ST. PETERSBURG — Harold "Pete" Mullendore, who was Pinellas County's circuit court clerk for 16 years and was "Mr. Democrat" in a Republican stronghold, died Thursday of pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease. He was 89.
The broad-shouldered former football star won the first of four elections in 1964 but decided not to run in 1980, saying he was ready to move on. But Democratic Govs. Reubin Askew and Lawton Chiles sought his political advice.
"He was an outstanding public servant," said Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe, who was a law student when he met Mr. Mullendore in the early 1970s.
The clerk processes orders and other papers issued by the courts, and also serves as internal auditor for the county.
"He was a good mentor to me," said Ken Burke, the current Pinellas court clerk. "I admired how he took me under his wing. He knew everybody in Pinellas County at that time."
The scope of the office greatly expanded during Mr. Mullendore's tenure, from 100 to 400 employees, in part due to a restructuring of the state's court system. He told his family he was proud of instituting civil service protections for county workers and tightening the way the county chooses its bankers.
Born and raised in Blount County, Tenn., Mr. Mullendore turned down a football scholarship at the University of Tennessee to care for his mother. He served with the Army in Germany during World War II, and was part of a unit that won a Bronze Star.
He followed his mother to St. Petersburg, and in 1948 was named a precinct committeeman. He set up his own mortgage business. In 1964 he ran for clerk of court, upsetting Republican James T. Russell, then a state representative. His gregarious personality helped keep him in power, winning friends on both sides of the political aisle.
Even a former opponent with whom he feuded for years had words of praise. "Personally, he seemed like a very nice guy, and everybody seemed to like him," said Jeanne Khoyi Nelson, a former elections supervisor who lost to Mr. Mullendore for the clerk's seat in 1976.
When Charlotte, his wife since 1946, was affected by Alzheimer's disease, Mr. Mullendore took cooking classes and cared for her until her death in 2008. He entered Tampa General Hospital March 10 after returning from a cruise. A few days ago, the hospital asked if he would like to go home for hospice care.
Recalled daughter Karen Mullendore: "He said, 'Why don't we just make it easier with one trip? We go from here to Anderson-McQueen.' "
In recent weeks, Mr. Mullendore had completed all of the paperwork that would be needed after his death, including filing his 2010 tax return with the IRS.
This report contains information compiled by former Times obituaries editor Craig Basse, who died in 2008. Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or [email protected]