CLEARWATER — If you own a television and have called Pinellas County home for at least a year, you have probably seen Len Ciecieznski on the county's public access channel. He was the smooth-voiced narrator hosting shows like Inside Pinellas, which informed viewers on safety, transportation and the environment; deconstructed property taxes and EMS funding; or put out shorter clips on volunteer programs or honors for county workers with a professional's touch.
For many years, anyone who called the county and wound up on hold heard Mr. Ciecieznski's voice assuring them someone would address their concerns shortly.
If you got a job at the county seat in Clearwater, he was the first person to greet you.
Now, that presence has gone. Mr. Ciecieznski, known to colleagues as the "voice of Pinellas County," died Friday of pancreatic cancer. He was 64.
From 1996 until his retirement in April, the senior public information specialist was the county's most visible go-between linking residents with their local government. He found it far more exciting than any of his advertising jobs in earlier years, including a two-year hitch in the late 1970s supervising advertising copy writers in an office tucked into the shadows behind Cinderella's Castle in Walt Disney World.
"(Disney World bosses) have tight rules you've got to follow," said Mr. Ciecieznski's brother, Robert Ciecieznski, 73. "He felt like his creative juices weren't being used enough."
Perhaps just as important, joining the county meant returning to the area where he grew up. Mr. Len Ciecieznski had fished in Tampa Bay and roamed its woods. He told the stories to relatives, casting even the summers before air conditioning in a romantic glow.
After he joined the county's communications staff, he remained a student, always delving deeper and learning more.
"He was great at breaking down tough issues," said Tim Closterman, the county's communications director. "It didn't matter if he was talking to a condo association or a group of Pinellas Citizen University students. He could take the issue and explain it."
When four hurricanes posed danger to Pinellas in 2004, Mr. Ciecieznski remained calm and steady, doling out critical information as it came in.
Mr. Ciecieznski also had no trouble letting his guard down.
"Len was always the professional, always very well prepared," said Commissioner John Morroni, who appeared on several county videos Mr. Ciecieznski produced.
At times, the commissioner had trouble saying his lines correctly, requiring another take. "I would not be able to do it right and I would start laughing," Morroni said. "I would take a look at Len and he'd start laughing. Then we'd get it right."
Lennard Mark Ciecieznski was born in Nutley, N.J., in 1950. The family moved to St. Petersburg in 1954. He endured tragedy twice.
His father, Sigmund Ciecieznski, fell from a scaffold while painting a building and died. A sister, Judith Lingl, was paralyzed in a car accident and died years later.
Mr. Len Ciecieznski graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in advertising. In addition to Disney World, he worked for a Tampa advertising agency, radio stations in Rochester, N.Y., and Pittsburgh and Paxson Communications in Miami, winning several awards for his commercials.
He was married twice but had been single the last 18 years, his brother said.
Years ago, he enjoyed diving at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in the Florida Keys and in Florida's springs.
"Then (work) got busy," his brother said.
He was a fan of reality shows, including Survivor and The Amazing Race, debriefing episodes he had watched with a niece, Natalie Ciecieznski.
Mr. Ciecieznski learned he had inoperable pancreatic cancer in November. Upon his retirement, Pinellas County dedicated his broadcasting base, Studio A, in his honor. It is now known as the Len Ciecieznski Studio.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.