BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County's environmental services director is heading back to his hometown in Northfield, Minn.
The Northfield City Council voted Tuesday night to hire Joe Stapf as the city's public works director and city engineer. He starts the new job later this month.
"This gives me a chance to move back to my roots, which is something I never anticipated I would get to do,'' Stapf said Wednesday.
Stapf, 61, came to Hernando County in January 2008, filling the spot left vacant by the death of Kay Adams a year earlier.
He had retired as utilities director for the city of Wyoming, Mich., before his move to Florida.
During his stay in Hernando, Stapf earned a reputation for his candor, once saying to the County Commission that he wasn't there to tell them what they wanted to hear.
Earlier this year, he challenged the board to properly fund mosquito control or simply stop offering the service. Earlier in his tenure, he suggested raising the solid waste fee to pay for the services customers had come to expect.
When the commission shot him down, he accomplished a major downsizing of the utilities staff, dropping the hours of some services and recommending the privatization of recycling services.
Stapf oversaw completion of a new cell at the county's landfill and several big-ticket water and sewer projects. He helped implement a graduated water and sewer fee system that penalizes people for using larger quantities of water, and he led the county through a new franchise agreement for hauling garbage.
He said he is pleased to have begun the consolidation of wastewater treatment plants and with progress made on a water reuse system — and the fact that the county was able to secure low-interest loans for such expensive projects through the state's revolving trust fund.
Also during his tenure, Stapf has had to weather a storm of controversy over racism among his employees and another dust-up over deep divisions concerning a union shop steward at the department's Wiscon Road facility.
Stapf said he was honored to be considered for a job back in the town where he was born and will enjoy being close to his extended family and old friends. He had lived in Minnesota until 1975.
While he said one of the most difficult things he ever had to do was write his letter of resignation after 30 years in Wyoming, Mich., "it's amazing to me that after just four years, I have very similar feelings about Hernando County.
"I'm going to miss the people in my department tremendously," he said.
Stapf's current salary with benefits is $114,730.22. His cash-out of unused leave time will be about $258.
County Administrator David Hamilton briefed the commission when Stapf was selected as a finalist for the Minnesota job. He has already been working on a transition plan.
Stapf will be the second member to leave Hamilton's leadership team in the past week. Community Development Director Jean Rags announced her plans to retire in order to care for her ailing mother. She will depart later this month.
Stapf's last day has not yet been determined.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.