Carl F. Cavossa may be more widely known for excavation and rubbish disposal than community service, but those who have seen his generosity firsthand would say that is because he consistently works behind the scenes and slips under red tape to get things done in Falmouth.
In honor of his consistent support of the Falmouth community, Mr. Cavossa has been named 2018 Falmouth Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year.
Chamber president and chief executive officer Michael D. Kasparian said about nine people submitted letters nominating Mr. Cavossa for the award this year.
“What it really quickly showed was the breadth of what he does for the community, and in particular, people brought to light what it is he does very quietly behind the scenes,” Mr. Kasparian said. “As one committee member put it, virtually every person in town has been touched by what he does for people.”
The Citizen of the Year award is granted to a Falmouth resident who has benefited the Falmouth community over the course of several years, through leadership outside his or her paid profession.
An interview with Mr. Cavossa on Wednesday, April 4, revealed a long history of involvement in community service projects, especially through donations of time and labor from Cavossa Disposal Corporation and Carl F. Cavossa Jr. Excavating Incorporated.
Through the years, Mr. Cavossa has donated dumpsters for townwide cleanup days; trucks for caroling events; and equipment for “tricky” town projects. In addition to his service donations, Mr. Cavossa has also co-sponsored the No Guff campaign at Falmouth High School for at least 10 years by providing T-shirts with a split donation with the Lorusso Family.
Although the Citizen of the Year does not need to be a member of the business community, Mr. Cavossa has been involved in the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce since he was a young man and his business began to take off.
Mr. Cavossa, 52, grew up in Foxboro and graduated from Foxboro High School. His uncles worked in the excavation business, and he joined them soon after graduating. It was a job with the excavation company, a sewer project in Falmouth, that brought Mr. Cavossa to Cape Cod.
Mr. Cavossa enjoyed his time working in Falmouth and decided to stay in the area. He began working for different excavating companies and during that time he met a Falmouth woman, Kristen Carragher, whom he later married.
In 1993, when he was about 25 years old, Mr. and Ms. Cavossa established Cavossa Excavating Inc. and built the company together. Ms. Cavossa soon quit her own job and became the company’s first employee.
In the midst of the growing business, the couple bought their first home on Gifford Street. Looking back, Mr. Cavossa sees the move as a pivotal moment that sparked his community involvement.
It was there that the couple met Jeffrey W. Oppenheim, a Falmouth attorney whose practice was located nearby. The neighbors became good friends, and Mr. Oppenheim would stop by their house on his way home from work many evenings. Mr. Cavossa described Mr. Oppenheim as a mentor, and during those nights the pair would discuss business and “things Falmouth.”
About 2001, Mr. and Ms. Cavossa started their rubbish business, Cavossa Disposal Corporation. The company was growing, began trucking for SEMASS, and the Cavossa family looked to start giving back to the community.
Eventually, Mr. Oppenheim convinced Mr. Cavossa to get involved in the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce, jumpstarting Mr. Cavossa’s volunteer involvement. He joined the chamber board of directors in 2000 while in his late 30s, later serving as president and chairman from 2003 to 2005.
During his tenure as president, Mr. Cavossa started the Pops Goes the Summer event, a concert at the Barnstable County Fairgrounds [now Cape Cod Fairgrounds] that raised money for the chamber of commerce. He also oversaw the overhaul of the chamber staff and renovation of the previous building.
“I’m proud to say that in my tenure as the president, I put the chamber of commerce in the most debt it had ever been in during a term,” he said smiling. “We revamped the chamber, we changed staff, changed some folks there, and changed the building.”
On the final day of his tenure as president, Mr. Cavossa went before the Falmouth Community Preservation Committee, arguing that they should have funded the renovation project. The board voted to fund the renovations retroactively, resolving the remaining debt.
After serving as chamber president until 2005, Mr. Cavossa transitioned off the board and joined the Falmouth Road Race Inc. board of directors. He has served as vice president ever since.
When he joined, Mr. Cavossa said, the road race had a negative relationship with business owners. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the organization provided a free dinner for the many runners who traveled to town for the race, rather than encouraging visitors to eat at local restaurants. “It wasn’t a favorable situation for small businesses,” Mr. Cavossa said.
With the help of his fellow board members and members of the business community, Mr. Cavossa said he was able to re-shape the board and better support the town.
“That’s all through the work of good people,” Mr. Cavossa said.
Throughout the interview on Wednesday, Mr. Cavossa was quick to point to partners he had worked with to get things done, peppering his stories with the names of other Falmouth families and individual volunteers.
“Nothing that I’ve done to become Citizen of the Year has been done by myself, whether it was through the support of my wife and family, or whether it was through the support of other businesses,” he said. “Every single project—it’s always on the backs of other people.”
One of the primary ways that Mr. Cavossa has served the community is by volunteering work and labor for a variety of community projects, particularly when the town has faced unusual situations.
One project that stands out in his memory was the move of a large historic house from the parking lot at Old Silver Beach to a property in North Falmouth in 2005. A Falmouth resident had saved the house from demolition, purchasing it for $1 and moving it from Chapoquoit Island to Old Silver Beach on a barge—without permission of town officials. When it came to the final leg of its journey, the mover faced opposition from neighbors and the ire of Falmouth selectmen. Selectmen ordered the demolition of the house, unless it could be moved in advance of the tourist season.
However, Mr. Cavossa stepped up to organize a moving committee, devising a plan to move the house by Memorial Day without negatively impacting the business community or surrounding homeowners. Mr. Cavossa said he made numerous telephone calls and worked to gain support for the transition, even having to work around the challenges of striking NSTAR workers to meet the move deadline. One day before the selectmen’s deadline, the house was successfully moved.
In another “sticky situation” for the town, Mr. Cavossa also volunteered his company to complete demolition of the old bandshell in Bigelow Marine Park on Scranton Avenue. The town had appropriated funds to construct the new bandshell, but had overlooked the need to pay for its demolition. Falmouth Board of Selectmen approached Mr. Cavossa about helping with the project; he donated his company’s services.
Through the years, Mr. Cavossa has also pitched in to help renovate a number of athletic fields in town, including the girls’ field hockey field, Little League field, and Lawrence School field. Mr. Cavossa worked with other businesses or the Falmouth Road Race on those projects, using the donated materials and donating his company’s services and equipment.
After completing his first project, Mr. Cavossa said he realized that he could make those donations relatively easily and “really make an impact for the younger kids in Falmouth.”
A hallmark of Mr. Cavossa’s community service has been slipping past red tape and only asking for permission after projects are complete.
“Most of the things I’ve done, I haven’t asked for permission. I’ve done them at the chagrin of everyone... which I don’t encourage,” he said.
When it came to the Little League field, for instance, Mr. Cavossa said he built an entirely new field on town property without a single permit.
The project originally started as an effort to clear some brush from a portion of the property, just to expand throwing space. Eventually, however, Mr. Cavossa realized they could fit an entirely new field on the property.
The Falmouth Road Race agreed to fund the project, purchasing a backstop and dugouts. Within about a month, the new field was complete.
Then-assistant town manager Heather B. Harper attended a baseball game one day and discovered the finished field. Afterward, Mr. Cavossa had to go before the board of selectmen to seek its approval of the completed project.
“They were mad, but the kids got a field,” Mr. Cavossa said. “Certainly I don’t encourage it, but sometimes it’s easier to get things done out in the field than it is to get them pushed through the red tape… I think that’s what people like or respect about me.”
When asked what inspires his community service, Mr. Cavossa said, “I just think the community has been good to my family and my business… I think every business in the community has some responsibility to give back to the community in which they do business.”
Mr. Cavossa added that his service in the community has benefited him personally as well, particularly as a young businessman.
Although he did not graduate from college, he said sitting on the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce and Falmouth Road Race boards has provided him with invaluable experience and input from accomplished leaders.
“I’ve got a master’s degree in business from some of the best business people in our community,” he said.
Again, he listed off a series of names of people who had educated and inspired him.
“I’d say that any younger person that wants to be successful and move forward, be involved in the chamber of commerce and sit on these boards and donate your time, because the time you donate, you get back so much more.”
As for the future, Mr. Cavossa said he hopes his proudest achievement is yet to come. Seeing as the town is currently planning to install new artificial turf fields for students, there will likely be plenty of work on the horizon for Mr. Cavossa.
“You think when you’re finished with a project that you’ll feel really good that that project was done, and there’s some satisfaction that comes along with it…but then the next challenge comes along.”
Mr. Cavossa and Ms. Cavossa live in Falmouth with their children, Caitlin E. Cavossa, 18, Nicholas J. Cavossa, 17, Samuel J. Cavossa, 15, and Mia I. Cavossa, 14.
Mr. Cavossa will be honored during the Falmouth chamber’s annual meeting and award dinner on Thursday, April 12, at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel.