25 May, 2012

Herman Goldner

Herman Goldner was lawyer with a Harvard MBA and packed a lot of ideas into four terms as mayor, including some that have endured decades after he left office. He believed the Tampa Bay area needed to plan its growth. He founded the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and flirted with consolidation of municipalities and unincorporated areas in South Pinellas County.

He sought other political office, losing bids for the U.S. Senate and the Pinellas County Commission.

Mr. Goldner was a big-picture mayor for three terms in the 1960s and another in the early 1970s. Mr. Goldner was born in Detroit and grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Tests would later show an IQ near 160. At age 8, he built a small platform and began giving speeches to his family. He got a law degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1942; served four years with the Navy during World War II; then studied business at Harvard.

He moved to St. Petersburg in 1947 with his wife, Winifred, and sons Brian and Michael. He set up a law practice with Bill Cramer, a future Republican U.S. representative. Though brought up Jewish, he converted to his wife's Episcopalian religion. In 1960, Mr. Goldner, also a Republican, won the nonpartisan mayor's race in a landslide. He was re-elected mayor in 1963 and 1965.

Mr. Goldner ran for the Senate in 1968 with a campaign finance war chest of $300,000. Republican incumbent Ed Gurney had more than $7 million.

Apart from his status as a relative unknown, Mr. Goldner's vocal support of Hubert Humphrey over Richard Nixon did nothing to endear him to the Republican Party.

In 1971 he returned for another term as mayor and advocated for the use of public funds to overhaul blighted areas. He worried about the consequences of growth from drainage to traffic on U.S. 19 to hurricanes.

After a near-miss by Hurricane Agnes flooded the Tampa Bay area, Mr. Goldner proposed using computers at the University of South Florida to come up with an early warning system for severe weather. The proposal died when municipalities refused to kick in $1,000 each to research it.

He could not part with his pipe. When a doctor told him about the precancerous lesions in his mouth, Mr. Goldner left the pipe in his mouth; he just didn't light it.

Mr. Goldner died at the age of 93 on September 9th 2010 at his home in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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