SEMINOLE — John Elias, a former city attorney and Mr. Seminole who left his mark on the community, died May 31 after a lengthy illness.
Elias, who was 76, came to Florida from Pittsburgh in 1974 as a trial lawyer with the Department of Justice. In 1986, he became the city attorney of Seminole where he remained until his retirement in 2015.
City Councilor Thom Barnhorn said he remembers Elias as a man who doggedly saw issues and projects through to the end.
“He was great for the city and kept us out of trouble,” he said, laughing. “He was a good man with a great sense of humor but at the same time he was very devoted both as a friend and a professional.”
Barnhorn recalled some of the weightier issues that Elias helped steer the city through.
“He was very involved in the redevelopment of the Bay Pines area,” he said. “He was instrumental in getting us to set aside a tract of land, which is now a park but someday could become a fire station.
“He also helped in annexation projects and made sure there was no forced annexation. And, of course, the City Center project, he was very much involved in that,” he said.
Barnhorn said Elias had become more than just a colleague, he was also a friend.
“He did a lot more than just be the attorney for the city, he was a great person all around and a good friend. He will be missed.”
In addition to being the city attorney for Seminole, he also served as the attorney for the town of Belleair Shore.
In a statement, Mayor Leslie Waters acknowledged the city’s late attorney.
“John Elias served Seminole as our city attorney for 34 years,” she said. “He provided invaluable legal advice when needed. He was well respected and well liked. We all appreciate his service.”
Elias was active in the Seminole community on a number of fronts. He was a past president of the Rotary Club, a member of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, various other civic and national groups, and in 2005 he was crowned Mr. Seminole, the Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year.
It was during his time with the Chamber of Commerce that he met Roger Edelman, who is now a City Council member but knew Elias before that. He recalls a special man.
“He was a very caring and giving guy,” he said. “Whatever you needed you could ask John, he was always ready to help.
“John was extremely active in the Rotary Club for nearly 40 years. We had the opportunity to take a few trips together, he was a personal friend. I do miss him as do many others who’ve known him a lot longer than I did.”
Edelman added, “It is an incredible loss for all of us in and around the city. He was an incredible guy and is going to be missed by a lot of people.”
None will miss his more than his wife, Judy, son Michael in Virginia and daughter Beth in Pinellas County.
Judy Elias remembers her husband as a man who never gave up.
“If he was getting prepared for an issue or a case, he dug deep,” she said. “He cared very deeply and made sure he covered all the bases.
“He was especially proud of the time he spent in the Army, just after he graduated from law school. He often spoke of those days,” she said.
She said he was a man who loved his family above all else.
“He was a good husband and father. He was a good friend and family man,” she said. “He liked to be out there and a lot of the time he was involved with the children.
“We were prepared for his passing and I am grateful it was as quick as it was.”
John Elias was a member of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. A funeral Mass and internment have already taken place.