PINELLAS PARK — The award was a long time coming, but former Mayor Cecil Bradbury has been named Citizen of the Year by the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce.
"It was a real honor," Bradbury, 68, said Tuesday. "I'll try to do the best I can to be the representative they think I am."
Bradbury said he was taken by surprise. He and his wife attended the chamber banquet thinking their daughter Sandy, a Pinellas Park City Council member, was going to make a speech. Instead, Bradbury was honored.
According to rumor, Bradbury's first reaction was to turn to someone and say, "I knew it was cold, but I didn't realize hell had frozen over." Bradbury did not deny the story Tuesday, saying someone had suggested several years ago that was the prerequisite to his winning the award.
"I'd given up on any possibility of anything like this happening because of things that had been said in the past," Bradbury said.
Although Bradbury has given more than 20 years' service to Pinellas Park, the problem of how, whether — and even when — to honor him has been a thorny one.
City Council members — many of them former political foes — have refused to name parks or other monuments after him, saying they don't believe in honoring people who are still alive. That, of course, was after the Ronald Forbes Recreation Center was named for a still-living former city manager.
But the question of other awards has been equally controversial. As recently as 2003 — five years after he left office — the council was still arguing the issue. The topic came up when Bradbury was not named one of the city ambassadors.
The oversight prompted then-council member Patricia Bailey-Snook, a longtime friend and supporter, to say that she would have nominated Bradbury as an ambassador but she had been told that it wouldn't look good for council members to make nominations. Yet, she noted, both Mayor Bill Mischler and council member Rick Butler touted nominees. Mischler said she had it wrong.
Bailey-Snook asked for a "hard and fast" rule on whether council members could nominate for the ambassador award.
Bailey-Snook never got her rule, and the council promised to think about ways to honor Bradbury. The issue seemed to die except at the annual meetings of previous Citizen of the Year winners. The former winners, including Butler, council member Jerry Mullins and city spokesman Tim Caddell, pick the new winner.
Bradbury, like many others, was frequently nominated but never chosen. Until this year.
"He continues to do good things. He has for a long time," Caddell said. "It was a unanimous decision."
The award honors Bradbury's long service to the community, which began soon after he and his family moved to Pinellas Park in 1968.
He has been a volunteer with organizations such as Miss Softball of America, Boy Scouts of America Troop 320, the Pinellas Park Elementary School's Parent Teacher Association and the board of directors of Pinellas Community Hospital.
He helped spearhead the creation of Community Spirit in the Park, a nonprofit organization that buys, maintains and installs lighted holiday decorations along Park Boulevard and 49th Street N. He helped design and erect a monument honoring all branches of the military at Freedom Lake Park.
Bradbury is best known for his government service: He served on Pinellas Park's Planning and Zoning Commission, Citizens Planning Advisory Committee, Water Management District Board and Design and Review Board. He was elected to the Pinellas Park City Council in 1978 and was named vice mayor. Bradbury was elected mayor and served about 17 years until his retirement in 1998.
Reach Anne Lindberg at email@example.com or (727) 893-8450.