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The end of an era
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“Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away.”

That’s the wisdom from the “The Gambler,” and it seems to take a certain kind of person to know when it’s time to put their cards on the table, count their losses, collect their winnings, and walk.

That’s just what the mayor of Madeira Beach did.

Oh, I’m sorry, the former mayor. It’s going to take a while to get used to that one.

Tom De Cesare took the helm of the city of this spirited beach town 12 years ago.

Madeira Beach is not one to let its mayors go the easy way. De Cesare’s predecessor, Mayor Marvin Frederich, suffered a sudden heart attack while cutting his lawn. He left work unfinished, and a wake of controversy. It took a while for things to settle down, and his successor, Tom De Cesare, had a lot to do with the calm of the last decade.

See, Frederich liked to mix things up. Once elected, he changed the time of the meeting just to get people used to change. That mindset helped push the city to get some things done. Some liked the direction. Some didn’t. With a job unfinished, there was just fighting when he died. It was like there was a hole, into which everyone jumped, nearly drowning each other and the city.

Sound familiar?

De Cesare moved into the mayor’s seat. One of the first things he did was introduce laughter into the commission chambers, something that, as a newcomer, I hadn’t yet experienced. People started getting along a little bit. The habitual dissenters stopped showing up all the time at meetings.

It was a peace that was sorely needed at the time, in a city that surely needed healing.

Since then, the city has continued to grow, and De Cesare joined other beach mayors to form an alliance I doubt will be seen again in these parts. It has already dispersed, with the election of new mayors along the beaches, and yet the strength of the communities working together continues to help all of the beaches in their positioning with the county, the state and the federal government.

And while I’ve heard the “good ol’ boy” phrase more than once, I can tell you that this group of mayors did a good job of bringing small communities together, while respecting the characters of their own municipalities. Mayors Bob DiNicola, Don Taber, J.J. Beyrouti, Harold Radcliffe, Leon Atkinson, Tom De Cesare – and others who accompanied them and supported the beaches’ causes – fought hard for many years to earn respect for the beaches.

De Cesare was part of something bigger than himself, and he should feel good about that.

He is a leader that believes it is OK to have a good time while you work. He believes that life is to be enjoyed. He is a gentleman. He believes in compromise, and in teamwork.

In his own city, De Cesare gave the commission balance. He may have been the best hope for making any peace at all between the factions in the city right now. He tried to be fair, but his frustration was showing. So maybe he’s right. Maybe it was time.

I personally think he believed that his own promise to resign if the city attorney was fired would prompt his fellow commissioners to keep the attorney, at least for now.

A gamble, for sure. But not a bluff. When it didn’t work, he kept his word. He will, no doubt, be faulted for his decision, but I don’t think he’ll question himself.

“It’s not fun anymore,” he declared. And with that, Mayor Tom De Cesare folded. He counted his losses, gathered his winnings and walked away.

Mary Burrell is managing editor and editor of the Beach Beacon and Seminole Beacon.
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