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County schools' attorney to resign

If there's one thing attorney Crosby Few knows, it's how to sit through hours of Hillsborough County School Board meetings without falling asleep.

At times that's not been easy, as board members award construction bids, shake hands with notable students and ponder detailed budgets.

That skill won't be necessary much longer.

Few, 71, plans to step down next week as Hillsborough school attorney after nearly 40 years. He plans to work part time for a while as he ends a tenure as one of the longest-serving school attorneys in Florida.

At Tuesday's board meeting, superintendent Earl Lennard will recommend Tom Gonzalez replace Few as school attorney at Few's request. Gonzalez has handled the district's labor issues since 1975.

Few, who works on a retainer, said he hopes to spend more time with his children and grandchildren, fish a bit more, and maybe improve his lagging golf game that has suffered after two hip replacement surgeries.

"I've been there 40 years," he said. "That's a long time."

Friends and colleagues describe Few as outgoing, funny, candid and committed, both to his family and the school district, not to mention sports.

Gonzalez affectionately calls him "a bozo," but speaks respectfully of his institutional knowledge.

Few has been involved in numerous high-profile cases throughout the last three decades, most notably the school district's desegregation case. He was involved in the teacher strike in 1968 and represented the district when Rosa Martinez sued in 1986 to get her 7-year-old mentally handicapped daughter with AIDS in a classroom with other children.

"He knows school law probably better than anyone in the state," said board chairman Glenn Barrington.

Few grew up in New Smyrna Beach. His mother was a teacher and his father, an assistant railroad superintendent.

He attended the University of Florida and dreamed of playing professional baseball before he was drafted into the Korean War. Afterward, he went to the UF law school on the GI Bill.

After graduation Few worked for a Sarasota law firm and later became a Hillsborough prosecutor. Then, in January 1965 he became an assistant county attorney, representing the school district and supervisor of election. In 1967, former superintendent Raymond Shelton hired Few as the school attorney.

Few, who is divorced, has three children: Terrin, married to former Bucs general manager Rich McKay, now president of the Atlanta Falcons; John Crosby, a trader with Raymond James; and Jennifer Burchill, assistant athletics director with the school district. Some critics have said Burchill was hired because Few worked for the district.

Her father disagrees.

The attorney, who Lennard likens to the TV character Matlock, served on the Tampa Sports Authority when it built the original Tampa Stadium and is a former chairman of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

"Crosby's been at it so long he deserves to have more time to spend with his family and get his golf game back," said architect and friend Sol Fleischman.

"Mr. Few has been an extremely loyal and dedicated servant to the board for a long time," said school chief of staff Jim Hamilton.

Lennard said he will miss sitting in meetings next to Few, a man with a big laugh.

"I would hate to count up the number of School Board meetings he's been to," Lennard said. "He has to sit there and make sure everything stays legal. If something occurs and moves the board off center, his role is to intervene."

Now, Few will have to endure School Board meetings only when Gonzalez can't make them.

Few estimates he's been at about 1,500 School Board meetings.

"Can you imagine?" he said. "They're good people and most of the time, fun to work with. I've tried to do a good job for them and keep them out of trouble."

Melanie Ave can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or