TARPON SPRINGS — Blaine LeCouris, a man who held almost every high-profile job in town besides mayor, died Thursday. He was 87.
LeCouris, a former Tarpon Springs police chief, city manager and the father of current city manager Mark LeCouris, had been in declining health for several years, said his granddaughter, Angela Filippone.
He had been in hospice care for the past week and died at 4:30 a.m., surrounded by family at the Gulfside Center for Hospice at Trinity Regional Rehab Center.
He was known throughout the community for his down-home style and bold personality.
"He was always a good man," said Tarpon Mayor David Archie. "He was a straight shooter with me. If he said he was going to do something, he would. He always cared about the city."
Former mayor Anita Protos called him a "true Tarponite" and an "encyclopedia" on running the city and on its history.
"You just don't find 'em like Blaine LeCouris anymore," said Protos, 69, who served on the City Commission in the late 1980s and 1990s.
He was no pushover, but he had a knack for diplomacy, according to Dorothy Pappas, former deputy city clerk.
"He's the type of person that could tell you off to your face and you'd leave smiling," said Pappas, who worked with him for about 30 years.
LeCouris also got a bit of attention for his unique way with words.
Former Tarpon city attorney Herb Elliott, who also forged a long friendship with LeCouris, joked that he spoke "LeCourian."
Olga Sowchuk, former planning and zoning director, said she relished his colloquial comments, like, "Honey, this ain't no dress rehearsal."
Feelings ran strong about LeCouris during his tenure with the city. Not everyone was a fan. At the time, some felt he signified the city's past more than its future.
He served two years as an investigator for the Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender's Office before he became Tarpon's police chief in 1975. He was appointed as acting city manager in 1984 and permanently took the job the following year. In January 1987, he was dismissed as city manager following a power shift on the commission. At the time, he contended that the commission ousted him to bring in someone more malleable.
His son, Mark, has followed a similar career path. He served as the city's police chief since 1993 and was named city manager in 2009.
Blaine LeCouris, a Tarpon Springs native who graduated from Tarpon High School, was a sponge diver in the early 1940s. He served in the Navy during World War II.
He joined the Tarpon Springs police force in 1946, leaving it a few years later to work for the Clearwater Police Department, where he was a motorcycle officer. He served more than 20 years on the force, retiring as a major.
He also worked seven years as chief of security at Pappas Restaurant and trained race horses for a short period of time.
In 1991, he was elected to the City Commission. Four years later, he resigned to run for mayor, but Protos defeated him. He then lost to Archie in a 1996 race for a commission seat.
A couple of years later, LeCouris said he was tired of politics and moved with his wife Alice to a home in Pasco County, where he used a chain saw and sledgehammer to remove the wall between two small bedrooms to create a large one.
"I can spend a little more time with my family, with my dogs, with the kids, with the country, and enjoy it," he said then.
LeCouris met Alice, his wife of 46 years, when he was a Clearwater police officer. She worked in the records department, their son, Paul, said.
LeCouris had fought prostate cancer for a while and had been cancer free for a while, but it took its toll, according to Paul LeCouris, 34. His father also suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic bronchitis, he said.
About a year and a half ago, LeCouris and his wife sold their Holiday home and bought a larger one in New Port Richey with Paul LeCouris, who resigned from his job in title insurance to take care of his parents.
Filippone worked with her grandfather at City Hall when he was city manager and police chief, because she worked as secretary for Sowchuk and for Elliott.
"We always say he was larger than life," said Filippone, 50, of her grandfather. "He was very tall and loud and full of life, always."
Lorri Helfand can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4155.