Westlake Community Services Director Joyce Able Schroth retires
After 15 years, more than $365,000 in grants and countless scores of residents served, Joyce Able Schroth is stepping down as director of Westlake’s Community Services department.
Joyce, beloved for her quick smile, sense of humor and dedication to her work, will be celebrated with an open house at the Westlake Center on Jan. 25. She was feted by members of city council during her final appearance in council chambers at the Jan. 16 meeting.
“It’s not just community service, I think you really take it on as a vocation, and you’re passionate with everybody that you come in contact with,” Councilman Michael O’Donnell said. “Actually it’s very contagious the positive energy that you emit. … You are definitely going to be missed, not only by us but a lot of people in the city of Westlake.”
“If my memory serves me correctly,” said Councilman Dennis Sullivan, “eight years ago I learned two things real quick: the then-service director’s phone number and then I realized how important your programs were. The most compliments I’ve heard to date are about the services that come out of the Center.”
As part of her farewell tour, Joyce sat down for a conversation with the Observer, reflecting on her time as director, the department’s growth and the things she’ll miss most.
“Everything is people,” Joyce said. “It’s meeting their needs, it’s assessing their needs, it’s listening to their needs, communicating back and forth, and it’s also – you gotta just keep a smile on your face. ... There’s a lot of blood and guts to this job in terms of budget and those kinds of things, but on the flip side of that, there’s a big part of this job that’s so rewarding and that’s the part that I will miss.”
Since taking the position in 1998, Joyce has helped expand the department from five staff members to 23, from two vehicles to six vans with five drivers. They have a roster of more than 1,800 people that visit the Center on a regular basis.
“I have an incredible staff,” Joyce said. “When you have a staff that can put these kinds of programs together … I would put us up against anybody. I think that we really are a premier department. We are both social services and activities and programs.”
Joyce’s professionalism has earned her a seat on a number of area advisory boards and committees, yet her commitment to Westlake runs much deeper than her job history. After moving to the city in 1984, she began volunteering with the Boy Scouts and PTA councils. She was a charter member of the Westlake Arts Council, serving as their second president, and also served six years on the Westlake schools’ Citizens Advisory Committee, chairing successful levy and bond campaigns.
During her tenure with the city, Joyce wrote and received a number of county, state and private grants including $300,000 for the expansion of the Westlake Center, $25,000 for volunteer efforts, $10,000 for reminiscence therapies and $30,000 for the purchase of a new van.
“Joyce was a constant advocate for our center and patrons,” said community services program planner Cindi Lindgren. “She was always promoting our accomplishments and never ceasing in her drive to advance our department, through building improvements, staff additions and gentle direction to ‘think outside the box’ for the benefit of our patrons.”
“There’s never been a day that I haven’t wanted to come to work,” Joyce said at her final council meeting. “I don’t know how many people are in the workplace that can say that, but I can.”
Joyce wouldn’t disclose exactly which day will be her last, but said she plans to walk out of the Westlake Center, stop at the salon and then head home to start packing for a monthlong trip to Florida with Tom, her husband of 41 years. The couple is also eagerly anticipating the arrival of their first grandchild, due this summer.
“I have a lot of work to do,” she said, “and I can’t be doing work if I’m crying. So it’s just better to have a voicemail that says, ‘I’m in Florida now and I’m not coming back.’”
In conversation after the Jan. 16 council meeting, Mayor Clough remarked out of Joyce’s earshot that, in his opinion, she is “one of those people that you’ll never be able to replace.” Find someone to take over her responsibilities at the Westlake Center? Sure, the city has posted the job. But replace? Anyone who has spent time in her company knows that people like Joyce don’t come along too often, and the city is better for the decade and a half she served as the head of community services.