“Maybe not 500,” she said. “Maybe just 499.”
Candy is a young woman with a contagious laugh and a special place in her heart for detail. She was a military brat who moved back and forth from Michigan to Florida, though Brooksville became more of a permanent home when she was about 11, so now her family is divided between the two states. Her grandmother lives up north and her brother, stepfather and mother live in Brooksville.
Brooksville is a smaller town whose claim to fame is the Weeki Wachee Springs and its famous mermaids. She’s visited the springs and seen the mermaids more times than she can count, but there was quite a bit to keep busy with living on acreage, which is a term some of us in coastal towns might not be familiar with, but it means she lived on enough land to ride horses, dirt bikes and four wheelers. She also kayaked on the river and explored the area’s many state forests, such as the Withlacoochee, which shared a border with her home.
Ian, who is 11, attends the Island School and loves Boca Grande. In his words, every day on the island is a vacation. Candy appreciates its charm, too, and has nothing but praise for the island school.
“I can’t say enough good things about it,” she said. We’ve had a great experience there.” After graduating from Hernando High School in 1994, she began working on her degree in finance and marketing. She took a little time in between semesters for some adventure. She worked as a clerk and night auditor at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel in Yellowstone National Park before spending some time in Michigan and then moving back to Brooksville.
She came to Boca Grande after a few different factors came together in her favor. She had been researching the area’s real estate market when the economic recovery began, after being introduced to the area by a close friend. She determined that the region was doing comparatively well. That, combined with the opportunity to go back to work for Wells Fargo, made it an easy decision.
She works for three different branches, one on the island, one in Gulf Cove and one in West Rotonda, as well as taking appointments and working at home, so she has her hands full.
She originates home mortgages, to help people obtain real estate residential loans, acting as a coordinator between the customer, underwriting and the realtor to make sure the process goes smoothly and to set proper expectations.
Candy has been working in banking and finance since 1998. In addition to Wells Fargo, she’s been with institutions like Citigroup, Suntrust, J.P. Morgan Chase and Ford Motor Credit Company.
Candy was inspired by different members of her family in different ways, she said. Her grandmother, Patsy, was a GM factory worker who showed her the value of hard work and the meaning of unconditional love. She said she’s inspired and grateful to the woman who was a matriarch to Candy’s whole family.
“She said to me, ’Every family has a rock that they depend on and that has to be the strongest person,’” Candy recalled, “’and someday you’re going to be that person.’”
Inspiration and guidance came from her stepfather, John, as well. He works in real estate and property management. Candy said their discussions about their respective professions have been invaluable and helped shape her fiscally conservative outlook.
“During the real estate upswing and downfall he and I discussed it,” Candy said, “and he is definitely instrumental in my realistic and level view of that entire situation.”
It might be natural to ask how people in banking and finance weathered the recent economic downturn. They were, after all, pretty rough times for anyone whose living is tied to real estate.
Candy took it as an opportunity to diversify her talents and spent two years working in grant administration for Guardian Community Resource Management, Inc., a company that puts federal dollars from grant programs into the hands of counties plagued by high foreclosure rates. The money was part of neighborhood stabilization programs that refurbished foreclosed homes and provided down payment assistance to qualified buyers and community development block grants used to rehabilitate homes owned by people with lower incomes.
“It kept me in the housing arena,” Candy said. “I learned a lot about grants, nonprofit organizations and project management. It was an incredible experience.”
But Candy said she missed doing what she does now and was thrilled to be able to come back to work for Wells Fargo. She has since been able to put that project management experience to good use working for Wells Fargo, to which she returned in 2011.
Looking ahead, she said she hopes to complete her bachelor’s degree before Ian graduates from high school.
“Being in a sales position like I am, if I don’t make it happen it won’t happen. I have to put 100 percent into my job, and I can’t have any distractions.”
Candy’s move to Boca Grande made a lot of sense professionally, and she has made quite a few friends here over the last few years, she said. But there was another reason she found the island community so appealing.
“I really wanted Ian to experience a smaller environment,” she said.
That means things like smaller classes at the Island School as well as an environment that affords Ian a chance to grow and explore more than he might be able to in a bigger town.
“For an 11-year-old boy, Boca Grande is ideal,” she said. “The community here is so excellent and it’s a great place to be for an adolescent.”
She said he is a very talented artist at his age. No doubt he’ll find some inspiration here among the natural beauty.
They have taken many opportunities to explore outside the Boca Grande area as well. Day trips to antique shops in Arcadia can yield treasures that remind her of the antique shops in Brooksville’s historic downtown district. She keeps her eyes open for any hardbound World War II books to bolster the collection she inherited from her stepfather’s friend and her former teacher. There are no plans for the collection.
“It’s just something that I’ll always do,” she said.
On other day trips Candy and Ian have bought soaps and strawberries from hydroponic farmers in Sarasota. Minimal light pollution affords opportunities to go stargazing on the island at night.
She enjoys the most simple pleasures –– like watching “The Walking Dead” TV show with her son –– as well as reading. Her taste is diverse, running from National Geographic magazine to “The Hunger Games” trilogy and Hemingway’s posthumous “Islands in the Stream.” The Hemingway novel is always at her bedside, she said.
“You can just pick it up and flip to any page and be engrossed,” Candy said.
She is also reading “Taking Care of Business” (not an Elvis biography) by Brian Buffini and Joe Niego and “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson. She said she is reading both because of their relevance to her profession.
She also loves walking the island with her Chinese crested powderpuff named Pepper. The powderpuff is not to be confused with the Chinese crested hairless, a past holder of the “World’s Ugliest Dog” title.
“The hairless ones always win, but Pepper’s very handsome,” she said. He’s the cute version of that. He has hair.”
She also has three cats, one of whom is missing at the moment, a large blue-eyed Maine coon cat named Arian. So if you see one out and about … .
She has also been focusing on fitness. Candy uses an app called “Couch to 5k” to help her plan workouts that she hopes will prepare her for her first 5k race. She also fished in the Ladies’ Day tournament as a “Nautigal” on Kyle Jones’ team of the same name.
“The outdoor activities, the nature here is just excellent,” she said. Fishing, boating, running, walking on the beach. This is a very ideal existence. Working for Wells Fargo is great and Ian loves it here, so we’re definitely staying.”
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