Patricia Simboli: No regrets

Patricia Simboli: No regrets

Patricia Simboli is not exactly the kind of person one would peg to run the family development business. Simboli, a life-long overachiever, had bigger hopes and ambitions.

For nearly 10 years, Simboli stayed away from ACS Development Corp., the company her father co-founded, working instead for Wall Street giant JP Morgan in New York and then London.

In the nine years she was with the financial services company, she was a standout in many ways. She was the first in the company to attend the executive education program at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where, at 26, she would board a train from New York to Pennsylvania every other Friday to attend six hours of classes. Simboli was put in charge of the company’s recruiting efforts, requiring her to travel the country in search of talented undergrads.

To keep up, Simboli had three bags packed at the front door at all times — one bag for outgoing trips, one from return trips and one just in case.

After near-continuous education and promotion, giving her greater and greater responsibility at the company, Simboli decided to get off the treadmill of 10- and 14-hour days. She was working for JP Morgan in London but the company was planning to decentralize accounts and move staff to Milan and Brussels.

She was in her 30s, unmarried and becoming disenchanted with her corporate lifestyle. “I was very, very busy,” she said. “It took years to recover from that.”

It was at that moment, in 1991, when her father, Anthony Simboli, asked her to return home. A deep recession was underway and tenants who couldn’t pay their rent were leaving in the middle of the night. Her father needed help running the Chelsea-based business.

She told her bosses at JP Morgan she would be taking a 12-month leave of absence. Simboli remembers the moment like it was yesterday. She returned to Boston from London. Her family hosted a dinner on Saturday night and the following Monday she was working for ACS. That was 17 years ago, and Simboli has been going almost nonstop ever since.

While it might not be the same high-stress, frenetic pace of the banking industry, the Simboli name — and ACS — are well-known in the communities where the company owns property, especially Chelsea. ACS owns 35 commercial properties, including 14 in Chelsea, in 25 cities and towns across the state.

Now ACS, which has built offices for the federal government in the past, is vying to build a Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Chelsea. The FBI is reportedly considering an ACS-controlled parcel in Chelsea as well as a site in South Boston for a new 250,000-square-feet office.

Simboli is quietly pursuing the FBI as a future tenant as the city of Chelsea watches closely. The five-acre site that ACS is pitching to the FBI is in the center of an urban renewal district in Chelsea where a new hotel and 280 units of housing are planned.

“The trust that we place in them is well founded because they have a 25-year track record of not disappointing us in Chelsea, or anywhere,” said Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash.

Simboli also has her father’s reputation in the community to uphold.

“When you make a mistake you feel like you’ve disappointed the closest people to you in life,” she said.

That kind of pressure takes a toll. Simboli, for the first time in her life, was out of work due to a random and debilitating lung condition that has resulted in multiple surgeries.

Simboli said it was a “gifted moment.” She has curtailed commitments and let go of outside responsibilities as she continues to recuperate.

It’s not a role Simboli is comfortable with or accustomed to, given her drive and passion. Kevin Andrews, headmaster of the Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, where Simboli has been a board member for five years, said, “She’s not a wallflower. Patricia is going to ask critical questions. She’s able to play with the boys, the big boys. She worked on Wall Street.”

Under Simboli’s leadership, the school had its most successful fundraiser this year, with $458,000 raised at a gala event.

In discussing her career, Simboli mentions her father, Anthony, who is now in his 70s, frequently describing him as a self-made man who taught his children to make their own security in life. She said she had a privileged childhood in Winchester, attending private school as well as taking piano, skating and tennis lessons. Simboli grew up in the ’70s thinking she could have it all — a career, family and extracurricular activities. And why not?

While at Bowdoin College in Maine, Simboli played varsity soccer, taught religious education and was the head of her dormitory all while taking five courses at a time.

She accomplished it all, but soon realized it was not the fulfilling life she had hoped.

Simboli would someday like to get married and have a family, calling it a piece of her life that “is still missing.”

“Everybody makes peace with their life,” she said. “I don’t have regrets but what I am conscious of is that there are different priorities for me right now in my life. Work will always be near the top but having a life that’s rich with people and feeling like you’re doing you’re very best in those relationships … I feel a lot of responsibility for those relationships.”

 Boston Business Journal

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