Sopak Retires, Continues Active Lifestyle

“Having given over 26 years of his career to the city,” said City Manager Jim O’Reilly of Sopak, “Don has run most of the projects and he’s a big part of the Gulfport you see here today.” Pictured from left are Director of Public Works Don Sopak and Public Works Superintendent Tom Nicholls. Through public works-related board work in Pinellas County, both men have known and worked with each other for at least 15 years. Effective Monday, December 4, 2017, Nicholls will become the new director of public works.

His grandkids have plans. His wife has plans. And when Don Sopak retires on Friday, December 1 from the city of Gulfport, one of the first things he’s going to do is some “middle-of-the-week” fishing.

Sopak is the director of public works and has been with the city for a little over 26 years.

Why mid-week fishing?

“It’s when there’s nobody out there and it makes it a lot nicer,” he said.

Because Sopak played a key executive role in the city, he often had to work around the clock with other critical staff during big weather events, like Hurricane Irma in mid-September 2017.

“I won’t be missing that at all,” he said.

However, over his years in public works, managing people in eight divisions, Sopak said the city has “become a family” to him “and it’s like my home away from home. It’s a little hard to leave home but when you know you have other opportunities to do the stuff you want to do, then it’s not that bad.”

For the next six to eight months, he plans to “diffuse” from working full time while he finishes a few projects at his Gulfport home like sanding the floors and redoing the kitchen. “We’re definitely staying in Gulfport,” he said.

For him, Gulfport is the perfect location.

“It’s small with a community feel in the most densely populated county in the state,” he said.

But Sopak said he’s also looking forward to traveling the state with his wife and grandkids in a pull-behind trailer and “maybe expanding a little farther.”

His grandkids will turn three and four in the next two months. “They are travel ready and have already been scoping out the trailer to find out where they’re going to sleep,” he said. “It’s a good thing.”

He also has nephews in Hawaii and California and some friends in Colorado and Wyoming that he wants to visit.

But, that’s not all.

Sopak’s background is construction and he still has his license. At one time, he built residential and commercial developments including golf courses, small medical hospitals and office buildings.

“I’ll probably go back to doing some sort of work to keep me busy right here under my business name of Don Sopak Construction,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of different opportunities and I’m going to create my own schedule.”

Sopak says one of his fondest memories during his career with the city was working as a building official.
“I’d actually get to go and see how people had fixed up their houses,” he said. “It was interesting to see how they were being preserved instead of being knocked down, so that was unique.”

Over the course of his long municipal career, said Sopak, “God’s placed me in a lot of beautiful places and given me very rewarding opportunities and it’s really worked out well.”



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