When I grow up: Zachary wants to be the king

OKEECHOBEE — “I think being the king would be really cool because I would be the boss and make all the rules,” says 4-year-old Zachary Bryce Murphy. He also thinks it would be pretty cool to have everyone listen to him and be his friend. He wants to marry a princess so she can become the queen. He can’t wait to go live in a huge castle and have cool parties so his friends and family can come over in fancy outfits.

This is King Zachary. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News.

Marcos Montes De Oca is not quite the king of Okeechobee, but he is our city administrator, and maybe that is close enough. He didn’t always want to be king, as a matter of fact, when he was 5-years-old, he wanted to be a garbage man! He said when he first became public works director in Belle Glade, his mom thought it was hilarious because the public works director was technically the head garbage man which meant his childhood dream had come true. He even got to go play on the garbage trucks and everything.

Mr. Montes De Oca was born in Clewiston but grew up in Moore Haven and went on to the University of Florida where he got a degree in Agricultural Engineering and then a masters in engineering. He describes his childhood self as a chubby, shy little guy who loved to go fishing, ride bikes and play outside with his friends. Growing up, his favorite memory was of the annual fishing trips to the Keys with his dad. He said he and his friends were what you might call the “nerd herd,” and they got picked on a lot, but that’s okay he continued. “Now those kids call me boss.”

Okeechobee City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca

After college, his first job was as consultant engineer for the city of Belle Glade and then he jumped from working for a municipality to owning his own business here in Okeechobee, MDO Engineering, in 2012. MDO Engineering designs roadways, makes sight plans and designs sanitary systems, etc. He said, “really it’s a lot like playing in the dirt,” and he has always enjoyed playing in the dirt.

One of the people he has always admired is his former boss in Belle Glade, City Manager Lomax Harrelle. Mr. Harrelle has been in the business for over 50 years and taught Mr. Montes De Oca a lot, as a matter of fact he says, “I still call him for advice occasionally.” One of the pieces of advice Mr. Harrelle gave him was to get to the point. Apparently Mr. Montes De Oca has been accused on more than one occasion of talking too much. He said even his children say that about him. He now has a sign on the front of his desk that reads, “10 words or less.”

He said he moved back to Okeechobee to be closer to his kids. He has two and his fiancée Patty, whom he met three years ago has two. As city administrator, his job involves a lot of mundane tasks, things like, signing paychecks, general day-to-day operations, fielding calls about pot holes and calls complaining about local businesses. Ninety percent of his job is conflict resolution he says, whether it be employees or citizens.

“I like it here,” he says. “Okeechobee is a great place to raise kids. We have amenities but are still wholesome. Okeechobee is pro-development,” he said. “I love my job.”

His advice for Zachary is to “find what you are good at, and do it, and don’t worry about what anybody else thinks.”

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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