For John F. McCarthy, it’s all about connecting the dots.
From his first official job at what Sarasota County then called its Historical Archives, to managing the Parks and Recreation Department, to overseeing county initiatives in sports tourism and ecotourism, McCarthy has performed a multitude of roles.
About three months ago, Interim County Administrator Terry Lewis and Deputy County Administrator Bill Little asked McCarthy to step into Little’s old position. That’s when McCarthy took on his latest title: interim executive director of community services.
McCarthy said he saw that as coming full circle, because his new job encompasses the work of many of the county departments he previously helmed.
“You’re almost like a conductor of an orchestra,” he said, with staff in the library system, the Cooperative Extension Service, the Sarasota History Center and, most recently, the Natural Resources Division, all under the Community Services umbrella.
“I’ve always done what the county asked me to do at any given time,” McCarthy said. “I really couldn’t be happier in terms of how all of my career opportunities in the county have led me to this point in time.”
The Fort Myers native moved to Sarasota with his family when he was 7. After he graduated from high school in 1979, he took his first county position, at the Historical Archives. However, that was through the Comprehensive Employment Training Act, a federally funded job-training program. When his CETA work ended, he landed a job with the archives department and kept it until 1988.
From there, he went to what now is the Natural Resources Department but then was called the Coastal Zone Division. He dealt with matters such as dock permits and the sea turtle monitoring program.
His next move was to Parks and Recreation, in 1996. He became the department’s general manager Nov. 13, 2000.
In that position, he oversaw what he considers his three biggest projects: the restoration of the Nokomis Beach Pavilion, which involved the original architect, Jack West; the creation of Urfer Family Park on Bee Ridge Road, which was possible thanks to a $1 million contribution from Jack and Thelma Urfer; and the development of Lime Lake Park, in the north part of the county, which was spurred by retiree Eueline Myrick and other residents who saw the need for a safe community place where children could play.
In the coming year, McCarthy is focused on Warm Mineral Springs, the only facility of its kind in public hands. With its constant temperature of 87 degrees, and its high mineral content, the springs draws visitors from around the world. Once again, McCarthy said, the plan is to engage community members and various departments in Sarasota County and the city of North Port to determine the historic site’s future.
With all of these efforts, he said, community residents collaborating with county staff makes success possible.
“I guess the role I find myself in often is the catalyst,” he said. “You work with the great people who are out there running the libraries and running the parks … and you try to help them out as much as you can and you do a lot of dot-connecting.”
AT A GLANCE
Hometown: Fort Myers
Family: Married to wife, Michelle, for 16 years
Education: Bachelor’s degree in organizational management from Goshen University
Occupation: Interim Sarasota County Executive Director of Community Services
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