TREASURE ISLAND — For 20 years, by far the longest tenure of any mayor serving this coastal city, Walter Stubbs watched the bottom line.
He fought property tax increases. He kept the tolls down for motorists across the Treasure Island Causeway. He argued with state officials who measured the city's tax liability without counting its tourists.
"He was always right in there pitching for the good of all the beach cities, not only his community," said Madeira Beach Mayor Pat Shontz. "And when he spoke, people listened."
Mr. Stubbs learned frugality early. His father, an English coal miner, emigrated with his family to the United States through Ellis Island when Mr. Stubbs was 14.
He moved to Treasure Island from New Jersey in 1957 while working for Electronic Communications Inc., and ran successfully for the City Commission in 1963.
In his first few months as commissioner, Mr. Stubbs wrote 17 letters to city officials requesting changes in administration and other matters, drawing the ire of Mayor Fred Anderson. He called for a master plan to manage growth and attend to other priorities, such as widening Gulf Boulevard to four lanes.
Mr. Stubbs retired in 1977 from ECI-Raytheon as director of manufacturing, the same year he began his first term as mayor.
"He didn't put up with any nonsense," said Treasure Island Mayor Mary Maloof, who lost to Mr. Stubbs in 1991. "If you said something he did not like, the gavel would go down."
But every two years, the people of Treasure Island re-elected Walter Stubbs.
Though consistently frugal — he once supported a revenue-limiting measure other mayors found harsh — Mr. Stubbs sometimes underwrote causes. When developers bought Elnor Island in 1984, a haven for vanishing birds and mangrove trees, Mr. Stubbs engineered a trade to buy the land back in exchange for two city-owned lots on Gulf Boulevard valued at $105,000.
"He certainly was a good steward of the city's money," former City Manager Chuck Coward said of Mr. Stubbs, who left behind "respectable but not excessive reserves."
Mr. Stubbs was running for his 11th term as mayor in 1997 when doctors discovered multiple heart blockages. He withdrew from the race and moved to Largo in 2000.
On Sunday, after returning from an afternoon trip to the beach, Nancy Frederich-Stubbs found her husband in their swimming pool. Authorities have ruled his death an accidental drowning, she said.
Frederich-Stubbs, 65, said her husband was sometimes misunderstood.
"People thought he was bullheaded," she said. "But that was just his strong will."
Walter Stubbs was 93.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 661-2431.