Executive Vice President of the Leesburg Partnership
Joe W. Shipes
Work-a-holic: My parents owned what is now Mount Dora Boating Center, and my mother’s family grew citrus. Starting at age 7, I did everything from hoeing orange trees to working on boats. Today, I often work 16-hour days and am known for sending work-related emails at 4a.m. During Leesburg Bikefest, I am on location for 12 days straight. However, the hard work is well worth it because our events and programs have received national and international recognition.
Now and then: When I began this job 18 years ago, I noticed there were many structures on Main Street, but there was no life to them. For me, it was an opportunity to do something special. We have facilitated multiple streetscape beautification projects throughout Leesburg and promoted the creation of Downtown Leesburg’s Towne Square, library, and police department, all of which attract new businesses downtown. We remain an advocate of historic preservation, economic development, and quality of life.
Leesburg’s future: Leesburg has a bright future with many opportunities on the horizon. The city is in the process of hiring a new city manager and economic development director. This new management team will advance the economic vitality of Leesburg.
Something nobody knows about you: I don’t own a motorcycle and have only ridden on one once since I was 15. Another fun fact: my mother’s and father’s families moved to Lake County in 1885 and 1917.
How you met your wife: Kathy and I began dating during our sophomore year at Mount Dora High School. We dated seven years before marrying in 1978. She should receive an award for being married to me for so long.
Favorite junk food: Chocolate. I’ve never met a chocolate anything I did not like.
Music you’d want on a deserted island: Pink Floyd, ZZ Top, Santana, Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix, James Brown, and New Age music.
Dogs or cats: We have a Goldendoodle named Tucker.
Desired tombstone inscription: “Be brief. Be blunt. Be gone.”
Last book read: I don’t read a lot of books, but I do enjoy reading the newspaper every morning and like several television shows such as “Pawn Stars,” “American Pickers,” “Antiques Roadshow,” and “Boardwalk Empire.”
Busy as a bee: Under Joe’s leadership, the Leesburg Partnership stages more than 200 events each year, including Bikefest, Mardi Gras, Christmas Parade, Saturday Morning Market, and Food Truck and Flick Night, among many others.
Zooming and booming: Leesburg Bikefest attracts over 200,000 visitors each year. In 2013, more than 40 local nonprofit organizations raised $170,000 for their causes.
Worldwide acclaim: Joe has hosted colleagues from Japan who wanted to understand Leesburg’s revitalization efforts. At the request of other motorcycle rallies, he has traveled as far as California to share the successes of Leesburg Bikefest.