SPRING HILL — Although there weren't many times they disagreed, Hernando County builder Dudley Hampton recalls that when he and his friend Len Tria failed to see eye to eye on an issue, it was never due to a lack of respect.
"If there was ever a guy you could trust would give you his absolute honest opinion, it was Len," Hampton said. "What came out of his mouth was genuine and straight from the heart. You could disagree with him, but never doubt his passion."
Considered to be persuasive and well-read in public policy by many in the business and government communities, Mr. Tria died Thursday at Hernando-Pasco Hospice after a brief battle with cancer. He was 76.
A two-term county commissioner during the 1980s, Mr. Tria served on several governmental advisory committees through the years and was well-versed in local and state issues.
County Commission Chairman David Russell called Mr. Tria a forward thinker. Serving on the commission at a time when the county was experiencing explosive population growth, he advocated the construction of a new county government complex and sheriff's headquarters. He also was a strong proponent of building better roadways to handle growth.
"Len was an interesting guy in that he was able to infiltrate old-guard politics and ingratiate himself in a pretty tough arena in Brooksville," Russell said. "He could be a sore spot to some of those people, but he stuck by his beliefs, knowing it would benefit the community in the long run."
After retiring as a New York police officer, Mr. Tria moved to Spring Hill in 1981 and soon became active in politics and other business-related groups. His interest in bettering Hernando's business climate led him to become involved in the formation of the county's economic development commission in 1996, which served to provide the private sector with more input into how the county could lure businesses to the area.
Morris Porton, executive-senior vice president for Florida Traditions Bank and former EDC chairman, said Mr. Tria was "very passionate that there be a public-private partnership that would work together to build economic strength by attracting businesses that would bring good-paying jobs to the county.
"He had a vision that he never let go of," Porton said.
Up until about two years ago, Mr. Tria served as the paid liaison for the Hernando County Association of Realtors, the Hernando Builders Association and Hernando Progress, a private business group, and worked to develop a more effective relationship with county officials.
"To do the kinds of things that Len Tria did takes an incredible amount of passion and commitment," said Greater Hernando County Chamber Of Commerce President Pat Crowley. "That is something that's going to be greatly missed in our community."
Mr. Tria is survived by his wife, Barbara, of 53 years; a daughter, Barbara Jean, and a grandson. Information regarding services is pending.
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1435.