Not Your Average Joe…

Joe Gillie was invaluable to Delray’s three All America City wins.

I’d never thought I’d have to write about Joe Gillie in 2021, five plus years after he retired after a terrific 23 year run as the president of Old School Square.

I thought I might want to write about him, because he’s a great guy and one of the biggest contributors to Delray’s modern day success.
But I never thought I’d be in a position of feeling compelled to defend him and his contributions.

For the record, Joe doesn’t need my help and didn’t request that I defend him.

We are good friends.

I care about him and he’s been good to my family.

But Joe is more than capable of defending himself. He doesn’t need me.

Yet I feel compelled to share with readers how special I think Joe is and how remarkable I and many others think his contributions have been.
He’s given an awful lot to this city. An awful lot.

Let me share just a few highlights.
He ran our community’s cultural arts center for 23 years—providing stable leadership and deftly spinning lots of plates in a busy and complex town. That’s no small feat.

Over that time, he oversaw the creation of an arts school, managed a rental facility, programmed a theater, launched a pavilion and threw his heart into the creation of a museum. He was deeply involved in managing the grounds of the campus, welcoming festivals, markets, an annual holiday celebration and played a lead role in producing First Night, a New Year’s Eve celebration that welcomed thousands of families every year.

He was the driving force behind three All America City Awards and in his “retirement” remained involved in education efforts such as the award winning and hugely important Campaign for Grade Level Reading.
He was Delray’s ambassador, traveling to and fro. singing Delray’s praises and welcoming thousand and thousands of people to the OSS campus over his many years of service. He even went to Tanzania to represent Delray during an official visit to our sister city Moshi.
He did it all with humor, intelligence, civility, style and a southern gentility that charmed everyone who crossed his path.

Along the way, he interacted with the business community, local schools, artists, musicians, philanthropists, politicians, visiting dignitaries and other non-profits. He did it all with grace, humor and style. He loved this community and this community loved him back.

Joe is a good man.
A very, very good man.
Of course, nobody is above accountability but for 23 years he survived the scrutiny of the public, the press, auditors, funders and City Hall. He served many masters—very well. His performance and value to our city has been indispensable.

He’s responsible for millions of smiles and he’s deserving of our respect.

But today, years after the last of his many retirement parties (he was so popular he had many) my friend finds that he’s being questioned over his stewardship of OSS and a modest retirement stipend he earned that was provided by donors.

I find it sad and more than a little distressing. But I am not surprised.

We are doing a good job of devouring our legends and civil servants in Delray these days.

Here are a few examples. There are others.

My friend Michael Coleman was a fine police officer. He embraced community policing and rose through the ranks to captain before being reassigned to city hall as director of community improvement.
Today, he’s suing the city after losing his job under dubious circumstances. He was kicked to the curb unceremoniously after repeatedly being singled out for good performance.

Same thing happened to my friends Jennifer Costello and Donna Quinlan, who worked for the city for a combined 70 plus years.
Both were amazing city employees; dedicated, loyal, competent and proud of the city they served.
In the end, they were put out to the curb like so many others. Like too many others.
It’s shameful and depressing.

There was a time when kindness ruled this town; when working or volunteering here was a joy not a risky endeavor.
Which brings me back to my friend Joe.
I’ve known Joe for close to 30 years. I believe in his vision, his character, his essential goodness and his talent. We were blessed that he devoted a large chunk of his career to this town. He had options, talented and kind people always do.
I’m glad he found Delray and stayed here.
I know he gave a lot to this place and that he loved working here.

I hope he still feels that way. As someone once said: “G-d have mercy on the man, who doubts what he’s sure of.”
I hope that Joe doesn’t harbor any doubts.

I know a few people who are consumed by doubts.

In their sadder moments they have confided in me that they have “wasted” their time here. I get it. But it’s not true.
This too shall pass. We will regain our footing and we will thrive again.
We will surely thrive again.

We simply must.


  1. Randy Smith says

    If this city is so dysfunctional which is starting to appear obvious even to “outsiders” like me what can be done to fix it? How to we take it back.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      It all starts with the people we elect, Randy.
      Somehow we have to create a safer environment for good people to serve. It’s really that simple. But making it safe and appealing is a major challenge.

  2. Joe Gillie says

    I’m surprised snd very humbled… Thank you Jeff we’ve all been some miles together… and we are not done…proud to call you friend…

    • Jeff Perlman says

      We are grateful for you Joe.

    • Donna Quinlan says

      Hang tough Joe. You know who you are and what you’ve accomplished. You are so beloved and always will be. I’m extremely proud to have known and worked with you ❤️
      Jeff, thank you for your kindness and thoughtfulness always. Delray was a great city and WILL get back there as soon as some of those elected leaders are gone by aggravating the wrong people with the power and money to stop the madness.

  3. Jeff, I am happy that you are optimistic on the future and I hope you are correct. If I saw leadership with ability and passion, I might agree with you. I see neither at the top .
    Your remarks on Joe Gillie are very accurate. When Joe came to us from the Caldwell Theatre, he was the perfect choice. Thank you, Tom Lynch

  4. Mike Sneiderman says

    I feel the same way about Joe Gillie Jeff! A great man and a terrific guy. Thanks for parting it out there.

  5. Cathy Whitt says

    Thank you to Joe, and also to you, Jeff.

  6. Janie Ramirez says

    Jeff, that was very nice article, thank you! I like to say thank you to Joe, I was sad when he left OSS or should say retired. He was so kind an so much help when I started with my organization…Cinco de Mayo. He helped me with my grants, on how to organize my event, a good talker , funny and that smile of his that never quit alway nice and the kindest man I got to know. God Bless him always! Mr Jeff it’s sure is nice to have met two wonderful people in Delray, Mr. Jeff and Joe Gille… of course Delray has a lot of wonderful and proud to live here!

    Gracias, con mucho carino nuestro! (Thank You With all our love!!)

  7. Simply put – Joe is special (don’t tell him I said so) and was definitely the right person at the right time for OSS and our city. Jeff, this blog was “right on” – thank you!

  8. Patricia Burdett says

    There are very few people whom you can describe as loyal, trustworthy, kind, authentic, and always willing to help. Joe Gillie is the epitome of that person!

    Old School Square and Delray Beach hit the jackpot when Joe moved to Delray Beach and devoted over 20 years to help make this community the best that it could be. And even though he retired, Joe still sings the praises of his community. This is a man of honour!

    I have known and loved Joe for over 40 years. Working with Joe was always a joy and having Joe as a friend is a blessing.

    Thank you, Jeff, for posting your beautiful letter!

  9. FrancesBourque says

    We played side by side for 23 plus years and always said “ when it stops being fun, we will do something else!” We never stopped having fun and loving each other in the process! This has been a difficult time and we have learned something new! We are not doing something new! We are doing what we always did! Trying hard to lead this community forward to enjoy the best we can be… right here! This man named Joe, must be from outer space…. Because there is no one on Earth quite like him! And I know! He took me to the Stars many times! And we aren’t finished yet! Not yet!

  10. Frances Bourque says

    Thank you so much , Jeff. This town of ours, that needs saving one more time, is full of wonderful men and women waiting to be led forward! Keep writing and telling us how! We are ready ! Keep reminding and showing us why ! The Gospel according to Jeff!

  11. & I think to myself, an oasis in a ‘world’ gone mad… I’ll always luv you Delray… Joe embraced all that Delray was, on his walls, plaques, art, can do attitude, always felt welcome walking into his office… All America City -Joe integral. I know, I was there. We’ll miss you Delray… loving our new home, Melbourne Beach!

    • Jeff Perlman says

      You were there Kevro and help make it happen. Great words…enjoy Melbourne my friend.

    • William "Bill" Nix says

      Wait KEVRO!! You lefted Delray, too ??? Ya’ll gone?? Melissa Carter and Tim just left! Some of the really “good people” that made this our “Village” are not here. That’s One reason there is no Vision, no truth, nor compassion, or caring about residents (citizens) in this current environment. There are fewer to speak “truth to power” on behalf of doing the right thing for the city as a whole.

      Thanks for Jeff Perlman not giving up the fight to protect the true legacy of this city!!

      All the best to you and Debbie. “Thanks a lot of very fun memories at the Art Bar!!!” You know that I enjoyed them all! But, I did save some from my TV show!!…LOL. Now I have to go to Sports Bars and not Arts Bars….LOL

  12. & You Jeff, always our EF Hutton (dating myself? Lol)

  13. William "Bill" Nix says

    Jeff Perlman, Thank you for telling the truth about the contyributions of OSS and Joe Gillie! I can attest to everything you said about Joe, and also about Mike Coleman. I have known Joe and OSS for more that two decades. The Cultural Council was proud and happy to invest annually in the longevity of this entertanment complex. There is no other place like it in Palm Beach County! Joe and his team made it happen year after year, with the help of the citizens. Joe was the main cheerleader for all theings Delray Beach! He always made sure that Delray Beach was showcased and given credit for its unique characeter, charm, and cultural offering! In 2008nJos Gillie and staff helped me host the National Cultural and Historic Tourism Allianace Conference in Delray Beach. Attendees from across the nation, including Hawaii and Canada were duly impressed with what a “small Town and Downtown” could do!

    Being an All-American City and the “Most Fun Town” in America had a lot to do with Joe Gillie, period. OSS was a Welcome place for all of Delray, and visitors. It is the HEART beat of Delray Beach!! And the majority of this current Commission are absolutely wrong to try to rip our HEART out!! Thanks for setting the record straight on Joe Gillie!

  14. Susan Ruby says

    OSS was a place to gather in the heart of Delray. Joe Gillie was the beating heart along with Frances Borque and all the volunteers and Leaders who supported it with their time and talent. Why the current leaders who voted to put a dagger through it, wanted to crush it, is beyond me.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Exactly Susan. It makes you wonder if the real motivation is just that. To destroy the leaders of the past. It’s not going to happen.

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