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In search of the Great Brooksvillian — or at least a darned good one

Banker Alfred McKethan, the first winner of the Great Brooksvillian award, might not have been great in the grand scheme of things, but he definitely was by local standards.

So was the second winner, Margaret "Weenie" Ghiotto, founder of Rogers' Christmas House Village. Also, both were natives — Brooksvillians without a doubt.

After that, picking a deserving candidate got a little tougher, as David Whitehead told me a few years ago after nominating his friend Bob Martinez, publisher of Old Brooksville in Photos & Stories. "I figure we've done the big ones, Weenie and Alfred. Now we're kind of down to the second tier."

Which makes it an appropriate time to announce that I have a dog in this fight. As a matter of fact, I am a dog in this fight. I was nominated for the city of Brooksville's Great Brooksvillian award by Doris Taylor of Ridge Manor, whom I like to call "my fan." Not "a fan," notice, because that would suggest there are more than one.

Thank you very much, Doris, but not only do I think my lack of greatness is self-evident, so does my editor. "I guess we should call this the Pretty Good Brooksvillian," he said after hearing about my nomination.

And, after nine years of handing out the award, we're almost at that point. Because, face it, how many people are great and Brooksvillians?

Take, for example, Paul Farmer, the Hernando High School graduate who went on to become an internationally acclaimed doctor for poor people, who set new standards for delivering aid in developing countries, who has been nominated for a Nobel Prize — and who almost didn't win in 2008 because he never lived inside the city limits.

If Farmer barely squeaked by, doesn't that mean a Great Brooksvillian is hard to find?

Not according to City Council member Lara Bradburn, bless her, because if her view of her hometown and its residents is a little skewed, it's at least skewed by loyalty.

As of early afternoon on June 17, there were four nominees, including me, Martinez and Roger Landers, a retired school administrator who has done an outstanding job researching and writing local history, making a real contribution to the city's understanding of its origins.

Though I think he's an excellent candidate, that he's at least a darned good Brooksvillian, I figured that his recent thesis that Hernando County's economic growth was stunted by its violently racist past might not endear him to the likes of Bradburn. Because how can people who criticize the very culture of the city be called Brooksvillians, much less great ones?

And it sure looked as though I was right. By the time Monday morning rolled around, there were suddenly 107 nominees, 100 of them nominated in a clump by Bradburn just before the 5 p.m. deadline June 17.

No, this was not a rush job and not inspired by the obvious greatness deficiency in the original four, she assured me, though it was taken that way by Martinez, who compiled the list of 100 names for his publication a decade ago. A city staffer called him June 16 to ask for it on Bradburn's behalf.

"I thought, 'Isn't this a fine kettle of fish?' " he said. "They already have my name (as a nominee) and they ask me to provide them with more names."

If Martinez, another darned good Brooksvillian in my opinion, didn't meet Bradburn's standards, plenty of people on his list did.

"They were the fathers of government, pillars of the church, war heros, lawmen, physicians and farmers, and the formulators of our cultural, economic and social standing,'' Bradburn wrote on the nomination form.

So who were these homegrown Jeffersons and Washingtons, Albert Schweitzers and Audie Murphys?

Well, the late NFL star Jerome Brown was undeniably a giant. A few people on the list, such as Dr. Samuel Harvard, were well-known for their exceptional generosity and devotion to city residents, which in my opinion should be the main qualification. A few others have reputations as selfish jerks.

Mostly, you see people who stayed in public or private jobs for a long time. They served the community steadily, helped out when they could.

They were good citizens, good Brooksvillians — which in my book is a heck of a distinction. Because that's what you need to make a great community.

In search of the Great Brooksvillian — or at least a darned good one 06/23/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 23, 2011 6:15pm]
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