A fixture in the Village of Royal Palm Beach for 30 years, Royal Palm Beach Parks & Recreation Director Lou Recchio will retire this month, leaving behind a parks and recreation system considered by many to be the crown jewel of the community.
And just about every park and program run by the village has been created, expanded or improved during Recchio’s tenure.
Recchio’s association with the village started years before he was first hired in October 1993. In 1986, he helped start a nonprofit association that ran the first youth baseball program in Royal Palm Beach, quickly followed by youth softball and youth soccer leagues.
From 1988 to 1993, Recchio worked as assistant recreation director for Wellington’s Acme Improvement District before a job opened up in his home community of Royal Palm Beach.
By 1995, Recchio had been promoted to director of the Parks & Recreation Department, which at the time was going through a growth spurt as Royal Palm Beach transitioned from a sleepy retirement community to a village teeming with young families.
Ever since, he has held the reins through changes and challenges with a grateful, down-to-earth attitude. A party to honor Recchio and celebrate his retirement was held Friday, Oct. 13. The village will bid farewell to this visionary icon on Wednesday, Oct. 25, which will be Recchio’s last day on the job.
Recchio has spent 40 years as a Royal Palm Beach resident and knows that the community will always be his home. His family, from children to great-grandchildren, are all local. That local connection is part of why he dedicated so much time and energy to helping the village develop into a place anyone would want to live.
“Royal Palm Beach still has that hometown feeling. To have the mayor stop in your office and talk is not unusual,” he said, adding that council members dropping by did not always mean problems. “It has been really good. The support that the Parks & Recreation Department has gotten from the mayor, the council and the village manager has been outstanding. But it is also nice to be around and have people come in and just thank you for what you’ve done. Kids that I’ve seen when they were playing ball are now married and have their own kids, and they still come back and talk. It’s just great.”
One of the first things he did in Royal Palm Beach was create a successful roller hockey league and build new skate parks. The baseball, soccer and softball leagues he first built in the 1980s are all still going strong, too.
Recchio commends and credits his outstanding staff over the years for all of his success.
“My staff is second to none. I owe a lot of our success to the staff, and not just the supervisory staff, but the office staff,” he said. “The nuts and bolts of the department — the guys who are out there in the trenches cutting the grass, digging the ditches, putting fences up, cleaning the bathrooms. They make everything work, and my hat’s off to that. I can’t thank them enough. They make me look good.”
When asked about some of his favorite spots in the village, it wasn’t difficult for Recchio to name a few.
“Veterans Park was built in 2004. People just love walking that park. It’s not that big, but it has everything that you want. It has got a splash pad, playgrounds, amphitheater,” he said proudly. “You got a café, you got an ice cream shop, you got a waterfall. It’s just a nice place to walk through. We really enjoy it, and we’ve got memorial areas for first responders and armed services veterans. It’s really impressive, and I love that park.”
He also spoke of how Royal Palm Beach Commons Park — which he helped build on the site of a defunct golf course — is another jewel of the community. The Fourth of July celebration there, which draws more 20,000 people, remains one of his favorite events.
Recchio’s legacy includes a department that grew tenfold from a budget of $550,000 to over $5 million. From only two parks to 24, and an expansive update to both the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center and the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center.
So, what are his big plans after retirement? Recchio is looking forward to not being on a set schedule or meeting budget deadlines. He is ready to tackle the to-do list his wife has ready and waiting.
“I like working outside. I’ll probably putter around the house getting to things that need to be done that were delayed. I do want to travel. There are many things in our own county that I haven’t seen, and I’d like to start here,” he said. “There are a lot of national parks that I’d like to see. I want to go to Yellowstone. I just want to see the whole concept, to get the feeling of the whole park, and probably do some camping. I also want to travel and see parts of Italy. My whole family is from there.”
He is also ready to take some time to appreciate and experience the community he has watched play for decades.
“There’s always something to do. You can really enjoy all aspects of a healthy environment. The bike riding, the walking, the jogging, the kayaking and the disc golf — you can really enjoy the outdoors. We want to eventually have all our parks connected through the waterways and walkways,” Recchio said. “I told my staff I’ll be around.”
The village is currently in the final stages of hiring a new director for the department and hopes to announce Recchio’s successor in the next few weeks.
To learn more about the recreation opportunities in the Village of Royal Palm Beach, visit www.royalpalmbeach.com/parksrec.