Jim Ciccone, 67, has been cleaning pools since age 10. “I’ve always been interested in water,” he said.
Indeed, after a three-year tour of duty in the Army in Germany, then-23-year-old Ciccone went to work for Knott’s Berry Farm, an amusement park in Anaheim, Calif. — clarifying their lake water for the rides early each morning.
So it’s not surprising that when he started his own business, it was water-related. That didn’t keep him from pursuing other interests simultaneously, though. So it is that while running Jim Ciccone’s Pool Service, LLC, in Temecula, Calif., he also was deputy sheriff with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department for 15 years. And he was a key member of the Hemet Search & Rescue. The latter required him to be on call 24/7, ready to search for missing children and adults in the San Jacinto Mountains. Prior to that, he started a neighborhood watch program.
A hostage negotiator for five years, he traveled around the county, handling volatile situations. For example, there was the case of a man with mental problems who had taken his own family hostage. For two hours, Ciccone tried to communicate with him on the phone. Finally he got the suspect to talk, and police were able to take the family out the back door. “I got one or two calls a month, either a hostage situation or someone threatening suicide. I never lost anyone,” he said. “It was a very interesting time.” For his efforts, he received a Sheriff of the Year award.
He also spent an interesting three years working for singer Dolly Parton. She liked to visit Meadowland, a retreat near Hemet popular among celebrities, and Ciccone made the property secure during her visits. “She had a bodyguard, but I was on the side, kind of secret security,” Ciccone recalled. He also made reservations for her at local restaurants or took her to see “Ramona,” a play put on annually in Hemet. “It’s hard to sneak Dolly Parton in,” he said wryly, but they slipped her into the conductor’s booth, where she could watch the drama out of view of prying eyes.
Through all that, Ciccone never lost his fascination for things aquatic. “I like the challenge of cleaning pools and solving problems. I still love doing it,” he said. “I had a retail store, too, but the economy took it away.”
Nowadays, he and son Jeff, 33, run the service firm, maintaining more than 180 residential and commercial pools. They also have a small online business called Wine Country Pools & Supplies, offering same- or next-day delivery of supplies to homeowners in the Temecula, Murrieta and Hemet area.
Ciccone has been active in the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association for years, serving as Hemet Chapter president, secretary/treasurer and regional director several times. He was influential in starting the IPSSA Scholarship Fund, and worked tirelessly for two years to establish the IPSSA Region 6 Table Top Show in 1994 because he wanted to bring industry colleagues together and offer trade education.
For his dedication to the pool industry, he was named the 2013 Terry Cowles Memorial Award recipient. The honor is bestowed annually by IPSSA to an outstanding individual who demonstrates professionalism and gives back to IPSSA, the industry and the community. (Next year’s recipient will be chosen in November.)