Former County Commissioner Len Tria, well-known booster of economic development in Hernando County who was called a mentor to government leaders, died Thursday after a bout with cancer.
He was 76.
Tria was admitted to Hernando-Pasco Hospice Wednesday night and died around 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
He was a long-time columnist for Hernando Today and was known for his conservative viewpoints.
Barbara Tria, his wife of 53 years, said doctors discovered the cancer in August and it progressed quickly.
"He loved writing," she said. "He had such a brilliant mind, remembering and quoting from books. He kept saying he was going to write a book but he never got around to it.
"(He) was a very strong man, strong-minded, a very good friend," Barbara Tria said. "If you were a friend of his, you were a friend for life."
Tria is also survived by a daughter, Barbara Jean, 52 and a grandson, Matthew Parrott, 24.
A retired New York policeman, Tria moved to Hernando County in 1981 and soon became active in politics and other groups.
Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce President Pat Crowley said Tria was well-versed, not only in local politics but also state issues, especially in the area of transportation.
Until about two years ago, Tria was the chamber's paid liaison for the Hernando County Association of Realtors, the Hernando Builders Association and Hernando Progress, she said.
The chamber, at its annual Christmas breakfast Wednesday, presented Tria with an award for his years of leadership and support of the business community but he was too ill to attend, Crowley said.
Crowley said video of the event was taken and will be presented to the family.
Morris Porton, Hernando County executive-senior vice president for Florida Traditions Bank, said Tria was influential in local government.
"I am going to remember him as someone who truly cared about his community and the business community," Porton said. "He strongly felt that the private sector should have a say-so in county government. He was a passionate person. He was passionate in everything he did."
And few knew the ins and outs of the county budget better than Tria, said Porton.
Jim Kimbrough, vice chairman of SunTrust for the Tampa Bay region, concurs.
"I don't think anybody that I ever knew had more experience and knowledge about the county budget," he said.
Kimbrough said he will remember Tria as a true friend, a statesman, an individual whose word was his bond.
Kimbrough said Tria did "everything he could as a public servant and in private enterprise to help improve the quality of life, not only for Brooksville and Hernando County, but for the entire Tampa Bay region.
"Len Tria's death is a huge loss for this county," he said.
County Commission Chairman Dave Russell said Tria was a mentor to government officials and staffers.
"Len was always very well-studied on the issues and that is why people would seek his counsel," he said.
Former Hernando Today publisher Duane Chichester called Tria a staunch supporter of economic development.
"Len Tria worked tirelessly for our community as a county commissioner, in the field of economic development and for bringing the business community together," Chichester said. "No doubt his work for the community has made this community better by his leadership and service."
June Ester, who served as county commissioner from 1988 to 1996, said she likely would not have been on the board if not for Tria.
When Tria decided not to run for re-election, Ester said he called her and asked if she was interested in running for his seat.
"I said, 'Yes, I would be interested' and that was probably the reason I was on the board, was because of Len," Ester said.
Ester said she was "deeply, deeply saddened" by the news and will remember Tria as a man who had "very strong beliefs."
"If you could convince him, he could change his mind," she said.
Ester said Tria had a sense of humor and a smile on his face most of the time.
"The county's going to be a sadder place without him," Ester said.
Tria was Catholic and there will be a Mass, Barbara said. Services will be announced at a later time.