Former vice mayor, who died last week at age 83, was devoted to family and his community.
Even in retirement, you couldn't keep David Brenner away from his deep sense of duty and community, whether in his hometown of Philadelphia or his adopted home of Longboat Key.
“He was always creating,” said Gail Loefgren, the president of the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce. “He was one of those people you can say actually made a difference in both his communities.”
Brenner, who over the course of two decades served on the town’s Planning & Zoning Board, the Finance Committee and three terms on Town Commission (including two as vice mayor) and helped launch the Longboat Key Foundation, died Thursday, July 18. He was 83.
Brenner was a Philadelphia native who married his childhood sweetheart, Maggie. After meeting at age 12, their first official date was to the Ice Capades in ninth grade. Brenner is survived by his wife of 62 years, three children – Eric, Lisa and Suzy – three grandchildren and a brother.
The patriarch of a “family of rabid Philadelphia sports team fans,” finally got to see his Eagles rise to the pinnacle of professional football in 2018 after the team lost in two previous runs at the NFL title.
“I’m particularly grateful my dad got to see the Eagles win the Super Bowl last year,” daughter Suzy said.
But his connection to his hometown had a lot more to it than sports.
After a career at the accounting firm of Arthur Young & Co., Brenner retired as senior partner at 47 and had already visited Longboat Key’s then iconic Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, buying a unit there in 1974. Mayor Wilson Goode of Philadelphia recruited Brenner out of retirement to be commerce director in his first term in 1983 and again recruited him from private life to be finance director in his second, helping the struggling city find its financial way.
Brenner and Maggie moved to Longboat Key for good in 2001, becoming full-time residents at the Islander Club, where Brenner quickly dove into improving his new surroundings.
“His dedication to Longboat Key was unsurpassed,” said former mayor Terry Gans. “Whether he was in office or working with the Longboat Key Foundation, he just never lost that commitment. Last time I saw him was a couple months ago, and we still had a lot of discussion on Longboat Key issues.”
Gans said some of his fondest memories revolved around their trips together for spring training baseball games.
“Especially the (Philadelphia) Phillies, because he knew some of them,” former mayor Terry Gans said. “It was just fun, not town business, just what guys should do — enjoy a baseball game.”
Brenner got involved with Longboat town politics when he and other Islander Club residents began attending commission meetings, urging the town to install two groins to control erosion at the beachfront property. As a testament to his dedication to a cause, those two structures are still there.
Beyond the beach, friends and colleagues said, Brenner was among the most influential people on the island. Through his encouragement and mentorship, Gans, Lynn Larson and others ran for office and served on boards and the Town Commission. When Brenner approached Larson, they hadn’t met, but she had read about him in the paper. He stuck out to her as someone who was an independent thinker, who stood up for what was right. During her time on the commission with Brenner, Larson thought of him as a mentor, looking up to and listening to him throughout her time on the commission.
Along with Tom Aposporos, a member of the Longboat Key Revitalization Task Force, and then-Mayor Jim Brown, Brenner (then vice-Mayor) launched the Longboat Key Foundation in 2013 to help address some of the Longboat Key community needs.
"He was a good man, I’ll always remember him as that,’’ Brown said.
Brenner, with Brown, Loefgren and Sandy Gilbert, gave rise to the notion of “tourism units’’ in the town. They worked on a months-long campaign advocating for the reasons why the town needed to bring back more tourism — and the reasons for creating the pool of 250 tourism units to replace accommodations lost when condominiums replaced traditional hotels on the island. The 2008 referendum authorizing the 250 units passed overwhelmingly.
“The people of Longboat Key and the future people of Longboat Key have David Brenner to thank for the Longboat Key that we have today,” said Larson, who was on the town commission with Brenner.
His last official post with the town was with the Charter Review Commission. He resigned that post in 2017, citing health issues. Again, the issues handed forward from that panel were passed by town voters.
In a May letter to the editor, Brenner pushed for more public engagement on the topic of what to do with the town center project and to keep working to make the Arts, Culture and Education center a viable project.
Brenner did venture off his beloved key at times, visiting all seven continents with Maggie. Their immediate family of three generations traveled to Costa Rica for David and Maggie’s 65th birthdays and to Alaska for their 70th.
“We’re lucky we all really enjoy each other’s company,” said Suzy.
Brenner was also involved with Temple Beth Israel on the island, proofreading the monthly bulletin sent out to members and donating to the Temple throughout the years, said Rabbi Steven Sniderman. Brenner also helped the rabbi with management of the temple and long-term planning.
“It seemed to me he had it all,” Loefgren said, adding that Brenner called her last week to suggest an idea for her organization to pursue. “Great family, great career, great friends. The life we all want to have.”
Temple Beth Israel posted a message on its website that a public service would be held at a date to be determined. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Temple or to The Paradise Center.