It's unlikely Jo Thacker ever imagined she'd be the "Big Boss" of Kissimmee's legendary Silver Spurs Rodeo back when she was slinging sno-cones at its concession stand, but even then, it wasn't impossible to envision.
Thacker is sixth-generation in Osceola County. Her grandparents were among the group of local ranchers who founded the event, now the largest rodeo east of the Mississippi.
"If you bought a war bond, you could come and watch the rodeo," Thacker told GrowthSpotter; the event was staged as the group's contribution to the Fourth War Loan back in 1944. "They were there from the beginning, and then my parents, and then me. Now, my children are involved."
Over the years, Thacker moved from pint-sized vendor of frozen delights to sodas to tickets and eventually the rodeo's Board before becoming the second woman to hold the title of "Big Boss."
She's got a boss new "boss" title these days, as well, having recently been named to lead the Orlando-based team of Nelson Mullins Broad and Cassel's Florida Real Estate Practice, heading up a group of lawyers focused on commercial real estate and real estate development.
Thacker is a true daughter of Kissimmee, with family ties to both ranching and farming; in fact, she learned how to drive in an orange grove.
"My first house was surrounded by pasture," she says, "so if the cows got out, we had to help them get back within the fences …. It was great growing up there; you played outside all day and got called in for supper. We could ride our bikes anywhere and not have to worry about traffic. In fact, when I graduated from Osceola High School, there were more people at the University of Florida – where I went to undergrad – that there were in Osceola County."
It's an interesting dichotomy, then, for Thacker – whose grandfather was a Circuit Court Judge and whose father was an attorney (both her daughters are attorneys, too!) – to find herself in something of a stewardship position when it comes to the development of the acreage on which she and her friends played as a child.
"I take it very seriously," she says, noting her 13 years spent as the Osceola County Attorney. "We tried to put in place certain regulations that reflected the history of the county and I continue to try to do that with my development clients … certain clients that are taking into consideration the best types of development for the county, and we'll conserve what they need to as far as the oak trees and the wetlands."
Thacker says that it also resets what the growth boundary concept is.
"[We have an interest in] putting more density within the growth boundary and where the utilities can serve it and keeping the areas that can continue in their ranching for generations to come. It's important that we keep in mind where development should happen and where it needs to wait."