NEW PORT RICHEY — Not long after his father died, Bob Tietz took charge of his family's gardens. He was only 13, but his father had taught him what to do.
"Bob just carried on with the roses," said his mother, Dolores Buescher.
His devotion to the natural world had only begun. As the Pasco County biologist, Mr. Tietz did everything from plant red salvia along Seven Springs Boulevard to help establish the county's environmental lands acquisition program.
And even after more than two decades, he could still get excited about some patch of nature he'd seen amid the development.
"He'd come home and say, 'Oh Carol, I found this incredible spot in Pasco today," said Carol Tietz, his wife of nearly 37 years. "If you went for a walk in the woods with him, you'd get such an education."
Mr. Tietz died Monday after a diagnosis of late-stage lung cancer in March. He was 60 years old.
He had worked for the county since 1982, except for a six-year period when he went to work for an engineering firm, and his duties over the years included everything from getting the old landfill cleaned up to reviewing development plans' impact on environmental resources.
"Bob's heart was definitely in serving the county and the residents, and the residents we don't talk about: the critters, the wildlife," said Chief Assistant County Administrator Michele Baker. "He was a big idea man. He'd come up with great ideas, he was so smart."
He came on board around the same time as County Administrator John Gallagher and former county attorney Ben Harrill, who died in March. It was a point of tremendous change for the county.
"We were all together for the first 10 years when we were trying to remake the county," Gallagher said.
Of all Mr. Tietz's duties over the years, his last one as county biologist seemed to be the one he enjoyed most, Gallagher said.
"You could see something actually being done as a result of the work," Gallagher said. "He had a great influence on me and my staff."
Mr. Tietz's positions sometimes put him at odds with the development community: He was a strong advocate of establishing wildlife corridors and his lengthy examination of a permit for SunWest Harbourtowne led the developer's project manager to fire off an angry e-mail to Gallagher complaining that Tietz "is not on our side."
But Mr. Tietz was a pragmatist, say those who knew him best: He accepted that development would have to come and saw his job as one of trying to minimize the impact on the environment.
"He appreciated the art of negotiation, that you had to give a little to get some," Baker said. "He didn't draw a line in the sand. … He always saw all the sides."
Mac Davis, with the Aripeka environmental group Gulf Coast Conservancy, had a similar take on Mr. Tietz.
"He managed to do something extremely difficult: Balance the desires of the environmental community and the desires of the County Commission, which are rarely in synch," Davis said. "I don't think they're going to find anybody of his caliber to replace him."
Mr. Tietz had a sharp sense of humor, displayed in the anecdotes he could tell, often standing in a colleague's doorway. And when he wasn't working, he was playing in bands.
As a teenager in Michigan, he was the lead singer for a rock 'n' roll band called the Five Emprees, which had a hit record, Little Miss Sad!
His wife, a neighborhood girl he met when he was 15 and she 14, recalled, laughing: "I was the girlfriend in the background."
As a middle-aged county employee, his music days were a little more tame: He played with some other employees at company picnics, and he sang I Loved Her First at his daughter's wedding last year.
Carol Tietz was going through the mail the other day when she found a letter that her husband received not long after he got sick. It was written by an elderly woman, a stranger, who had called the county when she couldn't figure out what was wrong with a citrus tree in her yard.
Mr. Tietz had been on his way to a doctor's appointment and stopped to see the woman and talk to her about what she could do for the tree. She never forgot that, and when she called the county again and learned he'd been hospitalized, she decided to write him and thank him.
That was how her husband treated everyone, she said: "He really made them feel very important and very valued."
In addition to his wife, Mr. Tietz is survived by his mother and stepfather, Charles and Dolores Buescher of Clearwater; daughter Anna Lane; two sons, David and Jonathan; and five sisters.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.