As I leave the Planning Commission and MPO for the next chapter in my life, it is time to reflect on the important things that happened over my 35 year career here. I have had almost every job imaginable along this journey from the bottom to the top. Starting as a draftsman in April of 1972, I remained in the technical positions until I left in 1979 for the private sector. After seven years I returned with a newly minted USF college degree and my AICP certification as a planner. It was then that my career really took off.
In 1995, I became Assistant Director of the Planning Commission Director. I became Executive Director of the MPO in 2009. In 2012, I became Executive Director of both the Planning Commission and MPO.
I have been so blessed to do what I love most, planning for the future of the community that means so much to me. I have seen so much in the 40 plus years spanning my planning career. Hillsborough County has grown from about a half million people to over 1,300,000. I have participated in important movements in planning, including the rise of historic preservation; the creation of the urban service area to focus growth; the rise of mixed use development and the new urbanist movement; and now being on the threshold of focusing on building a more multi-modal transportation system. Our community now has a solid identity that will only get stronger in the future.
It has been very exciting to see so many decisions that were made in the past turn into concrete, positive direction for our future. I firmly believe the future is very bright for Hillsborough County. Our community really is a blend of what makes our nation so special in the world. Demographically we live in a smaller version our country as a whole, which makes for a very interesting place to live, work, and play. Whatever your dreams or lifestyle choices are, they can be achieved here.
The Planning Commission and MPO have been an important part of being the genesis of so many good ideas and concepts over the years. Many of our staff and board members have gone on to bigger jobs and elected office, bringing with them knowledge they gained from being part of the planning process. We are now reaping those benefits, as we focus on really building upon our unique strengths rather than simply trying to imitate others. We are becoming a mature community with our own special identity of which we can all be proud.
I have learned in my career that so much can be accomplished when people of good will work together without expecting thanks, but doing what is necessary because they truly care about their community and its future. We can accomplish so much when we work together, and I have great confidence we will continue to do that in the future.
As I leave my dual position with great appreciation for the opportunities I've had and relationships I've built, I remain an eternal optimist. I am excited to be leaving the Planning Commission and MPO under very capable new leadership in whom I am certain will continue contributing great ideas and plans for an even brighter future ahead.
I am proud to be the grandson of a shoemaker from Sicily who came here in 1906 with virtually no education to build a new life in a new world making me now part of a community that he never could have even dreamed would exist. Finally, I have to thank my wife, Debbie, who always has my back and held our family together no matter how busy things got.
It has been an honor to serve this community. As I said previously, I am truly blessed and thankful for the life that I have had, and by no means consider myself done yet!