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Check out these first-timers on the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces list

They come in all shapes and sizes.
Owners Carmen Keel and Clay Keel pose for a portrait at Keel Farms in Plant City on Friday, March 12, 2021.
Owners Carmen Keel and Clay Keel pose for a portrait at Keel Farms in Plant City on Friday, March 12, 2021. [ IVY CEBALLO ]
Published Mar. 26, 2021|Updated Mar. 26, 2021

Ask most any person what they love about their job, and they’ll probably answer this way.

“I get to do something different every day.”

Regardless of their profession, most people think this statement applies to their chosen line of work. But at the city of Safety Harbor, the responsibilities of the local government’s employees really do run the gamut.

“You are literally putting out fires every day,” says city manager Matthew Spoor. “Those fires could be literal fires, code enforcement issues, residents fighting against each other, police issues, library issues, capital projects, road sidewalks, you name it, we can be dealing with any different issue on any different day.”

It’s that variety that keeps the workplace interesting, to say the least. One day, the city commission might vote to allow backyard chickens after much debate and a city commissioner might offer to wear a chicken suit, and another day, you and your colleagues could be making an Office-themed satire of the whole incident.

Read more: Here are the Top 100 Tampa Bay Workplaces of 2021

The city of Safety Harbor employs about 200 people, but human resources director Kimberly Nicholls considers it a small operation.

“I don’t think we have a single employee that wears one hat,” Spoor said.

For the first time, the local government ranked on the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces 2021, a list based largely on employee feedback. The city ranked 25th out of 33 midsize companies. As one employee wrote in a company-wide survey: “I love my job because of the variety of projects that I get to work on and the people I get to work with.”

Safety Harbor was one of 22 organizations to make the list for the first time this year, including other local governments like the city of Largo and Pasco County. Other first-timers include California-based mortgage lender PRMG, which has 849 employees in the Tampa Bay area, and Atlanta-headquartered Hughes Exterminators, which has 203 employees here.

Read more: Searching for a workplace that fosters new ideas? The HOTH ranks high

For Clearwater-based PODS, a moving and storage company that started locally in 1998 but has since grown to more than 2,000 employees globally, the ranking is a sign that the company has retained its small community feel while expanding its reach. PODS ranked No. 18 out of 22 large companies.

“When you move from a small, high-touch family-oriented-size business to a bigger business that touches more people but has a greater opportunity to do more, you have to assess,” said Megan Grove, the company’s director of learning and internal communication. “When are we high-touch and when do we automate and how do we keep that personal experience and interaction alive?”

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One point that PODS instills in its employees early on: moving is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. PODS employees are going to be there for that day, every day, and so they have to learn how to act accordingly. About 70 to 75 percent of the company’s employees interact directly with customers, according to Grove. It’s their job to be helpful — not harmful — to the customers’ overall stress level.

“Our associates have the ability to just help a little bit to relieve some of that stress, and that goes a long way,” said Laureen Druker, director of human resources.

PODS employees get something in return by knowing they helped someone. One employee wrote in a survey that: “I can go to bed at night knowing I helped people throughout the day.”

In Plant City, the culture at Keel Farms starts from the top down. Keel Farms ranked No. 13 out of 45 small companies. President Clay Keel wants to empower employees to be their best selves. For marketing director Wendy Camacho, that meant starting as a brand ambassador and rising through the ranks to her current role.

Farm director Kyle Davis sifts through potted blueberry plants for weeds at Keel Farms in Plant City on Friday, March 12, 2021. Davis said the 1820 transplanted plants are grown using a solar powered pump.
Farm director Kyle Davis sifts through potted blueberry plants for weeds at Keel Farms in Plant City on Friday, March 12, 2021. Davis said the 1820 transplanted plants are grown using a solar powered pump. [ IVY CEBALLO ]

“He’s pushed me and believed in me now to be marketing director,” Camacho said. “He trusts that you’ll learn and do better and puts you in the position where you can grow.”

Keel might say that the pleasure is all his. Motivating and helping his employees thrive is one of his favorite parts of the job.

“Watching people achieve their goals and be happy in what they’re doing — it’s such a beautiful thing,” Keel said.

Read more: Here’s how our Top Workplaces survey was done

At 75 employees, Keel Farms is one of the smallest companies on the top workplaces list. That size makes a difference, Camacho said. Employees feel like they are more than a “number,” she said, and it offers a team-like environment.

That explains why more than one comment called the Keel Farms team a “family.”


Paramount Residential Mortgage Group, In. (No. 4, large)

City of Largo (No. 17, large)

PODS Enterprises LLC (No. 18, large)

Crown Automotive Group (No. 19, large)

Pasco County BOCC (No. 21, large)

Chapters Health System (No. 22, large)

City of Safety Harbor (No. 25, midsize)

DataLink Software (No. 28, midsize)

Graybar (No. 30, midsize)

Geographic Solutions Inc (No. 32, midsize)

Premier Community HealthCare Group, Inc., (No. 33, midsize)

The HOTH, (No. 6, small)

Keel Farms (No. 13, small)

Mission Health Communities (No. 17, small)

DATIS HR Cloud, (No. 23, small)

DocuPhase (No. 25, small)

Hughes Exterminators, Inc. (No. 28, small)

PowerChord (No. 31, small)

Corestream (No. 34, small)

Amzur Technologies Inc. (No. 38, small)

Olympus Pools (No. 41, small)

KCI (No. 43, small)


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