Building a Career
This short biography was initially designed as a narrative interpretation of my resume’. It was created to highlight my years of experience for my Citrus County School Board campaign in 2018. I have reworked it to represent a general overview of where I have been, sharing experiences on which I will elaborate in the main sections of this website. The career choices that I have made have often determined the direction that my life has taken.
My career path began when I graduated from Farragut High School in 1976, near my hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. I attended Maryville College, a small liberal arts college at the edge of the Smoky Mountains where I was heavily involved in the music and theatre programs. I was initially an English Major but after working with some elementary-aged youngsters in a children’s musical, I changed my major to Elementary Education — graduating in December of 1980.
Each of my summer breaks from college were spent as a counselor at Camp Deerwoode, a Camp for Boys in Brevard, North Carolina. I had been a camper from 1970-1972 and a Junior Counselor while in high school from 1973-1975. As a counselor, in addition to supervising a cabin of youngsters each session, I organized the activities for which I was assigned and taught classes in several different specialties. These changed over the years, and included the Physical Coordination program and woodworking shop. I continued my summers at Deerwoode through 1982 – my second year as a teacher. The camp closed as a summer camp in 1991, but continued to exist as a resort until 2019. It is hard to describe the Deerwoode experience, so I have created a website as a tribute to those who have attended.
My first teaching experience was a term position for half a year at Alcoa Elementary School, in Alcoa, Tennessee. After sending applications to school systems around the Southeast, I was eventually contacted by Mr. Ben Branch, the principal of Crystal River Primary School (and who happened to be a native Tennessean). Even though I was soon offered a position at a school in Maryville, I chose to come to Citrus County Florida — sight unseen — in 1981. I taught 4th grade back in the days when we had almost nothing that could be construed as “high tech” in our classroom. We did not even have a television. What we did have was easy access to the playground so recess became an important incentive for good effort. It was a simpler time.
While at CRPS, I felt compelled to utilize the little stage in the cafeteria, involving as many students as possible. I dubbed this “The Peanut Playhouse”, staging a spring show every year. The productions included folk tales, fairy tales, fantasy, and musicals. In most of these shows, I often cast faculty members as well. Ostensibly, it was to introduce my colleagues to the stage, but my true motivation was to ensure backstage supervision so I could monitor all other aspects of the show and schmooze with the audience.
Very often it is necessary for a teacher – particularly a young teacher – to have a second job to help pay the bills. I worked for a while at the Subway in Crystal River, dealing with late-night drunks on the weekends while slinging sandwiches. I eventually became a server at the Prime Minister/Dickens Pub in Crystal River and did this for several years in the evenings after teaching during the day. As it happened, I spent a chunk of this extra income frequenting the restaurant as a customer so I could sample the menu from a different perspective. I also wanted to learn first-hand what items to recommend to my customers. Besides, the Prime Minister served the tastiest prime rib I had ever experienced before, or since.
Beginning in the summer of 1983, I was hired by the Citrus County Parks and Recreation as the Inverness Site Supervisor for the Summer Youth Camp. For the first four summers, the camp was based at the pavilion area of Whispering Pines Park in Inverness. This gave me the chance to put my thirteen years of Deerwoode experience to work, organizing the counseling staff, creating activity schedules for the campers, and trying to keep everyone cool during the heat of the summer. To facilitate this, there were small groups sent to the Whispering Pines pool each day along with weekly jaunts to the nearby Roller Barn.
Eventually, the new leadership at the middle school decided to revamp the schedule and eliminate the theatre program at the end of 1994. By this time, Mr. Lewis had become the first principal at Rock Crusher Elementary. I was impressed after meeting some of the faculty at RCES, so I inquired about any teacher openings. The only availability at that time was a Library/Media Specialist position. Once again, I jumped in with both feet and made the program my own, with the help of Sharon, the Media Aide. It turned out that my wide range of interests and skills made the Media Center a good fit for me, so in 2000, I received my Educational Media certification from the University of Central Florida. While at Rock Crusher, I upgraded the daily Morning Show by building a 2-camera studio and training fifth grade students to run it. I also helped establish a more modern circulation system and designed new curriculum that incorporated emerging technologies with regard to research. When the schools acquired access to the World Wide Web in 1995 (through a dialup account), I taught myself HTML programming and constructed the first website for a Citrus County school. By today’s standards, it was primitive, but in 1995, it was a big deal.
I transferred to Citrus High as a Media Specialist in 2002, joining my son, Phil, who was a student at Citrus. My specialty at Citrus High was computers and research. I developed a Research curriculum incorporating new technologies including Google Classroom. I reached my 30 years of service in 2011 and entered the Deferred Retirement program. In 2017, I announced that I would retire in December, after one more semester. This was done at this time so that I could run for a seat on the Citrus County School Board in 2018.
In order to fill a need in the Science Department while still having me around to assist with the new Media Specialist, I was moved back into a traditional classroom, teaching 9th grade Physical Science . finally retiring at Christmas break, amassing 37 total years in education.
By March, I was an official candidate for School Board and the circus commenced. Initially, I was a fish out of water, being unfamiliar with the world of politics. I was hoping to avoid the sniping between the two major parties since I was running as a Non-Partisan candidate. However, I quickly discovered that, politically, nothing in Citrus County is really non-partisan. I figured I would keep harping on the theme of my extensive experience in the school system which was a good start, but I soon realized that it takes more than that. It was also pointed out to me that unseating an incumbent is difficult in this county, and that turned out to be the case. Ah, well–maybe next time.
Instead, early in 2019, I began working at PAC Lighting on a part-time basis. PAC Lighting specializes in LED retrofits and upgrades. I am becoming an LED lighting specialist, and have already performed numerous lighting audits around the Southeast. I have also served as project manager for some large-scale installs.
Above and Beyond
Sprinkled throughout my career have been opportunities to share some of my interests and expertise with the Community. I have also had the chance to delve into whatever creative pursuits pique my interest.
My involvement in the theatre while at Maryville became an important influence in my life. It was because of the theatre, for example, that I chose to become a teacher. Not only did I participate in mainstage productions, I was selected to be a charter member of the MC Playmakers — a repertory theatre group which played living rooms as well as street theatre. My appreciation for this type of theatre would serve me well in the years to come.
When I first relocated to Crystal River, it was enough to adjust to a new environment and a new career. A chance meeting with a cast member of a production of Grease at the Marion Actors Theatre in Ocala landed me the role of Roger, the “King of the Mooners”. Even though traveling 35 miles (each way) to rehearsals and performances was taxing, it was a great deal of fun. Besides, I was beginning to question my move to Florida and my first foray into Community Theatre kept me in the area.
After three shows with MAT, I decided to see what was available closer to home. I began working with Gulf Islands Civic Theatre in the Crystal River area as a director and performer.
After a few years, I was part of a small group of like-minded actors that believed the quality and variety of the shows could be improved, so we formed the non-profit Citrus Actors Theatre, Inc. The name, of course, was an homage to the Marion Actors Theatre, which by that time had disbanded. I served proudly as the President of the group. Initially, we rehearsed and performed in my classroom — the old theatre at the Crystal River Middle School. Eventually, we partnered with the folks at Andre’s of Citrus Hills to provide top-flight dinner theatre productions. We kept Citrus Actors Theatre going until 1991.
In 1989, I discovered something that would change me and my path in profound ways. On an overnight trip to the St. Petersburg area to observe a middle school, Bill Farrell and I were invited to The Friendly Tavern in Redington Shores to experience a unique form of entertainment. It was called Karaoke, and in 1989, there were relatively few venues in Florida that were providing it. I was blown away. Here was music, theatre, and total strangers cheering each other on, experiencing fun and a commonality that was purely magical. I vowed to bring this to Citrus County and made some inquiries. Soon, I had acquired a loan, created Entertainment Concepts, Inc., purchased the necessary equipment, and secured one gig – a Splash-Down Party with Citrus 95 at Cracker’s Bar and Grill. That was August 19, 1990. The owner of Cracker’s was impressed enough to ask me to return the next weekend. It caught on, and I became known as “That Karaoke Guy” at Cracker’s. For the next 14 years, I was a mild-mannered teacher during the week; weekends brought out my alter-ego as I improvised entertainment from the restaurant patrons in attendance. Once every three weeks, I would use the karaoke with my theatre classes as well. The good part was that I had a fun way to augment my teacher’s salary. The down side was that I could not pursue my “formal” theatre hobby since I was encumbered every weekend. In actuality, a karaoke show must incorporate a good bit of improvisation, so I was able to get my theatre fix after all.
These days, karaoke shows are ubiquitous, incorporating laptop computers and Wifi. I can still put together a show for special occasions, but I do it “Old School”, even incorporating the old Pioneer laser discs which feature a goofy video with each song.
I have maintained several other hobbies and interests as well. The one with the most longevity has been the building and playing of Appalachian dulcimers. The mountain dulcimer is a stringed instrument that is played across the lap. It’s an old instrument, attributed to the earliest settlers of this country, especially those who settled in the Appalachian Mountains. While I was a freshman at Maryville College, I took a unique 3-week class called “Building the Appalachian Dulcimer.” Several students built beautiful instruments from kits, but I couldn’t afford the kit, so I was one of three students to build the instrument from scratch. By doing so, I discovered that I had an affinity for woodworking. I have been building dulcimers every now and then as a hobby for the past 43 years and have built 49 instruments to date. With retirement imminent, I established the Nature Coast Dulcimer Works, LLC for custom-made instruments and lutherie services.
One of my other hobbies was spawned from my interest in history: Civil War reenacting, with which I have been involved since 1997. I have always been a member of the 8th Florida, Company B, which is a Confederate unit, but I also have a Federal uniform if I’m needed to galvanize. I was a charter member of the Nature Coast Reenactment Committee which established an annual event in the Crystal River area for about 18 years. For all those years, I also served as the Webmaster for the event.
Other hobbies include the theatre (I still perform and direct from time to time), building desktop computers, creating websites, flying kites, scale model building, and home-brewing beer. Since my retirement, I have taken up flying (and crashing) radio-controlled aircraft with the Central Ridge R/C Flyers.