NEW PORT RICHEY — He was one of the last warriors, the man who helped build a barren west Pasco into a community of $5,990 homes, two-bedroom houses marketed three decades ago to blue collar retirees in search of an affordable place in the sun. Newcomers might not realize it, but when they turn on their faucets and get county water, it's because of George "Bud" Brown.
Mr. Brown died Monday afternoon (Oct. 13, 2008) after several years of battling Alzheimer's disease. He was 79.
Those who knew Mr. Brown remembered a strong personality who loved hunting and fishing and wouldn't back down from a fight. But he also gave generously to his neighbors.
His sewer systems were a source of controversy, with allegations of a secret pipeline that county officials said was put in to make one system look more efficient than it really was when the county spent millions to buy it.
"There were a lot of discussions about whether (the Department of Environmental Protection) had approved the pipe or not," said County Administrator John Gallagher. "When I came on board as county administrator, the systems were under a whole bunch of consent orders."
But Gallagher said Mr. Brown's run-ins with the county were "a blip" and called him an excellent planner.
"Mr. Brown was probably one of the key individuals that helped create most of the subdivisions along the coast," Gallagher said.
He said Mr. Brown had strong opinions and the two would sometimes spar.
"But we still said hello to one another and every now and then drank a few Crown Royals together," Gallagher said.
County Commissioner Ann Hildebrand, a longtime friend of Mr. Brown, said he was a pioneer in development.
"He had his handprints all over Pasco County, and in a good way,'' she said. "He laid the first water pipes."
Born in Clearwater, Mr. Brown was raised in Tarpon Springs. He ended up in the liquefied petroleum gas business, sometimes installing gas lines in new subdivisions in Pasco County.
One day in 1973, somebody told him about a piece of land in Holiday that was available cheap because a freeze had wiped out the orange grove there. He and some Tarpon Springs businessmen bought it. The group, called Tomgapa, drew its name from the friends.
They teamed up with builder Carl Minieri, and Holiday Lakes Estates was born. At the time, the county had no water and sewer lines, with homes being hooked up to wells and septic tanks. Mr. Brown decided to build a central sewer system.
Later, he and some friends built a water line and founded the Pasco Water Authority.
Mr. Brown took part in several other Pasco developments, including Regency Park and Embassy Hills. His most prominent role was in creating the private utility systems to serve the new homes. Those plants, later purchased by the county, became the backbone of Pasco County Utilities.
"He was a legend in his own time," said Hildebrand.
At that time, Pasco was like the Wild West, with little in the way of zoning or building codes. The fact that his homes are still standing is a testament to their quality even in the absence of regulations, she said. "By golly, they've stood the test of time."
Longtime friend Orville Williamson said Mr. Brown was a hard-nosed businessman but had a compassionate side. He never said no to anyone in need.
"Anytime anyone asked for money, whether it was a children's organization or a group that helped the handicapped, he always gave it," Williamson said.
He allowed groups to use his 20-acre homestead and 7-acre lake in New Port Richey for fundraisers. As Mr. Brown lay ill a couple of weeks ago, one was going on for Lighthouse for the Blind.
"He was just a wonderful, giving man," said his wife, Sandy, 52, who met Mr. Brown when she was just 18.
A Chicago native, Sandy never ate seafood, something Mr. Brown was determined to change.
"He said I never had it fresh," she said. "The first time, I remember I had blue crab cuts all over my hands from eating them. He was a wonderful cook. He could take anything and make it delicious."