Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas Park political gadfly Marshall Cook dies

PINELLAS PARK — The heavyset man with the Santa-style beard was a frequent sight for residents here, whether he was riding around town on his electric cart or grumping at City Council members during meetings.

But he'll be seen no more. Marshall Cook, political gadfly and advocate for the disabled and downtrodden, died at home in his sleep Sunday. He was 65. He had suffered from multiple health issues.

"He'll be missed by a lot of people," Pinellas Park Mayor Bill Mischler said. "He was kind to people who were down and under. He had a soft spot in his heart for those that were suffering."

Mr. Cook was a native of Alexandria, Va., who moved to Pinellas Park in the mid 1970s. He served in the Army. He worked for the city in the late 1970s through early 1980s, then left to open his own garage. He was retired at the time of his death.

He became an activist early on, holding the offices of steward, chief steward and acting president of ACFSME, the union that represents the city's public works employees. In later years, he became a member of the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee, the Pinellas Park parade committee and Community Spirit in the Park. At the time of his death, he was serving on the Pinellas Park equestrian board and the Transit Advisory Committee of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

He twice ran unsuccessfully for City Council.

But a list of memberships does not come close to illustrating Mr. Cook's colorful character.

Mr. Cook had both legs amputated as a result of an infection when he stepped on a rusty nail. After the first was amputated, he still managed to climb onto his roof to do some repair work. He fell off.

Among other things, he took credit for bringing the Walmart Supercenter to Pinellas Park. It was the first supercenter in Pinellas. And he once asked the city to put a lock box outside City Hall so he could store a handgun there rather than take it inside during council meetings. Mr. Cook told a reporter he didn't feel safe traveling around the city at night on an electric cart without protection. He was outraged when the city refused.

It was his outrage at injustice that was the hallmark of his gruff exterior. He took delight in harassing city officials, especially on issues concerning access for the disabled. He complained long and frequently that cars parked in short driveways blocked the sidewalks, making it hard for wheelchairs to get by. He even carried a camera and took pictures of the offending vehicles.

The city finally heeded him and issued tickets. Forty-five residents woke the next morning to find citations on cars parked in their driveways.

Mr. Cook also had his bouts with code enforcement officers who said he wasn't keeping his yard clear of debris. Mr. Cook said the allegations were politically motivated.

But he never complied.

"He won," fellow political gadfly Randy Heine said. "He left it the way he wanted it."

But perhaps his favorite pastime was needling elected officials. He was a regular at Mischler's almost daily meet and greet at the McDonald's in Walmart. After harassing Mischler, he could be seen outside smoking a cigarette.

"He has over the years gotten under my skin," Mischler said. "He would like to do that."

Heine said, "He was a thorn in their side, but a good thorn. Somebody who made you think about life, about government."

But the gruff, grouchy exterior hid a soft heart. Mr. Cook could often be found helping at a local horseback riding program for disabled children. He once used his time speaking to the council to drum up contributions for an ill child in his neighborhood. He was a self-appointed protector of the elderly who were alone in the world.

"He was a difficult man to get to know, but he had a heart of gold," Heine said.

Mischler said: "He was a one of a kind. But his heart was in the right place."

Information from Times files was used in this report. Reach Anne Lindberg at or (727) 893-8450.


Marshall Avert

Cook Jr.

Born: Sept. 3, 1946

Died: Oct. 9, 2011

Survivors: Wife Cherie and son Brian, of Tampa

Pinellas Park political gadfly Marshall Cook dies 10/11/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 5:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. DCF announces $133 million in federal aid for low-income families who lost food during Irma


    An additional $133 million is being distributed to Florida low-income families to help replace food destroyed by Hurricane Irma, the Florida Department of Children and Families announced today.

    The United States Department of Agriculture has made $133 million available to Florida low-income families to help them replace food damaged during Hurricane Irma
  2. A meatless burger that tastes like meat? Ciccio Restaurants will serve the Impossible Burger.

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The most red-hot hamburger in the nation right now contains no meat.

    Luis Flores, executive chef at Ciccio Restaurant Group, prepares an Impossible Burger at Epicurean Hotel's Food Theatre. Impossible Burger is a plant-based burger that will launch on Sept. 27, 2017 in all the Ciccio Restaurant Group locations, except for Fresh Kitchen. "This burger caters to the carnivorous, not just the vegetarians" said Jeff Gigante, co-founder at Ciccio Restaurant Group. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  3. Plan your weekend: Sept. 22-24: Buffyfest, Arcade Fire, Howl-O-Scream, Wanderlust 108 and 'Rent'


    Plan your weekend

    Pop show

    Florida Björkestra's Buffyfest: Pop culture meets pop music when the Florida Björkestra, a 20-piece alternative-classical ensemble that tributes ground-breaking pop artists, on Saturday will play with eight vocalists for "Once More with …

    The 20th anniversary tour of RENT, shown in 2016, comes to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 19-24, 2017. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
  4. Chris Archer, 25,000 Cubs fans and Tampa Bay's painful truth

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The biggest ovation inside Tropicana Field on Tuesday night was not for Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who was returning for the first time since managing the Rays.

    "W" flags fly in the stands after the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Rays Tuesday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  5. A rendering of the Bucs' indoor practice facility.