Mike Grace is pictured here during his retirement luncheon in July.

Mike Grace is pictured here during his retirement luncheon in July.

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL - Michael Grace III, fleet manager for St. Johns County, Fla., retired on August 3. He had been managing the County fleet since August 2006, and has worked in the automotive fleet industry all his life.

Grace credits his father, Michael Grace Jr., who worked with the City of Miami garage, for influencing his career choice. “Like a lot of kids, I started working with my dad,” he said. “He was a big influence on my life.”

Grace joined the Navy Construction Battalion and served as a construction mechanic during the Vietnam War, later joining the Navy reserves and retiring as a senior chief petty officer. After his active duty, he attended and graduated from Florida State University and began a position with Florida Power & Light as fleet superintendent. He took a position as director of fleet management for South Florida Water in 1993 until he joined St. Johns County in 2006.

At St. Johns County, Grace maintained or managed a fleet of 1,300 units, including about 450 Sheriff’s vehicles, with a staff of 13. In addition to more common fleet duties, he was also responsible for the County’s biodiesel production facility. The production facility, housed in another building, has the ability to make 350 gallons of biodiesel daily. The fleet collects waste vegetable oil from restaurants and two nearby Navy bases to make mixtures of B-5, B-10, and B-20 that are used in a majority of diesel fleet vehicles, Grace said. The cost of producing the biodiesel, including overhead, equates to about $1.70 per gallon, versus about $3.50 per gallon of diesel.

Grace has been married for 43 years and has three children — Mike IV, Geoffrey, and Megan — and one grandchild, Libby. In his retirement, Grace plans to travel with his wife Sharyn and continue attending organized hot rod trips around the county. In June 2011, he and Sharyn, in their 1939 Ford Coupe, joined about 1,900 vehicles on a drive that started in Coco Beach, Fla., and continued into Georgia and Alabama and ended in Detroit. On their next trip, scheduled for October, they will cruise through the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Grace is immediate past president of the Florida Association of Governmental Fleet Administrators (FLAGFA) and has been a member for 18 years. Having been involved in the Florida fleet industry for decades, he said what he’ll miss most about the industry are the people.

“You join up with fleet because you like equipment, but you wind up really loving the people you work with,” he said. “I’ve got friends of mine I’ve known for 40 years…the people in the fleet business, either suppliers, or coworkers, or fleet managers from other organizations.”

Jeff Nordseik, previously fleet supervisor, replaces Grace as fleet manager at St. Johns County. He has been with the County for about 18 months and previously worked at a Ford dealership.

By Thi Dao