Sam and Xiaoyun Casella at a recent dinner in Tampa.
BELLEAIR – Santo “Sam” Casella, 69, a former Belleair commissioner and deputy mayor for the town, died Feb. 18.
Casella was involved in public service throughout his adult life, serving on the Pinellas County Historic Preservation Board; the city of Tallahassee Mayor’s Forging the Future Committee, the South Ward Elementary School Parent Teacher Association and others.
At the time of his death, Casella was principal of The Planning Authority LLC in Belleair. Previously in his career he was planner-in-residence at Florida State University, principal of Casella & Associates, executive director of the Clearwater Downtown Development Board, and a planner in Charlotte, N.C.
Casella is survived by his wife, Xiaoyun Casella, whom he met in Beijing in 2005, and by his children, Chloe House, Sam H. Casella and Alex Casella.
“My life with Sam was full of joy, support, and encouragement. He was a great man and had a great sense of humor. Even during the last days of his life when he suffered unspeakable pain, he still made jokes and made me laugh,” said his widow, Xiaoyun Casella, in an email. “Part of me has gone with him while part of him has stayed with me. In my heart, he is and will be always with me until the end of my life.”
Casella served as the American Planning Association president from 1993 to 1995 and as president of APA’s professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, from 2001 to 2003.
“He blended well his roles as practitioner, planner-in-residence at FSU, and leader within APA," said APA CEO Paul Farmer, in a news release. "He will be missed among our community of planners."
Casella was inducted into the College of Fellows of American Institute of Community Planners in the inaugural class of 1999. His nominators recognized him for “a major contribution to the practice of planning, particularly in the area of urban revitalization. ... Sam Casella epitomizes the practitioner who aspires to serve the public interest in every arena.”