Tommy Mann Jr.
The Orange Leader
A man who spent 30 years working for the city he loves remains involved even after retiring earlier this year.
Joe Will retired as the City of Orange Parks Manager in March 2013 after 30 years of service to the city which has meant so much to him. Will was involved in a variety of programs and projects through the years, but none may be as big as the Tunnel Boat Races which have become the most attended annual attraction in Orange County.
“We weren’t expecting the influx of people we had that first year,” Will said of the inaugural “Showdown on the Sabine” Tunnel Boat Races. “We expected probably 2,000 - 3,000 people at most that first year, and there were so many more.”
Will said he, along with Shawn Oubre, Orange City Manager, and Jim Wolf, Orange Public Works Director, traveled to Port Neches several years ago to watch the annual Tunnel Boat Race event, “Thunder on the Neches,” to get a better idea of what the races were about and what might be involved in bringing the event to Orange.
“We spent a long time doing logistics on this,” he said. “We went out on the river and used a boat to check things out and see if it could accommodate a course. We had plenty of room on the river at the City of Orange Boat Ramp.”
Will added that once John Schubert, race director for Southern Professional Outboard Racing Tours (S.P.O.R.T.) saw the facility available and the river, he was excited about the opportunity to expand into Orange, Texas.
Will may have retired in March of this year from his day job, but he likes to remain as active as possible and will still be on site this weekend to do whatever he can to assist the city and organizers of the event.
“The city has been a big part of my life for 30 years,” he explained. “I can’t say enough about it or the people I have been fortunate enough to be associated with during that time.”
Will believes the event has become the success it is today, which is the most attended annual event in Orange County, because of the hard work and dedication of so many people, as well as the City of Orange and Orange County.
“Everyone working the city at the time we were trying to get the boat races here had a hand in it,” Will continued. “The county played a big part too. When you put your heart and soul into it like the city has, plus the county and all of those people, that’s when you have success.”
Will has been enjoying his retirement as much as possible and said he “has been doing a little traveling” when he can. However, this weekend’s “Showdown on the Sabine” is something which will always be close to Smith’s heart.
“We all wanted it to be a big hit. I know I did,” he said. “That’s why I am volunteering this year. I want to still be a part of it and I’ll be helping do whatever is needed. I will always be here to help.”