Joe Wier knows everyone on Gasparilla Island.
Well, everyone who schedules an event at the Boca Grande Community Center where Wier handles special events, and most everyone who attends those events. The affable, accommodating Wier is the man who helps make a lot of events happen for a lot of islanders.
The modest Wier, a supervisor for the Lee County Parks & Recreation, shies away from taking too much credit for his work. He said he could accomplish nothing without help from the Friends of Boca Grande, which works closely with Lee County Parks & Rec, and the legion of island volunteers.
Joe Wier, Lee County Parks & Recreation
Here's Wier on how the pieces fit together at a key hub of Boca Grande event planning, how the birthday boy from New Year's Day 1968 avoided the wrong road growing up in Long Island, N.Y., and where he hopes to be in 10 years.
QUESTION: This Saturday is the second annual 4-Mile Fun Run. Why did the fall 5K and 10K runs go away?
ANSWER: We weren't getting enough registrations. We were getting a lot of registrations for the 5K but the 10K just never got up there.
Joe Wier at a glance
Birthdate: Jan. 1, 1968
Occupation: supervisor Lee County Parks & Recreation in charge of community special events
Family: married 21 years with a daughter and son
Hometown: Long Island, N.Y.
Residence: Port Charlotte
Education: Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio
Discovered Boca Grande: As a kid I used to do a lot of shrimping and fishing here.
Q: How was the 4-Mile Fun received in its first year?
A: We're pretty excited about it. I think there was about 170 runners last year and right now we have more than 115 registered for this Saturday's run. We get about 20 percent to 30 percent more runners who walk up the day of the race.
Q: What special events do you coordinate?
A: The Boca Grande 5K Run, the Gasparilla Island 4-Mile Fun Run, the Reading is Fundamental program for children kindergarten and below, three youth fishing tournaments, Halloween Carnival, Turkey Hoop Shoot Contest, the Egg Hunt, Bike Parade, summer camps and teen specialty camps and I assist the Woman's Club Fair in any way they need. All these events I'm in charge of, I can't do them without the community center staff. And in the last few years I've been helping the Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce out with the games portion of the tarpon tournament and street parade.
Q: Is there anyone you haven't met on this island?
A: I know just about everyone. When it comes all the organizations, I know most of them, and I know a heckuva lot of people on the island. Without those people here utilizing the center I wouldn't have a job.
Q: You started as a Friends of Boca Grande employee and eight years ago moved to Lee County Parks & Recreation. Why?
A: I've always known I wanted to go to parks and recreation. I was a teacher for a few years but I didn't like being locked up in the classroom.
Q: You coached cross country and wrestling at Charlotte High School where you once were named MVP as a senior on the football team. How did your family's move to Port Charlotte make a big difference in your life?
A: I lived in Levittown, Long Island, until my family moved to Port Charlotte when I was 13.
Q: Was it a tough adjustment for you?
A: In Long Island, I could see trouble adrifting, you know. Then I moved here and it was a lot calmer for me and my family. It was a lot better. I went to Port Charlotte and played center and defensive tackle in football and wrestled at 169 pounds.
Q: Do you remember the first time you came to Boca Grande?
A: Actually, I was a kid. I used to do a lot of shrimping and fishing out here so I was real familiar with the island. My junior year in college I came down for the summer and worked for the company doing the irrigation for the Gasparilla Inn & Club Golf Course. That's how I paid for my wife's wedding ring.
Q: What's your outlook on this season?
A: A lot of the same, strong programs the people enjoy but the Friends organization has really added a lot to the menu and it looks like it will be a real busy season for us. Lee County has their programs, Friends have their programs and we have a lot of program we do together and help each other any way we can.
Q: Now for the hot potato question: What are the top three island events?
A: Top three special events? The movies from the Friends organization. If you're looking at attendance on a yearly basis, they're getting a lot of people in on those. It's a great thing we do for the community. Now if you're talking actual special events, (laughs) they're all good events but I love the Bike Parade and Woman's Club Fair, the Halloween Carnival is always a treat for the kids and the families, and the Egg Hunts. But I enjoy doing them all.
Q: Isn't the youth population cycle at a low point on Boca Grande?
A: Yes, the cycle is down. We're feeling the pinch a little bit with our programming. The way I look at it in getting ready for a special event I have to do the same preparation I would if it is for one kid or 200 kids. But the pinch has to do with the economy and not as many working parents on the island. We used to have a lot of kids from working parents in our programs. It's still fine now but we'd like to see thee numbers increase.
Q: Where is Joe Wier going to be 10 years from now?
A: Hopefully, I'm still here. I mean why would you leave a place like this? The community is great, co-workers are great and the people are great. I've got nothing to complain about. I'm happy where I'm at.