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Retiring senior executive shares of journey with GSA
September 27, 2017
Frank Santella began his career with GSA in 1983 by carrying a wrench into one of GSA’s most iconic buildings, the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse at 40 Foley Square in New York City, to serve as a wage-grade plumber. He’ll end his career as a 40-year public servant September 30, 2017, in the Senior Executive Service, going out as Public Buildings Service regional commissioner in GSA’s Northeast and Caribbean Region, responsible for a real estate portfolio of almost 500 properties and almost 23 million square feet.
"In GSA, you can really do it here. Walk in with a wrench and, after all of the years, you get to this level with all of these people supporting you,” Santella said.
After almost 40 years of public service, Santella undoubtedly is going to experience a vast change of pace on September 30.
“I don’t know how you can go from going 100 miles per hour to 0 miles per hour,” he said.
Santella began his career with the U.S. Navy in 1977 and joined the GSA’s Public Buildings Service in 1983 as a plumber and shortly after became a planner and estimator. “One of the highlights in lower Manhattan at that time was the commissioning of 290 Broadway,” Santella recalled.
"Frank Santella is a true GSA success story. He retires this month as regional commissioner in the very region he began work as a wage-grade employee over three decades ago. In his nearly 40-years of distinguished Federal service, Mr. Santella worked across the Public Buildings Service to improve the operation of GSA's facilities for the benefit of both the Federal Government and the American people. Thank you, Frank, for a job well done."
— Michael Gelber, deputy commissioner, PBS Central Office
Santella addressing the Upstate NY Service Center employees at an offsite in Syracuse, NY.
He quickly progressed up within the organization and served as a GS-1176-14 as the director of the Upstate NY Property Management Center. In 2004, Santella was the key designer of a regional reorganization as the special assistant to the Region 2 regional commissioner.
In 2009, his career took him to GSA headquarters in Washington D.C. where, at the request of the PBS assistant commissioner, he served as the PBS acting deputy assistant commissioner, and eventually served as the assistant commissioner guiding the direction and establishment of the PBS National Office of Facilities Management and Services. In 2015, he was promoted into Senior Executive Service and returned to New York City to serve as the PBS regional commissioner for the Northeast and Caribbean Region.
"The region was fortunate when Frank came back to New York as our newly appointed regional commissioner in 2015. His diverse and unique background prepared him well for the challenges of the position. As our RC, he has been responsible for PBS real estate programs and services in New York, northern New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He managed a real property portfolio of 22.8 million square feet in 486 properties. He also oversaw the move of GSA’s Region 2 headquarters into One World Trade Center in lower Manhattan."
— Darren Gomez, Deputy Regional Commissioner, PBS Northeast and Caribbean Region
In the course of Santella’s 34 years with GSA, he transferred to another agency briefly, but he returned after realizing that GSA is a great place to work. He said the diversity and nature of the job makes it great -- the opportunities and people.
“It's all about the people. During a crisis or an emergency, everyone comes together and gets the job done," Santella said.
He said the people of GSA are its success stories, “Getting the mission done at the best value to the taxpayer and supporting our agencies’ requirements to accomplish their mission, and how well we do that.”
"From humble beginnings, he began his career maintaining our buildings, and ended his career in one of the top jobs in the Public Buildings Service. I admire Frank, because he was never afraid to "take a seat on the rocket" and learn new things or take a risk, which led him to many great opportunities with GSA.”
— Joanna Rosato, Regional Commissioner, PBS Mid-Atlantic Region
Asked what he has planned after that? Jokingly he said, “Sleep.”
Frank Santella poses for a photo with his wife Charlotte and their kids Nicholas, Frank & Christine in 1999.
“The day after I retire, I’m going to wake up and have a cup of coffee, sit at the kitchen table, and think about what’s next, I’ll have plenty of time. Monday morning, I’ll dust off the golf clubs and go to the golf course. After spending so many years commuting to work, I’m going to spend more time with my family…my wife, kids, and grandchildren,” he said.
Santella said in retirement he plans to spend more time with his family that now includes three grandchildren.
Santella credited his success to the countless people he came across in the course of his career with GSA. "In GSA, everyone can find success. I walked in with a wrench and after all of these years, I got to this level. It was because of the people supporting me, though. Your mentors and your fans have something in common -- they believe in you. When it comes down to it, everyone's success is mostly because of the people they work with and the families who support them and believe in them. I'm grateful to all of them for achieving success."
Pictured left to right, Jake Richardson, Frank Santella, Barry Bair, going back over 25 years. Santella addresses the GSA Region 2 workforce at a retirement luncheon held in his honor Sept. 20 at 290 Broadway in New York City. Santella said his success was mostly due to the people he came across in his career -- mentors above him and fans beside him who believed in him.