Cathy DeKarz

Cathy DeKarz, right, receives the Belleair Employee of the Year plaque from Town Manager J.P. Murphy.

BELLEAIR — Management Analyst Cathy DeKarz, 24, who was recently named the 2018 Belleair Employee of the Year, is no stranger to the town.

She grew up in Belleair and like most young people spent a lot of time at the recreation center, where she got her first job.

“I first started working for the town at the Rec when I was 16,” she said. “Then from 17 to 19 I interned with Micah Maxwell, the former town manager. Then when I finished college I got this job.”

As a management analyst, DeKarz focuses on marketing, communications and strategic planning in Belleair.

“It can vary from time to time but I try to help out in any way that I can,” she said.

Her boss, Town Manager J.P. Murphy, doesn’t hold back in singing her praises and saying why she was chosen employee of the year.

“She has worked for us since she was 16,” he said. “Her nickname is Sarge because we know that if you give Cathy a project she will not only do it to the best of her ability but she also makes those around her better at what they do.”

“She always has a clear vision of what a project needs and how to get it done,” he said.

Murphy explained what goes in to choosing the employee of the year. It is a long process.

“It begins with our employee of the month selections,” he said. “We have an internal process that pinpoints an employee who does something special. Cathy won the employee of the month twice last year and received multiple nominations in months that she didn’t win.”

“The employee of the year is then decided by a group of directors and it was obvious that Cathy was the number one choice, just by the sheer volume of the accolades,” he said.

Murphy said the evidence of the work that DeKarz does is apparent on a day-to-day basis.

“She is excellent at communicating and coordinating what her vision is and the best result of that,” he said. “She has been instrumental in increasing communication from and to the town and its residents; it is more transparent that it has been in years past.”

DeKarz has accomplished all that in a year when she encountered severe eye trouble. She had to wear a patch for weeks, constantly take drops and ultimately have surgery. That didn’t seem to slow her down.

DeKarz said the fact that she grew up in Belleair and that her parents and brother still live there, helps in her attitude toward work.

“When I go to work every day, it comes down to the fact that I grew up in Belleair,” she said. “I go to work to try to make a positive impact on the place where I grew up, so if I can help somebody I will.”

She also credits the small town feel of the workplace and her co-workers.

“Everybody is so supportive of each other. It was overwhelming when I got the honor,” she said. “This isn’t a corporate job where you don’t see what you do, we see it every day here; it is cool to give back that way.”

Town Manager Murphy is hopeful DeKarz will stay around, but he said he’s always concerned that someone will take her away.

“She is an amazing employee and I’m worried that someone will come along and steal her from us,” he said.

DeKarz isn’t so sure about that.

“I’m not quite ready to be looking ahead,” she said. “I have no qualms about staying here, but who knows where this will lead.”

For now DeKarz is content to plug away and reflect on her selection as Employee of the Year. She received the award at the town’s annual employee luncheon held just before Christmas.

“It is a huge honor,” she said. “I love my job and everybody that I work with. It is a very big honor; I was surprised because I’ve only been here for two years.”