An Interview with Your Pal Al
By Krista Martinelli
AW: When did you move to Wellington?
AP: We moved down here from Connecticut in the 70’s. I was married to Rosemary and we had two children at that time. We originally started in Orlando and I worked on submarines. I had an uncle in Hollywood, FL. After a few years, I found out that the City of Boca Raton looking for an Assistant Purchasing Director. I met the Mayor of Boca Raton and met other Boca representatives, as well as my future boss. They put us up for 30 days in Boca. But I found that I couldn’t afford a Boca home. They were building a town in Wellington and digging a lake. I found out that a man named Bill Ylvisaker was building 11 polo fields in Wellington. I loved polo! When I drove up to visit Wellington, there were just 200 homes. I wanted a home on a golf course. We were able to get a great 3/2 home, built by William Moore, for $56,500. Our kids Dina and Paul were 3 and 1. (Michael, our 3rd child, was born in Florida). On Memorial Day 1978 we moved in. We were Catholic, but there was no Catholic church in Wellington yet. Meanwhile, the schools still had to be built. Wellington Elementary School was the first school built, complete with a band and cheerleaders.
AW: Who founded the Village of Wellington? How did it come about?
AP: The Wellingtons from England would come to the Breakers on a regular basis. They eventually got interested in the Everglades. They needed to hire an airboat to explore the Everglades. And they found the perfect guide to show them the Everglades, Bink Glisson. The Wellingtons, a father and son team, loved it. They immediately wanted to buy a chunk of land. But since it was all swamp land, they needed to form a drainage system. It was called Acme Improvement District. There were 5 Acme Improvement supervisors who kept an eye on different territories. Then Bill Ylvisaker, chairman of Gould Corporation, comes along. Ylvisaker buys land and builds 11 polo fields. Since they were asking for help, I signed up to be a field judge for polo. I trained for the polo matches and would work on Sundays for $30 for the day. For 6 years I served as a polo judge. Ylvisaker brought up all the polo players from South America. In one match in 1986, the score was 10 – 10 in double overtime. Surprising everyone, the USA team wins.
Meanwhile, I had a softball friend Jim Lowers, who had a construction contract with the school district. He realized that I could be the point person for furniture. I was hired by the School Board. We had a 10-year window to put up about 30 new schools. I was in charge of buying furniture for each new school. During this time, I became a furniture expert, getting to know all the different brands and styles. In 2005, I opened Palm Beach Contract Furniture.
Back to the story of Wellington, it was incorporated in 1996. Kathy Foster was our first Mayor. I got on the Village Council in 1998. We wanted it to be a place that was “well-heeled and well-grounded and well-grassed”.
AW: In November of 1996, Wellington was finally incorporated by a very narrow vote. Why do you think it was controversial to incorporate Wellington at that time.
AP: A lot of people thought it was good enough to leave Wellington underneath the umbrella of WPB. They thought it was perhaps too costly to form their own government. However, Wellington desperately needed roads, bridges and parks. Wellington seemed to need more government.
AW: How did the idea of 5 Village Council members come about?
AP: Wellington modelled its Village structure after Boca and other nice towns. Wellington started off with a Village Charter. There were originally 5 Acme improvement supervisors, who wanted to be elected for Wellington Village Council.
AW: What were some initiatives that you got done while serving on the Council? What years did you serve?
AP: I ran in 1996 with 25 other people. Wellington was the 39th municipality in Palm Beach County, which went into effect in March of 1996. I didn’t win the first time around, but got active on committees. I was on the public safety committee, co-chairing it with Jane Bloom. We had several options for public safety. The Palm Beach Sheriff’s department made a presentation. We were impressed and we recommended that they be our protection. Today we have the lowest crime rate in Palm Beach County. In Wellington, we have our own captain (Silva), and 25 dedicated Wellington cops. We have neighborhood captains in every part of town.
From 1998 to 2002, I served on the Village Council. The last two years I served as Vice Mayor. I developed a friendship with the seniors. I noticed that a lot of families needed 2 vehicles – with one kid at Wellington High School. I proposed a trolley system. I became captain of transportation committee. We went to Tallahassee and got a grant for a trolley. We came close and almost got a trolley system; it was a 3 to 2 vote, and we needed a 5-person vote. One of the many good things that came out of putting the spotlight on seniors was that Kathy Foster started Wellington Cares, an organization that helps senior citizens with transportation, food and other needs.
AW: What do you love about Wellington?
See Al’s video response by clicking on the below link.
AW: What does Wellington still need to improve upon?
AP: Once in a while, Wellington should send a survey to all of the people in the town regarding transportation, schools, churches, and if PBSO is working enough to keep accidents down. We know we have the lowest crime town out of 39 municipalities. A survey could be inserted into everyone’s utility bill. We could have the residents tell us whether or not we are a crime-proof town.
AW: Tell us about your family.
AP: I met my wife Rosemary in New Haven, CT. She went to New Rochelle for her BA degree, then she went to Ascension College in Worcester, MA. I went to New Haven College (which is now the University of New Haven), in Connecticut for my BA degree. In college between my freshman and sophomore year. I went to the Army Reserve, hoping to avoid being killed in the trenches of Vietnam, and spent 6 months in Fort Dix. We moved to Florida in 1977. Today, we have 3 children – Dina (45), Paul (44) and Michael (42). Once in Florida, I started in Orlando and worked with submarines, then I worked for the City of Boca as Assistant Director of Purchasing. When I found that I couldn’t afford a house in Boca, my boss recommended that I drive up to Forest Hill Blvd, go West to 441 and check out the new town of Wellington. I loved it and purchased a house in Wellington. I worked for the City of Boca Raton for 6 years. Then one night I was playing softball at St. Rita’s, along with our captain Dr. Lowers. He asked me a few questions about what I did for a living. He ended up helping me to get my next job as a contract manager for the Palm Beach School Board. Today I run an independent office furniture business, Boca Office Furniture. We still live in Wellington and still love the bigger town it has become with a small-town feel.