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Posted on May 30, 2017 at 4:03 PM by Katie Stamy
At eighteen years old, Joe Ferro accepted a job with the City of Webster mowing grass at the wastewater treatment plant and scrubbing sewer tanks. Thirty-four years later, he has a bachelor’s degree, numerous certifications, and is the Director of Emergency Management for the City of Webster. “It hasn’t always been easy,” Joe said.
He was born in upstate New York into a large Italian family, who moved to Florida one year after he was born. His family built homes and businesses and was involved in the solid waste industry. In 1982, they purchased a solid waste company in Houston, and Joe decided to move to Texas to see what it was all about. He got a job working at Bennigan’s Restaurant, which was once located on Bay Area Boulevard in Webster, and then at Gallagher’s Restaurant, also located in Webster. While working at Gallagher’s, he was introduced to the Webster Director of Public Works. In 1983, after three interviews, he was offered a job with the City, and he hasn’t looked back since.
After Joe had been employed with Webster only a few months, Hurricane Alicia hit the city. “It devastated the area,” Joe remembered. “Recovery was a long process, but I stuck it out, and I’m glad I did,” he stated. Public Works crews had to work 12-14 hour days clearing the debris around Webster.
During that first year, Joe was provided opportunities to further his education, and he quickly became a licensed wastewater operator for the City. That winter, the City endured a record freeze that broke water mains and busted pipes in apartments and homes. “We worked tirelessly repairing things. At one point, I thought I didn’t want to do this anymore because I was cold, tired, and wet,” Joe explained. But once again, he decided to stick it out, and it was the right decision for him.
In 1991, Jim Williams was hired as the new Public Works and Community Development Director. He encouraged employees to continue advancing their education, and soon Joe received the highest level of licensing for water and wastewater that the state offered. Joe helped build lift stations, sewer stations, water plants, and public works facilities during this time, and he facilitated in the construction of the police department, city hall, and the fire station. Joe then became the Superintendent of Public Works and oversaw 34 employees and millions of dollars worth of equipment and infrastructure.
After Hurricane Ike hit in 2008, Joe realized that he wanted to do more for the City, and since he had never obtained a degree, he went to school and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business from Columbia Southern University while working full time and raising four children. Leading up to his graduation, City staff and City Council created the Emergency Management Coordinator role. Joe applied, and was offered the position. In this position, Joe has created mitigation plans and multiple responses and recovery plans for all hazards, whether man-made or natural. “We constantly review our daily operations to protect our community, our infrastructure, and our employees, and to better respond to local and regional needs,” Joe said.
In 2009, as Emergency Management Coordinator, Joe had the opportunity to help plan the move of the space shuttle to Space Center Houston. Joe worked with local law enforcement agencies, the Coast Guard, Texas Department of Transportation, and several other organizations to successfully move the shuttle. He received the Texas Municipal League’s Award of Excellence for the move.
Then, in 2014, Joe worked with Space Center Houston again for “The Big Move.” Along with a myriad of agencies and businesses, the Boeing 747 plane was moved from Ellington Airport to Space Center Houston, where it now resides. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Joe recalled.
Over the years, Joe has realized that, although it was ultimately up to him to make the right decisions, he was only successful because of the people surrounding him. Joe firmly stated, “It’s the citizens, the employees, the mayors and councils, and all the people that I have been fortunate enough to work with up until this very moment.” He said there had been many challenges throughout his career, but he never quit, and he has always worked through the obstacles that were attempting to set him back.
On his days off, Joe enjoys spending time outdoors, camping, hiking, and traveling with his wife, Misty, who is the driving force behind everything he does. Joe and Misty have four children, Alexandra, Victoria, Joseph, and Olivia. “This community has been good to my family and me,” Joe said, and reemphasized, “I’ve only had success in my career because of the people I have worked for and with, and I feel very blessed to have had this great opportunity and look forward to my future with the City of Webster and its citizens.”