Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Longtime Pinellas official William "Bill" Baker dies at 80

CLEARWATER — He was a prominent Pinellas engineer who taught Sunday school, a casual guitarist who preferred the old gospel songs, a Southern gentleman who always held the door.

But William "Bill" Baker's favorite role was family man.

"Every day, he said 'I love you,' " said Barbara Baker, his wife of 30 years. "He never hesitated to tell us how he felt, how much he appreciated us."

Mr. Baker, most recently Safety Harbor's city engineer and assistant city manager, died April 22 of brain cancer. He was 80.

His office, which he still occupied in early April, was lined with photos of his wife, his three children and his three grandchildren — his everything, Barbara said. When he died at home, he was surrounded by those faces.

Mr. Baker was born in Kinston, N.C., where, his wife said, he developed a penchant for all things country. He served in the Navy, earned a civil engineering degree from North Carolina State University and moved to Clearwater in 1982. He became the city's public works director and city engineer two years later, launching a three-decade career in Tampa Bay.

Mr. Baker oversaw the construction of the new Sand Key Bridge and the remodeling of the old Maas Brothers department store downtown into the Harborview Center. He also built his own custom house on Brookside Drive, with a Southern-style front porch inspired by his home state.

"People would come in and say, 'I feel like I'm in a Cracker Barrel!' " Barbara said, laughing.

He loved to worship at Clearwater's First Assembly of God, she said. He became a church deacon, sang in the choir and taught children Bible verses on the weekends.

"He was a very busy man," his wife said. "And he loved everything he did."

Mr. Baker retired from the city of Clearwater in 1996 after the city's elected leaders criticized some city construction projects he had overseen.

He soon missed the thrill of design challenges. "I found I did not want to be without work," he wrote on his resume.

He was hired again in 1997 by a private Clearwater consulting firm before moving on to an engineering job at Tampa International Airport. Desiring a return to public service, he became the city engineer for Safety Harbor in 2006.

"They don't make 'em like Bill anymore," said Matthew Spoor, Safety Harbor's city manager. "He was hard-working and always looking for something to improve. A Southern gentleman. Smart, witty and funny."

In his office, Spoor keeps a list of clever city aphorisms Mr. Baker wrote:

Every tree in town is a sacred oak.

All of the bricks in the brick streets were brought over from Spain in ships under the command of Ponce de Leon.

It would be a terrible thing if anything got changed.

Danielle Paquette can be reached at dpaquette@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4224.

Longtime Pinellas official William "Bill" Baker dies at 80 04/30/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 7:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. GOP's challenge: Finding votes for Senate health care bill (w/video)

    National

    WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has finally unwrapped his plan for dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law. Now comes his next challenge — persuading enough Republicans to back the measure and avert a defeat that could be shattering for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

  2. Harmeling first woman to receive lifetime honor at Sneaker Soiree in Tampa

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the last quarter-century, she has combined passion and meticulousness to keep the Gasparilla Distance Classic humming and evolving. Indefatigable and detailed, Susan Harmeling braces for every race-weekend contingency.

    Susan Harmeling gives a speech after accepting an award  during the annual Sneaker Soiree, at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, Thursday, June 22, 2017.
  3. Manslaughter charges eyed in deadly London fire sparked by refrigerator

    World

    LONDON — Manslaughter charges are among the offenses under consideration in the devastating Grenfell Tower blaze that killed 79 people, London police said Friday.

    A view of part of the Burnham residential tower on the Chalcots Estate showing the bottom section of the building after cladding was removed, in the borough of Camden, north London, Thursday, June 22, 2017. Tests so far have found that at least three high-rise apartment buildings in the U.K. have flammable external panels like the ones believed to have contributed to a fire that killed 79 people in London, Britain's government said Thursday. The local council in Camden, a borough of London, removed cladding from one of its buildings for further testing after tests they commissioned showed some of their panels were of the flammable variety "and not the ones they ordered." It was unclear whether the Camden example was one of the three mentioned by the government. [Associated Press]
  4. PolitiFact: 6 questions about the Senate health care bill and transparency

    Perspective

    Now that a Senate health care bill has been unveiled, senators will be jousting over its provisions to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined by, from left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks following a closed-door strategy session, at the Capitol in Washington on June 20. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
  5. Bicylist critically injured in crash involving SUV on Bayside Bridge

    Accidents

    A bicyclist was critically injured Friday morning when a driver drifted into his lane and struck him on the Bayside Bridge, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.