This week, we continue our series introducing readers to the Town staff they see every day, cleaning out storm drains, hauling away trash, riding in their golf carts or collecting payment for water bills at Town Hall – our hardworking Public Works employees. We see them all the time but who are they? As it turns out, the 31 staff members of the Town of Fort Myers Beach Public Works Department, which now includes Beach Water and the Beach & Street Enforcement staff, are some pretty interesting folks. The following is the 3rd in our 3 part series introducing these friendly faces to our readers. Look for a story on the two remaining B.A.S.E. workers – and other Town staff members – in next week’s Sand Paper.
Martin Pitts – Maintenance Leader
Martin’s story of how he came to Southwest Florida is similar to many others: he came to visit and never went home.
“I’m from northern Louisiana, and in 2002 I came to visit my sister and stayed,” he told us. “When I first got here, I worked at a produce company, then I drove a cement truck for a few years. But I live right near the island and I wanted to work on the beach, so when I saw that the Town was hiring I jumped at the chance.”
That was in November of 2007, and Martin hasn’t looked back. “I love my job – working for the Town is great,” he told us. “I run the road crews, we keep everything trimmed and looking nice.”
“It’s nice to work outside, but it’s also nice to come home and get cooled off!” he said, laughing. “ I also like to grill out, go fishing and spend time with my daughter.”
At least once a year, Pitts makes the pilgrimage back to northern Louisiana to see his mother, now 82, and the rest of his family. “Most of my family still live there, but I love it here so I stay.”
Nello Cernoia – Beach and Street Enforcement
Affable Nello has lived in southwest Florida since 1988, and says that working in Public Works comes naturally to him after being in the restaurant business for 40 years.
“I’ve been kissing butts for four decades – I owned four restaurants,” he told us. “I know how to get along with people.”
Nello first visited the beach on his honeymoon, then he and his new bride promptly returned to their native Cleveland, quit their jobs and came back.
“I’m still a Buckeye, but this is my home now – I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere else,” Nello said. “I worked at six restaurants at one point, and the last one I owned was the La Cochina downtown. I sold it and retired.”
Retirement lasted until 2014, when a friend told Nello that B.A.S.E. needed help.
“I figured I’d try it out because I liked the idea of working on the beach,” he said. “I really enjoy it, especially the part where I get to serve as a beach ambassador. I like helping the tourists and showing people how to operate the parking meters – I want everyone to have a good time and to love this island like I do.”
The job also gives Nello the time to enjoy life with his wife – something he had precious little time do while working the crazy hours of someone in the hospitality industry. “We like to walk the beach, spend time in our pool and entertain – we just remodeled our whole backyard,” he said. “Life is good!”
Jeff Kasper – Street Crew
Jeff has lived on Fort Myers Beach for the past seven years, moving here after serving 8 years in the Marine Corps.
“I had a lawn service in Lake Placid, Florida, and I kept wondering ‘how do I get closer to the beach?’” he told us. “So one day I came here to be with my family. They left and I stayed.”
Jeff told us that what he likes most about his job is that he gets to make a difference in his community, every single day. “It’s nice to get out there and do something everyday that helps this town,” he said. “One day I’ll be patching potholes, another day making the right of way look nicer – it’s never the same thing, and its cool to drive around with my friends and say, ‘See that? I worked on that’.”
Jeff says he’s always liked the challenge of learning something new and how to fix things, so his job appeals to that part of him, too. “I like to learn new stuff – I like to be hands-on,” he said. “So I stay pretty busy. When I’m not working for the Town, I still do some lawns on the side. Once a year I take a trip to Colorado.”
Keith Hofacker – Beach Crew
Keith was the last holdout in his family to make the move from Cincinnati to southwest Florida. Now that he’s here, he is wondering why it took him so long.
“The best thing about living here is that you never have to worry that the weather is going to screw up your plans,” he said. “Even if it rains – so what? It’ll stop in half an hour.”
Keith was urged by his dad to apply for the Town job, advice he says he’s glad he took. “What could be better than working on the beach?” he said. “Our days usually start out with a trash run, then we paint, trim accesses, do everything we can to make things pretty.”
Living in Cape Coral, it’s not surprising that Keith spends his downtime puttering around in his boat. “My favorite thing to do is to go fishing,” he said. “Fish and hang out – it’s great”
Don Hanyo – Maintenance Technician
Don Hanyo is another long time islander, celebrating 30 years of residence on Fort Myers Beach, and 13 years working at Town Hall. What many folks may not know about Hanyo is that he used to be a homebuilder on the beach – and some of his homes were featured in Gulf Coast Living in the 1980’s.
“I moved here from Detroit,” Don told us. “I came here and bought a house – the same one I’ve been living in for 30 years now.”
Other long-time residents may remember Hanyo from The Reef, a former island institution that sat on the lot next to Topp’s for some 25 years before Hurricane Charley closed its doors in 2004. “I was a chef at The Reef for 15 years,” Don told us, a twinkle in his eye. “I saw some crazy stuff while I worked there.”
Don also worked for seven years as a butcher at Topp’s right after Winn-Dixie left the store in the late 1990’s. These days, he says he’s happy with his gig at the Town. “Anything they say needs to be done, I do it,” he told us.
Doug Molloy – Beach and Street Enforcement (B.A.S.E)
Doug has been with the Town for over a year now, having come from Central Parking – where he worked for the past 14 years – when the Town took over B.A.S.E.
“I’m originally from Loveland, Ohio, and moved to southwest Florida with my parents when I was in high school – that was quite a long time ago,” Molloy said, laughing. “Before I worked for the Town, I ran heavy equipment, did property maintenance – a little bit of everything.”
Today, Doug serves as the ‘complaint department’ for B.A.S.E., among other things.
“The new meters really help because now when someone calls I can see where cars are parked, for how long and when they got there – I can pull all that information up on the screen in real time,” he said. “I also repair equipment and do accounting.”
When not on duty, Molloy likes to relax at his home in Alva with his big family. “I have 5 kids, and most of them still live close by,” he said. “I enjoy time off with them.”
Dean Heasley – Beach and Street Enforcement (B.A.S.E)
Retired firefighter Heasley is another person who came to our shores while on vacation and pretty much never left.
“That was back in 1977 – I came here on a fishing trip,” he said. “By 1978 I was living here full time.”
Dean – who was born and raised in beautiful Newcastle, Pennsylvania before moving to SWFL– said he started as a volunteer for the fire department, and then became a full-time firefighter on Marco Island, a job he held for 32 years.
“I retired as a Captain,” he told us. “But that didn’t last long – I got bored pretty quick – so I started working for the Town a year and a half ago.”
What many people may not know about Dean is that he has a pretty interesting hobby that fills his spare time. “I do large-mouth bass fishing tournaments,” he said. “I go all over the tri-state area.”
Jim Rediske – Beach and Street Enforcement (B.A.S.E)
Jim had two very interesting careers before he came to work for the Town – one in the Army and the other as a funeral director.
“I moved here from Wisconsin 13 years ago – I followed my grandparents and my mom down,” Jim told us. “I ran a funeral home in Fort Myers for 6 years, then started working for the Town when I retired 2 years ago.”
Today, Rediske spends his days patrolling the beach, and said he loves helping people and answering their questions.
“I patrol the beach and the downtown area,” he said. “I think the funniest thing people ask me is if they’re sharks out there (in the Gulf). Of course we have sharks! But they never bother anyone and I don’t want to scare them so I tell them the truth – that we don’t have shark attacks on Fort Myers Beach. I also tell them that we have an enormous amount of dolphins out there and dolphins keep the sharks away.”
When not on the beach, Jim spends his spare time on the water – fishing, boating and scuba diving.
Keri Hendry Weeg