OKEECHOBEE — Although he didn’t move here until he was 12 years old, Attorney Jeffrey Fadley has considered Okeechobee his hometown since the day he arrived with his mom and brother. He said he has traveled all over the world, but he is always thankful to get back home to Okeechobee. He is a product of the Okeechobee school system, and he says that with pride. He believes he got an excellent education, and any shortcomings were his own fault.
“If I didn’t learn to master the three Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic, as they say,” he laughed, “I can’t blame anyone but myself.” He made a lot of friends at the Okeechobee High School. The teachers were fine, and the administration was great. He tells a lot of people Okeechobee is the best kept secret in Florida, and he means that.
He is working hard to bring new businesses and jobs here, and he is proud of the fact that he helped bring Wawa to town. He believes Okeechobee is progressing and likes to feel like he is a part of that. Wawa will bring 40 new jobs with benefits he said, and an increased tax base for the city. It will light up a dark part of downtown that’s sorely needed. It’s a nice feeling to feel like you are making a difference and contributing and not hurting anyone in the process. It’s a win-win. That’s where the satisfaction comes in, he said.
His father passed away when he was 7, he explained, and his mother raised him and his brother alone. She did a fine job, he said. They were never hungry, always had clothes and a gift at Christmas, but he was picked on a lot because he didn’t have a dad. Kids can be cruel sometimes, he said. His mom took him to Cub Scouts and Little League practice, but it wasn’t the same as having a dad around, and it made him determine to be the best dad he could be. It also gave him a heart for kids who need things today. When they come in asking for help with their teams for sporting events or things like that, he always tries to help them, to make a difference.
“I guess it goes back to the Butterfly Effect,” he said. “If I help one little person do something, they might help someone else, and they might help someone else. Hopefully it will carry on.”
Rose and Dave Conlon taught him that, he said. When his family moved to Okeechobee, they met the Conlons and became friends. One year, Mr. Fadely’s mom could not afford Christmas gifts for her sons, and the Conlons bought them both bicycles. It meant the world to them, he said.
“They showed me doing good things is the right way to do things, and since then I have always tried to pay it forward,” he said.
Mr. Fadely tries to do something for a complete stranger every day. He makes it a point. Sometimes it is just holding the door open for them, but every day, he tries to do something for someone. It’s a personal mission, he explained.
“It makes me happy.”
He believes everyone in this world has something to offer, but not everyone realizes that. His secret to success, he said, is to surround himself with people who are smarter than he is and who are hard workers.
He enjoys working for himself, but says seeing people at their worst every day can be trying. He tells his staff if someone comes in argumentative or loud or confrontational, don’t take it personally. They are having the worst day of their lives, and that’s why they are here. He tells them, just offer them a bottle of water. Sit them down, and let’s see if we can help fix their problem. Most people go into a lawyer’s office scared and nervous, he said.
“I want them to know I am just a regular guy. I’m just Jeff. When I graduated high school, I was a garbage man for a little while. Twenty-five dollars a day and all you can eat as my boss used to joke.”
Mr. Fadely and his wife Maggie have a daughter Jami Samantha, who has a 6-month-old son named Damian. They have a son named Jeffrey Stefan. As much as Mr. Fadely loves his job, he said he loves going home to his family even more. He said he and his wife are enjoying being grandparents more than they have ever enjoyed just about anything, and the baby smiles almost constantly.
“Who could ask for anything more?”
He always tells people their greatest frustration will be trying to hold other people to their level of expectation.
“It will always disappoint you. You don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives. Maybe they are having a bad day. You’ve got to be tolerant. A.L. Williams once said, ‘All you can do is all you can do, but all you can do is enough.’ If everyone would do all they can do every day, what a wonderful world it would be,” said Mr. Fadely.