Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Former Safety Harbor Fire Chief William Jay Stout committed suicide, official says

SAFETY HARBOR — For the second time in nearly eight months, a former city official has committed suicide.

Early Wednesday, former Safety Harbor Fire Chief William Jay Stout "passed away," according to an e-mail his successor sent to city department heads.

"Details will be forthcoming later," Joe Accetta said in the message.

"All I know is that he committed suicide," Assistant City Manager Bill Baker said. "We are very saddened by the loss of a man who spent many years serving the people of Safety Harbor and who was a good friend."

Safety Harbor woke up to similarly tragic news in September when Keith Zayac, a former city commissioner and vice mayor, was found in a pickup at his business, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

In a report Wednesday, officials at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said investigators received a 911 call at 2:40 a.m. from Stout's Marshall Street home. When deputies went inside the house, they found Stout dead. His body was taken to the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office.

"It's not a homicide," Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Tom Nestor said. "They're not looking for any criminals. It's not a burglary, robbery, home invasion kind of thing. It's an unnatural death, but it's not suspicious."

Stout, who turned 62 on Friday, was the longest serving fire chief in the county when he retired, said Mike Cooksey, Pinellas' fire division manager.

"Jay was an outstanding fire chief," said Pinellas County Commissioner Neil Brickfield, a former Safety Harbor city commissioner. "He was the first professional fire chief in Safety Harbor and grew that department into a first-class department."

Stout became a firefighter in 1973, was promoted to fire inspector a year later and was named fire chief in 1976. He grew up in the area and used to tell Brickfield stories about how the city used to pass up blazes on the north end of Safety Harbor, where a number of orange groves once stood.

"They would more just watch it to make sure it didn't continue to spread," Brickfield said. "When he started, we didn't have countywide ambulance service. If you were in an unincorporated area and you needed service, you better contract with a private service or drive yourself. It's due to the efforts of chiefs like Jay that everybody is granted fire service."

He quietly retired from the department on Nov. 30, 2002, after 29 years on the job. He returned to the chief's post a month later and collected his regular salary and his state retirement pension. Stout retired again in May 2009 when the city offered lucrative pay incentives to employees as part of a voluntary separation package to prevent layoffs.

"I'm going to do some kayaking and spend time with my wife," he told the St. Petersburg Times a few weeks before his retirement.

Baker said he had hardly seen Stout since he left the department.

"I went boat riding on one of his kayaks right before he retired," he said. "I think he's been traveling a lot."

Brickfield said Stout was a great redfish fisherman.

"He was one of the few men that I knew that didn't come home empty-handed every time he fished in Old Tampa Bay," he said. "He will be missed. What a shame. There's a lot of people just shocked today."

Times staff writer Rodney Thrash can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4167.

Former Safety Harbor Fire Chief William Jay Stout committed suicide, official says 05/12/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 7:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lacking support, lobbying ordinance gets no hearing in Hernando

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — A push to publicly identify people who lobby top county officials was rejected by a majority of the Hernando County Commission this week when commissioners decided to pull a proposed lobbying ordinance from the agenda.

    Commissioner Steve Champion said there was not a consensus to bring a lobbying ordinance forward so the item should not have been placed on the agenda.
  2. 80 books disappear from classroom that sheltered Irma evacuees

    K12

    DUNEDIN — When Martha Hereford-Cothron returned to her classroom at Dunedin Highland Middle School on Monday morning, her heart sank as her eyes scanned the room and landed on a white bookshelf, empty except for a broken DVD player and a thermal blanket.

    Gone from this shelf at Dunedin Highland Middle School were some 80 books and several board games in the classroom of teacher Martha Hereford-Cothron. The items disappeared after the classroom was used to shelter evacuees from Hurricane Irma. [Photo courtesy of Martha Hereford-Cothron]
  3. Lanes closed after pedestrian fatally struck by semi-tractor on U.S. 19 in Clearwater

    Accidents

    CLEARWATER — Southbound lanes on U.S. 19 were closed early Wednesday morning after a pedestrian was fatally struck by a semi-trailer.

  4. [National Hurricane Center]
  5. Manhattan Casino controversy resumes after taking a break for Irma

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration has once again found itself defending its controversial choice of the Callaloo Group to open a "Floribbean" restaurant in the historic but currently empty Manhattan Casino.