Joseph Di Santo, the longtime president and chief executive of the Lacey-based retirement community Panorama, took home a 2013 Boss of the Year award Wednesday, one of three people recognized for their workplace leadership skills.
The other winners were Dr. Terrence Hess, owner of Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates in Tumwater, and Heidi West, vice president of marketing for America’s Credit Union. The credit union is based in DuPont but has branches in Thurston County.
All three were recognized at a Thurston County Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Saint Martin’s University Worthington Conference Center.
This was the fourth annual Boss of the Year awards, a program that was launched by the chamber and staffing agency Express Employment Professionals. Business students at Saint Martin’s also play a role in the process by interviewing nominees and gathering information for a selection committee.
Di Santo, 66, who was seated with Panorama board members including former Secretary of State Ralph Munro, has been the guiding force at Panorama for 17 years, overseeing 400 employees and 1,200 residents. In all, he has more than 40 years’ experience working in the hospitality and retirement community fields.
During and after the luncheon, Di Santo emphasized how important it is to treat your employees well.
“Treat your employees as you would customers — with class and dignity,” he said, adding that Panorama has had a benevolent fund for employees for years.
If an employee is having trouble paying a bill or some other kind of expense, they can get help via the fund.
Di Santo said no employee has been turned down in the 15-year history of the fund.
Di Santo said he has tried to pass along the values that were instilled in him by an early mentor when Di Santo was 15 and working as a bellhop and dishwasher for a hotel in the Cleveland area owned by Standard Oil of Ohio.
The mentor, who told Di Santo that someone had helped him at a young age, showed Di Santo the various aspects of running a hotel, including in the kitchen and night auditor duties.
Di Santo said his mentor was repaying the favor shown to him at a young age and that he, Di Santo, was urged to do the same.
Di Santo eventually earned a scholarship from Standard Oil of Ohio and attended Oklahoma State University.
There also were three honorable mentions for Boss of the Year: Community Youth Services clinical director Scott Hanauer, GTECH Corp. account development manager Bobby Hatam, and Three Girls Media chief publicist and chief executive Erika Taylor Montgomery.
Last year’s winners were Lacey Fire District 3 Chief Steve Brooks, Thurston County Boys & Girls Club Chief Executive Joe Ingoglia and Attorney Jessica Jensen.Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 firstname.lastname@example.org