Englewood Sun Herald editorial Tom Minnich
Tom Minnich: Community came first
OUR POSITION: Tom Minnich embodied the ideals of community education and involvement.
There are few people who throw themselves as wholeheartedly into community service in their retirement years as Tom Minnich, who passed away last weekend after a brief illness.
Minnich, 84, didn’t just dip his toe into volunteer activism in his retirement years. He jumped in. He was fully immersed and he was devoted to his adopted home town, Englewood.
Minnich worked to spread awareness of the fragility and importance of the Englewood watershed and worked to build an environmental center that would further that awareness. He worked to improve transportation to the Cape Haze peninsula by forming the ad hoc River Road Task Force.
More than anything, he was devoted to community-level involvement in civic affairs. He worked to help educate his fellow citizens about the processes of government. It was where he made his greatest impact.
Tom Minnich was a pharmacist in Pennsylvania before retiring to Englewood in 1980. In 1997, he dialed up his level of civic involvement in response to an ill-advised environmental program proposed by Sarasota County on Forked Creek, near his home.
Mobilizing area neighborhood associations, Minnich and his cohorts prevailed. Thus was born the Southwest County Alliance of Homeowners Associations with Minnich as president. The Alliance’s monthly meetings featured elected officials and county staff, discussions or debates of pressing topics.
As former Sarasota County Commissioner Shannon Staub told us, “One of the things he believed was that if you can educate and give information, people will be able to talk about and do the right thing.”
Minnich also formed the South County Assembly of Neighborhoods and got together with Dr. Bill Coy of Rotonda to help form the Lemon Bay League, which addressed planning and development issues throughout the Lemon Bay watershed, from Sarasota through Charlotte County.
The central, overriding idea was that citizens and neighborhoods should be, and could be, closely involved in decisions that affected their lives and the future of the place they lived. It was pure Minnich.
Among the accolades last week, Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton said, “In my 12 years of service as a county commissioner there are few, very few individuals that have achieved the level of public service achieved by Tom Minnich. Tom took a great deal of time to learn the issues concerning his community and took extraordinary efforts to improve the place we all called home.”
And home, for Minnich, was Englewood.
When commissioners came to visit him in the hospital recently, Staub said, “Tom gave them the Englewood speech. He said, ‘I want you to promise me that you will make sure Englewood remains the special place it is. I don’t mean for it to stagnate, but growth has to be balanced and reasonable so that it does stay special.”
Minnich was himself special.
“He was one of those kinds of people who don’t come along very often, and when they do they really shine,” Staub said.
Amen to that.