, take lots of cruises, and go back to Sicily," said DeCerbo, who just returned from a Mediterranean cruise.
A first-time cruiser, he had the opportunity to visit the home of his ancestors, a small village an hour from Messina, Italy. He met great-aunts, uncles, cousins and visited the church where his grandparents were married.
"It doesn't matter who you are or what you do, never forget where you came from," said DeCerbo, who returns to Saratoga, N.Y., every year to reconnect with friends, some he has known since kindergarten.
As for his job and the team he refers to as "family," DeCerbo said that with the great staff and board now in place, "I know this district should be on good solid footing for many decades."