Remembering The "Mayor of Westgate"

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Fred Pickard Innovations Realty Inc

I first met Joe Pitts back in 1998 when I had to attend a training session for the Regional MLS (West Palm Beach) when a new system was introduced. Since we were scheduled alphabetically by last name, I happened to share a computer with an"older" gentleman that I had never met before. We talked a bit and since he was unfamiliar with some of the systems, I tried to help him as best I could to get started, since the new system was going "live in about two weeks.

Joe PittsOver the next couple of years, I'd speak with Joe once in a while, usually setting up showings, but I always asked him how he was doing with the computerized MLS and he always said something like "I'm getting there".

What I didn't know was that Joe had lived in the same neighborhood (Westgate) in West Palm Beach since the age of 6 except for a 20 year career in the Army which included a tour in Vietnam. The Westgate area had been part of the incorporated City of West Palm Beach but the city had de-annexed the area and it had become an area known for drugs, high crime and blight.

When Joe retired from the military, he moved back to Westgate, obtained a real estate license and eventually opened a brokerage. Then he helped to restart the area's redevelopment authority and started working to improve the neighborhood. Among the areas Joe helped improve were having all of the streets paved (most were dirt), getting the county to bring in public water and sewer and having sidewalks added on almost every street. Another major problem had been street flooding and Joe worked with the county engineers to acquire land for retention ponds and storm drains for the entire area.

But Joe's proudest achievement was helping the school district take the local elementary school, which was at double it's capacity with 27 portable classrooms and helping the district acquire surrounding property to built a brand new 900 student school.

Joe was honored in 2000 by the National Association of Realtors as one of the five national Good Neighbor Award winners and the next summer by the Florida Association of Realtors. I spoke with Joe that spring, congratulating him on the award and he was his usual humble self. He mentioned that his recognition came from local residents and long time neighbors who thanked him for his efforts to improve the neighborhood. He also told me he was kind of embarrassed by the attention because he didn't think he did anything special.

Joe passed away in 2005 at the age of 73. He was a good guy

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