An old poem states that “children learn what they live.”
Such is the story of Joan Cergol.
Joan’s dad, Nicholas DeVito, lived a life of public service and community responsibility, first as a US Army doctor (rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel) and later as a Huntington surgeon for thirty years.
Dr. DeVito was renowned for both his medical skills and his compassion. Long after his retirement, former patients would stop at his home to say thanks for helping them through their darkest hours.
Nick DeVito was also devoted to the town he loved, serving as President of the Old Huntington Green- an organization dedicated to the preservation of Huntington’s first settlement area. A monument honoring his work now sits at the Village Green along Sabbath Day Path.
Joan’s mom Gay, also served Huntington as a volunteer for the Huntington Hospital Ladies Auxiliary and Holiday House.
As a war refugee who later escaped the Iron Curtain, Gay DeVito was a source of personal strength, independent spirit and love of country. She was an aviation pioneer of sorts, working as a stewardess for Pan American Airways in the early 1950’s. After her marriage to Nick, the mother of three would earn her American citizenship.
Joan began drawing on all these lessons at the most tender of ages.
At Flower Hill elementary school, she organized neighborhood plays and musical performances- her first foray in community building. Later, at Huntington high school, she served as a tutor to non-English speaking students, helping them to both learn our language and assimilate to American culture.
Shortly after college, Joan served as an adjunct professor at St. Joseph’s college and CW Post in her chosen field of marketing and public relations.
She became one of Long Island’s first school district public information officers, helping promote Glen Cove schools’ “Class of 2000” and pass four straight district budgets.
She then spent more than a decade in the private sector and along the way, served as a trailblazer for young moms pushing to balance career and child rearing responsibilities. The mother of two girls was among the first women on Long Island to negotiate arrangements that enabled her to work from both the office and at home.
Eventually, Joan founded her own public relations firm and in 2000, was enlisted by the Washington, DC based, Citizens Democracy Corps, to travel to Russia as a volunteer to teach marketing principals in the then emerging democracy.
In 2002, Joan entered government service to the Town of Huntington as Special Assistant for Economic Development.
Using her private sector skills in the public forum, Joan helped countless businesses and individuals navigate government bureaucracy to solve their problems. As a result, the Huntington Times newspaper named her its Woman of the Year in 2012.
Joan has also spearheaded the town’s signature, Huntington Station Revitalization project and served as executive director of two Economic Development agencies and one public benefit corporation.
Her grant writing pursuits have brought more than $20M to town coffers from both the state and federal governments.
In 2013, Joan was elevated to Director of the Huntington Community Development Agency, helping to streamline and modernize a department that oversees affordable housing efforts in the town.
In addition to her town work, Joan has served as a guest columnist for the Long Islander newspaper, has co-authored two books about Oheka castle and continues to write a blog with stories and insights focusing on her professional and personal experiences in Huntington.