INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - The jockeying and maneuvering are over. John Leahy, tough and strong to the end, will bow out as chief of the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue department September 15.
That is the official departure date, but in reality Leahy is already gone from the department that has been beleagured for the last couple of years with strife and pain.
Actually, Leahy's end of the business - putting out fires and rescuing folks in trouble - has received no criticisms.
You could say Leahy got ground up in the politics of it all.
Politics and money and you can pinpoint money as the basic cause of trouble and problems. As one wise soul once said, "It's always about money."
For Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue, the strife began a couple of years ago when the service needed to raise its fees. A referendum was held and succeeded and then the next thing everybody knew, PSF&R was back asking for more money.
Actually, all that business is the concern of the elected commissioners who run the district, which is a Legislature-created entity, and probably needs to be run a lot closer to home.
Asking for more money and the formula for assessing the fee brought opposition from elected officials in Indian Shores, Indiana Rocks Beach, Belleair Beach and Belleair Shore.
While all of this was not directly in Leahy's purview, he is the kind of guy who has bulldog determination and tenacity and he does not put borderlines on his loyalty.
So he was in the middle of it and caught some criticism and because of his strength Leahy tends to be a lightning rod.
Up until recently, the tediousness of it and the gnawing problem of how to get money had not worn down Leahy.
Leahy is like a bulldog.
One member of the PSF&R commission moved that he be fired. Instead, cooler heads prevailed and the chief stepped down temporarily. One factor was a knee operation he needed.
Now it is settled and he is gone.
In his 70s, the years have not apparently diminished the strength that his blocky, thick body evinces. The face is resolute, but quick to smile. He looks like a guy who will not be worn down quickly.
He is one of those guys who seem ageless. He probably looks as he does now when he was younger.
Some of the Irish have that powerful look with a body that seems coiled, ready to spring into action like a spring-loaded machine.
Invariably pleasant, with a slight edge, Leahy's demeanor is serious - a career devoted to saving lives undoubtedly makes a man that way.
Some months ago, when he was fully in control of the department, Leahy wondered why people are unwilling to pay a fair price for fire suppression service and human life saving service.
"Other jurisdictions have ad valorem taxes," he said. "Think of a 3.5 mills assessment on some of the expensive properties in our district," he says.
That is what Clearwater charges for fire service. At that rate, there are properties in the Pinellas Suncoast district that would pay in the area of $6,000 a year.
Leahy was part of the thinking that sought a yearly fee far less than that.
So now it is over for John Leahy. Whatever else the thought, the great Paul's words seem to apply - "Well done, good and faithful servant."
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