REDINGTON BEACH – Mayor Nick Simons recalls the advice from his father years ago.
“My father said a person’s name should only appear twice in the paper – when you’re born and when you die,” said Simons, who prefers to fly under the radar as much as possible.
But because he is Mayor of Redington Beach, his name has appeared in ink probably more times than his father would have dreamed of.
“Being mayor of Redington Beach is not a big deal,” Simons said. “So I don’t have an ego about that.”
Yet, once he sits down for a chat, Simons, 65, tan and lean, from a lifetime spent in the sun and surf, drops the reticence when prompted to recall memories of growing up during the 1950s and ’60s when The Tides Hotel and its adjacent Bath Club at 167th Avenue served as the town’s social and recreational center.
His connection to the area began in the mid-1950s when he was 7 years old.
“My dad was transferred from Philadelphia to Buffalo,” Simons explained. “Mom spent a couple of winters in Buffalo and that was enough.”
The family moved to Redington Beach in 1955.
“Mom and dad built their house on Bath Club Boulevard,” Simons said. “We’d walk across the street in the summertime and hang out at the pool. At 10 o’clock, mom would walk us across the street, give us two bucks and come back and get us at 3 – a parent wouldn’t do that today, but back then, it was a controlled environment. Two bucks got you a hotdog, a bag of chips and a soda and you’d play at the pool or on the beach.”
Simons graduated from Seminole High School in 1965 and enrolled in what was then St. Petersburg Junior College. However, after classes began, he received a military draft notice.
“I was fortunate enough to join the National Guard,” he said. He served for six years.
Married for 26 years to Lica (pronounced Lisa), the couple has two daughters, a stepdaughter from Lica’s previous marriage who he adopted and another daughter, Jasmine, currently studying for a master’s degree in music therapy at the University of Kentucky.
When he’s not presiding over town meetings and other public hearings or events Simons is at work at Beach Service West, Inc., a concession business he and his brother, Kelly, have owned and operated for nearly 40 years that rents cabanas, umbrellas and chaise lounges to vacationers staying at the various inns, hotels and condos stretching from Madeira Beach up to Indian Shores. At some locations, they rent out Hobie Cat sailboats and kayaks as well.
The business also manufactures custom-designed outdoor furniture guaranteed to withstand weather, salt and sand. Most of the pieces the brothers build are sold in bulk to local area resorts such as the Longboat Key Club in Sarasota and the TradeWinds Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach. Customers have also included resorts in Boca Raton, Orlando and the Bahamas.
Simons credits his career success to Edward Hickey Jr., owner of Ed’s Beach Service and a pioneer in the beach concession business, who he says was his mentor.
“I went to work for him when I was 13 years old at the old Bath Club,” Nick said. “Today, as was then and as is now, mentoring is so important. That guided me for most of my adult life.”
In 1971, Simons bought the business from Hickey and in the early 1980s he and his brother Kelly incorporated.
Active in local politics for some 23 years, Simons served as a town commissioner from 1990 to 1996 and was appointed to the board by Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles in 1997 after a series of resignations left the Redington Beach Commission without a quorum.
“I got tired of picking up the Beach Beacon and reading about the goings on in our town,” Simons said. “If somebody over there said it was white, somebody over here would say, ‘no it’s black,’ and not because it was black or white but ‘because this person said it so I’m going to be opposed.’ ”
Simons claims the constant arguing and contentiousness prompted him to run for mayor in 2006. He is now into his fourth term and seventh year as mayor.
Good leadership, he says, means “using common sense. Treat people the way you expect to be treated in return.”
Although he is on good terms with all his fellow commissioners, some of whom like Vice Mayor Mark Deighton, he has known for years and Commissioner Dave Will who lives across the street from him, he says, “I don’t pal around with them; I don’t go to their houses.”
“By virtue of the fact we’ve all been commissioners for as long as we have,” Simons said, “it’s a testament to the fact we all work well together.”