Bob was born in Nashville, Tenn. but knew he wanted to end up in a sunny place after taking courses at the University of Hawaii during the summer of 1986, just before he graduated.
“I decided then and there that I didn’t like the cold weather anymore,” he said. “I wanted to go where there were palm trees and sand.”
He decided to move immediately after school rather than run the risk of uprooting himself after having a family or starting a promising career, and so after earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Middle Tennessee State University, he did. He moved to the area and worked wherever he could, places like a car dealership and a restaurant, until he found his first parks and recreation gig in Manatee.
“I was up on Anna Maria island waiting tables,” he said. “I’d just gotten out of college so I was just having a little bit of fun and waiting for something good to come along.”
Bob has been working in parks and rec since 1990, starting in Manatee County and working for Charlotte County as well before finding his current home with Lee County. He worked in Manatee for six years and Charlotte for three, where a coworker told him to apply for his current job, which he started in June 1999.
Even after nine years in the business, Bob said working on Boca Grande has been a learning experience.
“I’ve got my hands into a lot of things I never thought I’d get into,” he said.
Facility construction meetings, DOT maintenance functions, a soon-to-be opened $10 million facility in Fort Myers where he spends a little over half his time and strange projects like iguana removal documentation and carcass tracking keep him extremely busy and occasionally surprised.
When residents petitioned Lee County to address the island’s iguana infestation, he had to make sure the removal was being accurately reported.
“I never thought I’d be counting dead iguanas,” he said. “Back about four or five years ago when George Cera was getting paid for each individual iguana, part of my job was to count them.”
He also deals with beach access, trash removal, road grading and a whole gamut of duties, in addition to his normal parks and recreation responsibilities which include matters related to ball fields, beach access and the community center here on the island.
Want to have a wedding on Banyan Street? Bob’s the man to oversee the scheduling of that as well.
On top of all that, he oversees an archery range, community park and more in Fort Myers.
He has a crew of four here in Boca Grande and an eight-man crew down south.
“I’m very blessed that I have great staff in both locations,” he said.
The challenges are different in each area, though. Homeless camps in the Fort Myers parks must be addressed, while Boca Grande offers its own challenges, like working with island organizations to meet their needs for space.
“Here in Boca Grande we’re more a facilitator than a programmer,” he said. “We do offer some programs, but predominantly we’re setting up or breaking down for about 20 organizations that utilize the community center.”
Some of the programs they offer include a fishing tournament, a 5K run and summer camps. But from November through April, Bob said, with the community’s events running six or seven days per week, there is little they can do but keep up.
He and Joe Wier revived the Boca Grande 5K Run and Fun Walk after a brief hiatus and this past year’s was the most well-attended, with 340 people at the event, which is held on the last Sunday in February every year.
Bob was a runner in junior high and high school, and so the 5K event is close to his heart, but after three knee surgeries he finds running to be a bit taxing. Most people might be tempted to retire to the couch, but he found other outlets, branching out into kayaking, weightlifting and cycling, for which he puts in some impressive saddle time.
“I put in about 150, sometimes 200 miles per week,” he said. “I did 50 this morning.”
How did he make the transition?
“I got into it as part of my rehab and found out that you could do it multiple days, hammer it pretty hard several times per week and still feel pretty good,” he said.
But rather than get dizzy doing laps around Gasparilla, Bob says he prefers to ride from his home in East Englewood up to the Venice area and around North Port. He puts his two talents to use in duathlons, depending on how his knees feel, which are like triathlons with the swim portion replaced by a shorter run. Last March he competed in a duathlon which was a 5K run followed by a 40K bike ride and then another run, this time 10 kilometers.
View More images >>Bob says some friends are trying to talk him into adding swimming to his regime, but so far without success.
“The duathlons are for people like me that swim like a rock,” he said.
Bob says he prefers long events like marathons (he’s run four) and 100-mile bike rides. He’s getting ready to do another 100-mile bike ride in honor of a friend in July through Port Charlotte, North Port, Englewood and Venice.
He’s also getting ready for the Sunshine State Senior games to be held in Lee County this year. At 50, he’s just old enough to enter and has already posted qualifying times for the 5K and 10K cycling time trials. He’s also considering the 20K and 40K road races.
Bob loves to travel and camp with his black Lab, Boca. He packs up his 27-foot travel trailer and heads down to Bahia Honda State Park in the Keys. He loves the waterfront sites and opportunities to kayak.
“The whole island is a state park. I can literally kayak a quarter of a mile from my campsite and be catching grouper and snapper,” he said.
Boca accompanies him on his camping trips and is smart enough to have figured out when they’re going.
“As soon as I hook up the trailer to the truck and pull it out front, she’s under my feet, bouncing around me, following me from room to room, barking ‘You better take me,’” he said.
She knows her way around the park –– every inch of the place, he said, and knows the campsite even though it changes with each trip.
“She sleeps in the bed with me, goes camping with me and kayaking with me,” he said. “She’s pretty spoiled.”
He also gets out on the water here on the island and fishes the bays for snook and redfish. He said fishing has given him an appreciation for the natural resources that surround him.
“The thrill of that catch won’t be available to future generations,” he said, “if you don’t protect that resource.”
Most of his fishing is catch and release, but if they’re big enough and he’s hungry enough, he’ll throw a few grouper or mahi on the grill.
In the spirit of conservation, he says one of his pet peeves is people who can’t seem to find the trash can for their soda bottles or cigarette packs.
“They think ‘Somebody will pick it up,’” he said.
Bob’s two daughters are grown and live in Lake Worth and Bradenton. He also has a 14-year-old grandson, Evan, who will be visiting next week to participate in the summer camp. Unfortunately, he won’t be able to chaperone.
“Very rarely do I get to do the fun stuff with the summer camp kids,” he said. “I’ve got to be worrying about budgets and meetings – the other fun stuff. Every once in a while I get to do something with them like a Rays game or kayaking down the Peace River.”
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