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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jul. 10, 2013 4 years ago

Obituary: Wurzburg was decisive voice on commission

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Former Mayor A. Hart Wurzburg, who served four years on the Longboat Key Town Commission from 1987 to 1991, when many development issues divided the Key, died June 26. He was 92.

Former Longboat Key Commissioner Woody Wolverton, who ran for commission at Wurzburg’s urging after Wurzburg decided not to seek re-election in 1991, described his predecessor as fair-minded but also opinionated.

“He was very stern, but he was also a humanitarian and a hard worker,” Wolverton said.

Born Feb. 24, 1921, in Chicago, Wurzburg spent most of his life in the city and its suburbs.

Wurzburg earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1941 and served as a corporal in the U.S. Army during World War II. He went on to own and operate Minna Hart, a ladies’ specialty shop in Winnetka, Ill., for 35 years.

He moved in the mid-1970s to Longboat Key and was among the founding members of the Longboat Key Public Interest Committee (PIC) in 1985.

He was elected to the Longboat Key Town Commission in 1987, after campaigning to “continue the progress that has been made in slowing the rampant growth on the island.”

At the time, he received the endorsement of the four incumbent commissioners and two new commissioners who ran unopposed for their seats.

“They expressed confidence that Wurzberg would be steadfast in efforts for controlled growth, environmental and beach protection and for keeping Longboat Key primarily a residential community,” PIC’s January 1987 newsletter stated.

Wurzberg went on to serve four years on the commission, including one year as mayor from 1989 to 1991.
He led during a contentious time when the island was being built out and many commission decisions were split.

“He sometimes spoke in a low, gravely voice, and he was sometimes the lone opinion, but he always did his homework and never missed a meeting,” said retired Longboat Observer Senior Editor Dora Walters.
During his time on the commission, Wurzburg opposed a charter amendment request to rezone more than five acres of town-owned land used for passive recreation, such as nature walk, to build tennis courts and ball fields.

He said he didn’t oppose recreation but, rather, the “fraud and deception” in how he believed supporters overstated the amount of open space available on the Key.

Wurzburg was also a strong supporter of the town floating $29 million in bonds to purchase Arvida’s golf and tennis facilities in December 1989 through a right of first refusal the town had through its original agreements with Arvida. He argued that based on a 5% inflation factor, the facilities could be worth $44 million in 15 years. He was outvoted 5-2, and the town did not become the owner of the present day Longboat Key Club & Resort, instead paving the way for the Shannon Hotel Group’s purchase of the property the following year.

Wurzburg also supported increasing impact fees and the taxes that island businesses pay.

The late Mayor Jim Brown, who served alongside Wurzburg on the commission, wrote in a 2010 column that in 1989 it was Wurzburg who, amid terrible town employee morale and a high firefighter/paramedic turnover, generated almost total support for a policy that the town pay its employees in the top 25% of the region.

“Every commission since has then stuck with it,” Brown wrote.

Wurzburg was preceded in death by his wife, Minna. He is survived by his son, Michael; daughters, Ann Wolbach and Mary Wurzburg; and six grandchildren.

A service was held at Plymouth Harbor.

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