By: Jeff Perlman Editor in Chief
We lost Barbara Garito last month.
She was a wonderful person; truly unforgettable.
Like many, many others who knew and worked with Barbara, I loved and respected her very much.
She served as City Clerk when I was on the Commission and she swore me in when I was elected in 2000 and again in 2001 and 2003 when I became mayor. She sat at the end of the dais for four years of my seven year term and when the going got rough—as it sometimes does in local government—I knew I could look to my left and always find a friend and calming influence.
We clicked from the instant we met. I have a feeling that Barbara clicked with lots and lots of people, but right away you felt like you knew her forever. I had lost my mother to cancer two years before I ran for the City Commission. There was something about Barbara—her friendliness, her sense of humor, her ability to connect with others—that reminded me of my mom. So she became a touchstone for me. Someone I felt safe talking to and asking for candid and honest advice.
When Barbara retired in 2004, we went to the golf course to say so long and thank you. I remember the tributes and the kind remarks and I remember telling the crowd that Barbara could be best defined by the word “warmth.”
She was a down to earth person. Funny, smart, grounded and so supportive of her staff and everyone she worked with. She loved her city, very much. She also loved her family, which was a Delray family. Her husband, Larry was a firefighter known to all the kids in town for his outreach into schools, their son Tim was also a firefighter and became a captain, rising high up in a very good organization. Their son-in-law Charlie Stravino rose to assistant fire chief. They are all great contributors to Delray Beach. And it’s the people who make a place great. Barbara was one of the greats. There is just no doubt.
When I think of Barbara, I think of family. She talked about them often, her husband, her kids and grandkids and all the fun they had together. During holiday parades, they always sat in the same spot on Atlantic Avenue, what we dubbed “Garito” corner and for the 7 parades my kids and I rode in we always looked forward to passing them by so we could see them laughing and having a blast.
When I was mayor, I enjoyed visiting the clerk’s office which was the happiest place in a happy City Hall. Barbara had a great group of people working for her and when it was time to retire she turned the reigns over to Chevelle Nubin, a wonderful person whom she had prepared very well for the job. Chevelle became president of the Florida Association of City Clerk’s last week, a testament to her talent and hard work and also a tribute to Barbara’s skill at finding and developing talent. She took pride in everybody who worked for her and she took a lot of pride in Delray Beach.
We met for lunch a few times after she retired and I could always count on seeing her during the annual St. Vincent’s Spring Festival. I didn’t see her this year and I missed visiting with her and her family. I missed the laughter and I missed her trademark warmth.
The day before she passed, I happened to have lunch with several former department heads that have retired but remain in touch, like a great team does. We talked about Barbara at lunch and were encouraged to hear that she might have been doing a little bit better.
When we learned that she passed, there was an outpouring of emotion and sadness. She was one of the really good ones—someone who came here in the early 70s from New Jersey and worked hard to build a really nice city.
Along the way, she touched a lot of lives, mentored many public servants and raised a family in our community that has given back enormously.
Isn’t that what this should all be about?
A village is community and community is relationships.
We lost a really great person this week, but we were so blessed to have her right here in Delray Beach.
Thanks, Barbara for all you gave to your Delray family.
We love you.
You touched our hearts and you will be in our hearts forever.
By: Jeff Perlman Editor in Chief