TAMPA — Matt M. Jetton, who oversaw development of the giant Carrollwood subdivision and was called upon by a governor to help right Hillsborough County government after it was shaken by a bribery scandal, has died from complications from surgery. He was 88.
Mr. Jetton was a visionary and a perfectionist who had the ability to see the long term, said his daughter, Melissa Jetton-Price.
"He was probably one of the most patient men I ever met," she said. "I never even saw him angry. He was just absolutely one of the kindest, most giving people. Almost everybody who's ever come up to me has just said what a great man he is."
Mr. Jetton died Friday at St. Joseph's Hospital after complications of surgery following a fall Wednesday, Jetton-Price said.
Mr. Jetton and his grandfather shared the same first name and a love for development.
Born on Oct. 12, 1924, he grew up in South Tampa, where Jetton Avenue is named for his grandfather — an early builder and lumberman who helped develop what is now Historic Hyde Park.
The younger Mr. Jetton's dream for Carrollwood began in 1957 when he acquired the 200-acre Ingram orange grove near Lake Carroll. Two years later, the first homes were sold in what is now known as Original Carrollwood.
The community would go on to earn honors such as U.S. Subdivision of the Year by the National Association of Home Builders in 1961 and Best Homes for Families with Children Award from Parents magazine in 1962.
"When he first had the dream of Carrollwood over 50 years ago, people thought that he was probably a little crazy because there was nothing out here, just orange groves," said Jetton-Price, who lives in Carrollwood.
Homes in Original Carrollwood initially sold for $16,000 to $60,000.
"When you looked at it you knew it was a beautiful place," Mr. Jetton said in a 2009 interview with the Times. "The only problem was, it was a long way from Tampa."
Sales were tough early on, he said, but took a turn for the better when the state created the University of South Florida a few miles away. About 80 to 100 faculty members and administrators, including USF's first president, bought houses in the subdivision.
"If it hadn't been for USF, I'm not sure it would have ever gone," Mr. Jetton said in the interview.
He also created Carrollwood Village in 1971. Jetton-Price said when her family first moved there, the neighborhood had only five homes, a golf course and dirt roads.
"It was nothing like what it is today," she said.
The family later moved to a horse farm, but Mr. Jetton returned to Carrollwood Village in 1992, where he remained.
"He loved the community it had become and that he had envisioned," Jetton-Price said.
Mr. Jetton also helped develop a condominium-shopping-office project on Brickell Key in downtown Miami and served as the first chairman of the Hillsborough planning commission.
In 1983, then-Gov. Bob Graham appointed Mr. Jetton and two others to complete the terms of three Hillsborough County commissioners who had been arrested in a bribery scandal.
The three former commissioners — Jerry Bowmer, Joe Kotvas and Fred Anderson — were convicted on federal charges that they accepted bribes to fix zoning votes, and served prison time.
Public confidence in county government plunged.
"No other governor in memory has faced the task of replacing a majority of the members of a county governing body," Graham said then. "I have taken the time required to find the best team possible, using the standards of integrity, experience and intelligence."
Graham said he personally interviewed 20 people out of the scores who were nominated or volunteered before choosing.
"The one thing (Mr. Jetton) said about being a county commissioner was that it was one of the hardest jobs he's ever done," Jetton-Price said. "But always putting others first was what made him happy."
Mr. Jetton was preceded in death by wife Mary Jetton. He is survived by his daughter Melissa Jetton-Price, son Mark M. Jetton; two grandchildren and a niece and a nephew.
A visitation is scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. today at the Blount & Curry Funeral Home Carrollwood Chapel, with a service to follow at Lake Magdalene United Methodist Church. A private burial will take place at Myrtle Hill Memorial Park.
Times news researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Caitlin Johnston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2443.