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Frank Meeker, County Commission Workhorse and Tenacious Optimist, Is Dead at 61

| July 22, 2016

frank meeker

Frank Meeker in his element, with a constituent, during the 2014 race for county commission. (c FlaglerLive)

Note:Funeral services for Commissioner Meeker will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 30 at Parkview Baptist Church, 5435 Belle Terre Parkway, Palm Coast. There will be a funeral procession from the church to Flagler Palms Memorial Gardens, 511 Old Kings Road South, Flagler Beach. The family will receive friends afterwards at the Flagler County Association of Realtors, 4101 E. Moody Blvd., Bunnell (not at the church, as previously reported). Arrangements are in the care of Craig-Flagler Palms Funeral Home. The Flagler County Commission will honor Meeker on Monday, Aug. 1, at 10:30 a.m. in board chambers at the Government Services Building in Bunnell.

Frank Meeker, who spent the last 10 years as a workhorse of the Palm Coast City Council, then the Flagler County Commission, died this morning after a rapid deterioration from cancer. He was 61.

Meeker had been in and out of the hospital the last few weeks, and was in the hospital this week as his condition worsened. He was moved to hospice overnight and died around 6 a.m.

Commissioner Nate McLaughlin was Meeker’s closest friend in local government. “At the end of the day it’s moments like this that we realize that we are all in this journey of mankind together,” he said. “My heart is heavy but my spirit is light, I know that Frank suffers no more. He has surpassed the pains of the flesh and is now beyond the reach of earthly cares.”

McLaughlin continued: “Frank Meeker fought a brave and courageous battle against cancer. I was shocked and continued to be saddened by his untimely passing. I recognize that my grief and sorrow pales in comparison to that of the Meeker family. My heart goes out to them, and all that mourn Frank’s loss. His wit, at times acerbic and keen intellect, belied his gentle, compassionate soul. Despite any occasional disagreement about tactics or techniques, there was never a moment where Frank Meeker’s unfailing passion and unwavering commitment to community and country was ever in doubt. He has left a legacy that will continue to benefit current and future residents of Flagler County for generations to come.”

Other reactions were swift and sorrowful, reflecting the impact Meeker had on his community.

“Our county community is devastated at the loss of Frank Meeker,” Barbara Revels, who chairs the county commission and has been a colleague of Meeker’s for four years, said. “Frank was an optimist that certainly showed he was truly sure he would beat the demon within him. Frank loved his city, county and many of those he worked with, but mostly you would say he was a true family man that wanted to take care of his family however possible. His work on the County Commission was not self-serving but with the community at heart. We will miss him greatly.”

frank meeker gail wadsworth

Frank Meeker with his long-time ally and friend, Gail Wadsworth. (Tom Bexley)

After shuttling to Tallahassee innumerable times to lobby state officials and legislators, even after he became ill and between chemotherapy sessions in the past year, Meeker had been chiefly instrumental in securing considerable state funding for major county projects. He had pledged to get the Marineland Acres flooding problems under control, and in the past two years succeeded in winning water management and other state grants to start the project, while putting in place a taxing mechanism to ensure its continuation in coming years. Meeker had worked at the St. Johns River Water Management District as an ombudsman for many years.

“I will always remember Frank as a good man, husband, father, grandfather, soccer coach, advisor to our youth, water scientist, county commissioner and friend,” said fellow-Commissioner Charlie Ericksen. Ericksen had usually traveled with Meeker to Tallahassee, and in recent days had never been far from his bedside at Florida Hospital Flagler.

“I will always remember Frank the photographer,” Gail Wadsworth, the clerk of court and a close friend of Meeker’s through their years on the Republican Executive Council and other GOP groups, said. “He did beautiful sunset photography. He also managed to take great pictures of flowers that he found anywhere.”

Politically, Wadsworth said, “Frank always wanted the best and he wanted it to be fair. He worked very hard for the rental property ordinance in North Flagler County on the beaches, he wanted the people who lived there to have the best environment that they could have, he wanted the people in Marineland Acres to have the best environment that they could have. That’s what I think of him: he was one of the best for Flagler County.”

manfre county jail

The Meeker smile, even under a punishing sun: Frank Meeker is seen here in his last major public appearance, at the July 7 dedication of the new county jail wing, with Commissioner Charlie Ericksen. To the left is Sid Nowell, the long-time attorney and counsel to sheriff Jim Manfre. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

Meeker combined a sunny disposition with a love of pugnacity that never shrunk from a challenge. But he was not dogmatic: he wore his arguments on his sleeve, happily debating with constituents, laying out his reasoning from the dais at the commission or in media, and changing his mind when the evidence warranted it.

“I’ll discuss any issue or decision with anybody who has an open mind relative to decisions I’ve made,” he said in an interview two years ago. “If I’m proven to be wrong, I share a positive trait to something attributed (sometimes questionably) to John Maynard Keynes who was quoted as saying, ‘when the facts change, I change my mind. And what do you do sir?’ Get your facts straight, let’s sit down over a cup of coffee, and we’ll talk. Convince me you’re right, and I’ll do what I can to make it right.”

He was tenacious. He’d run unsuccessfully for the Palm Coast City Council in 1999, the year the city incorporated, and in 2005 for the Flagler County School Board.

Meeker was elected to the Palm Coast City Council in 2007 and served until he decided to run for the county commission seat vacated by Milissa Holland in 2012. He won that election, and won it again in 2014. He was a State Committeeman for the Republican Party of Florida, and had been voted Citizen of the Year by the Volusia County Association of Responsible Development in 2010. He’d also been involved in youth soccer and become an adoptive member of the Palm Coast Portuguese community, in whose club he spent much of his leisure time.

meeker rick scott

Meeker and Gov. Rick Scott last Nov. 3 at the dedication of the new Flagler County Sheriff’s Operations Center, which Meeker was instrumental in bringing about. He spoke that day of the governor’s caring phone call to him, soon after Meeker lost his granddaughter, a reflection of the strong relationships and respect Meeker had built in Tallahassee. Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

Tired and tireless, Meeker never shirked his responsibilities as a county commissioner even as his illness wore him down. He was attending commission meetings this month (his last was on July 6, and he attended the new jail’s dedication the next day under a punishing sun, what would prove to be his last majopr public appearance), was immersed in the budgets season and had recently fired off a pair of ethics commission complaints, turning the tables on a perennial harasser of local government.

An earlier version of this story had noted that because his death takes place still in the first half of his four-year term, the governor will have to call for a special election. In fact, that threshold appears to have been missed by two days: in late afternoon, Maria Matthews, Director of the Division of Elections, called Flagler County Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart to inform her that Gov. Rick Scott will make an appointment to fill the position for the next two years. “The term of office remaining is 27 months and 28 days,” Lenhrat’s statement read. “Less than 28 months remain in County Commission District 2. Therefore, the vacancy will be filled by the Governor’s appointment.”

Ericksen shared a revealing story from his travels to Tallahassee with Meeker, back in 2014-15 as they walked the halls of the capitol to win support for the county’s pioneering short-term vacation rental legislation.

“We went into one of the legislator’s office, started to talk about why we were there, the importance of our concerns, and looking for buy-in to our proposal,” Ericksen said. “Frank who always carried a side bag, turned around quickly, hitting the legislator’s desk with his bag, and taking all of the papers, books and items off the desk and onto the floor. Frank, stayed there , and with a straight face sternly said, ‘and if you don’t give us your full support, we’ll get even tougher.’ All three of us, looked at each other a moment and then broke into uncontrolled laughter: We had the legislator’s support.

frank meeker jon netts

Meeker in workshop mode in his Palm Coast City Council days, back in 2010. He was always in workshop mode. ‘You could always count on Frank – that he would follow up if you asked him to do something,’ Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts, who served with him four years, said today. ‘His word was gold. He always put others first.’ Click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

“Frank did have a serious side also,” Ericksen continued. “He traveled alone to the water district, and again the capital and brought back almost $3 million in monies for Malacompra and Plantation Bay Water projects. He was a fierce competitor and delivered what he promised . We will miss his presence and guidance throughout the County.”

Jon Netts, Palm Coast’s mayor and a member of the council for 15 years, met Meeker almost 20 years ago when Meeker was doing environmental consulting for the Palm Coast Marina. The city, Netts said, gained a true friend when Meeker joined the council in 2007. “Frank helped keep Palm Coast moving in an eco-friendly direction. His background in environmental studies and his work at the Water Management District gave him unmatched insight into a wide variety of environmental issues – from water supply issues, to stormwater and drainage issues, and everything in between,” Nett said. That never excluded Meeker’s interest in economic development.

“Not one to speak ‘off the top of his head,’ Frank researched every issue in detail. I often kidded him about the reams of paper his research generated, but there was no question that Frank was prepared, well prepared, for any issue he addressed,” Netts said. “In recent years Frank and I served together on the Northeast Florida Regional Council. The hour drive to and from Jacksonville gave us a great opportunity to pick each other’s brains for ways to improve our city and county to better serve our residents. Frank was never at a loss for new and different ways to make things better.”

But it was his involvement in youth soccer that gave him the most satisfaction, as Netts remembers it. “Every kid he coached, every elected official who ever worked with Frank, every citizen he helped, will miss Frank,” the mayor said. “All of us extend our deepest sympathy to Debbie, Jason and Joshua. Know that your husband, your father, made a difference in the lives of so many.”

Commissioner George Hanns, Flagler County’s most-senior elected official, described Meeker as a commissioner “who was so caring, hard working and an inspiration to all who had the honor of working with him. I am so pleased that I went to visit him at the hospital this past Tuesday. As usual we shared some humor and talked about putting together his fathers U.S. Army medals in a display case. He was so proud of his father’s service to our country.” Hanns, himself a veteran, had special affection for people who served in the armed services. “In short Frank Meeker’s dedication may never be duplicated.”

abby romaine frank meeker

Meeker could win over even some of his staunchest opponents–some of them, anyway: Abby Romaine, above, had opposed him as an Independent in the 2012 race, only to become a supporter in his 2014 race and a frequent political ally on matters relating to the Hammock. She was at his bedside Wednesday, when they spoke one last time, and in tears on several occasions today.
(© FlaglerLive)

Sheriff Jim Manfre’s second term coincided with the four years Meeker spent on the county commission. “Flagler County lost one of its true statesman and community leaders today,” Manfre said. “I was proud to call Frank my friend and I will miss our lengthy conversations on how to make government better and more responsive. He and his wife Debbie have had their difficult times this year with the death of their granddaughter and I know that Debbie is grieving again today. As a member of the Flagler County Sheriff’s family, I let her know this morning that she has all the prayers and support of the men and women of this office especially mine.”

The Meekers lost their grandchild to cancer only a few months ago, a loss that left Frank shattered even as he was struggling with his own health.

“Terribly sad news,” Don Fleming, the former sheriff who had worked with Meeker as a city council member, said. “Frank Meeker will always be remembered for his kindness toward others and his tireless efforts on behalf of the City of Palm Coast and Flagler County. His sense of humor and outgoing personality will be sorely missed. I pray that his wife Debbie and his entire family will find some comfort in knowing that Frank’s passing is felt so deeply by the entire community.”

Meeker is survived by wife of 38 years (they married in 1978), Debbie, his son Jason, who is in the Air Force, and Joshua, who works for Volusia County’s EVAC-Emergency Medical Services and is a combat medic for the Army.

frank meeker

One of Meeker’s favorite photographs in our collection, from 2011. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

In Lieu of flowers, the family suggests a memorial contribution in Frank Meeker’s name be sent to one of the following:

Cancer Research Center Donations:
You can specify “Children’s Brain Cancer Research” when you donate.

Police Athletic League (PAL) Donations:
Make Checks Payable To: Flagler Sheriff’s PAL
Mail to: 901 E. Moody Blvd., Bunnell, FL 32110
Questions: Contact Kim Hale (386) 586-2629

Flagler County Youth Soccer Association (FCYSA) Donations:
Make Checks Payable To: Flagler County Youth Soccer Association
Mail to: PO Box 350317, Palm Coast, FL 32135
Questions: Contact Becky Mitchell (386) 447-4004

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31 Responses for “Frank Meeker, County Commission Workhorse and Tenacious Optimist, Is Dead at 61”

  1. DaveT says:

    Sad news. To young at 61. Condolences to his family.

  2. Jack Howell, PhD says:

    Frank was a one of the “good guy’s” who truly cared about Palm Coast and Flagler County. He was always available to listen to the concerns of his constituents. Our community will feel his loss. He fought the valiant fight and no longer does he suffer. Rest in Peace Frank you will not be forgotten.

  3. Robert Cuff says:

    Very sad news about a wonderful guy who worked tirelessly for the citizens of Flagler County. His public accomplishments, some of which are cataloged here, are only a small part of who he was and what he accomplished behind the scenes the many, many times he helped individuals without seeking or receiving any public credit.

  4. Robert Lewis says:

    Let the world take note. It was Anne Marie Shaffer and the Ronald Reagan Radical Republicans that expelled Frank Meeker from the Republican Party for missing a meeting. His absence: attending his mothers funeral and dealing with cancer.

    Never forget what these evil people did. For they have shame to live with.

  5. John F. Pollinger says:

    Waking this morning and learning of Frank’s passing was met with sorrow. I’ll always be thankful for his generosity, advice and counsel during my own time running for office. Yet most of all, I will miss his smile, the twinkle in his eye and his warm handshakes and embrace each time our paths crossed. Steadfast in his pursuit of truth and justice, principled and personable, he was large in stature and larger than life. Our faith teaches us our paths will cross yet again in the future. Until then…

  6. Jay Livingston says:

    A great man who will be missed. I am a registered independent and try to stay out of politics but my respect for Mr. Meeker forced me to attend a local republican party fundraiser during his last election campaign. I also never post comments online but the news of his passing is forcing me again to do what I normally do not solely out of respect for the man and his family. I find a little solace knowing he is at peace.

  7. A.S.F. says:

    My deepest condolences to the Meeker family. He sounds like he was quite a fellow. I am sure his good works will continue to nourish this community, just as his memory will continue to enrich all those who knew, loved and worked with him.

  8. Ron says:

    I will miss Frank. He was a great person. He cared about the residents of Flagler. I would like to send my condolences to his wife Debbie and their children. May god bless Frank Meeker.

  9. Dave Sullivan says:

    This is a very sad day as we mourn the passing of Frank.
    He was a tireless representative of all the people in our County
    and his trusted support of the many issues facing us will be sorely
    missed. Now is the time to say a prayer for Frank and his family
    and make sure he is remembered for his accomplishments and his
    family as they face the future without their best friend, husband and
    Dave Sullivan

  10. Geezer says:

    This was like a bucket of cold water thrown at me, as this was unexpected.
    My sympathies to all who are hurting from Mr. Meeker’s sudden passing.
    He sounds like a man who soldiered on despite being in pain and facing
    extinction. I would say that a man such as this exemplifies “true grit.”

    61 years….much like shooting stars that light up certain nights.
    Gone too soon, Mr. Meeker.

  11. Common Sense says:

    My condolences to the family. He was a tireless worker on behalf of our community.

  12. r&r says:

    Frank you were one of the good guys. Until we meet again. Say hi to god for me.

  13. Heidi Shipley says:

    There are no words to express the sadness. He has been such a good friend and confidant. Always with a smile and a funny comment no matter what the circumstances. He will be missed and never forgotten.

  14. Marsha Lidskin says:

    The name Frank Meeker will forever be associated with kindness, caring and and community dedication to Palm Coast. None of us will ever forget him.

  15. Rick Robinson says:

    Frank was a man of faith … a firm believer in God, his country and his community. Debbie … our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Catherine & Rick

  16. jim says:

    God Bless and Godspeed

  17. James says:

    Sad loss as Frank was a great man dedicated to his family and community. I had the honor and pleasure to have known and coached with Frank in our local soccer league. He will be miss, love and prayers to his family.

  18. CLS says:

    Flagler County has lost a good man, a good citizen, who worked across the table for the benefit of all. My husband also lost his father to cancer at the age of 61 many years ago.

    My condolences to Frank’s family.

  19. Rick Belhumeur says:

    Wow, I certainly wasn’t expecting to hear this news. I wish that all of our public officials, country-wide, shared his commitment to the people that they serve. If so, our country would be a much better place. He will be surely missed on the dais here in Flagler County.

  20. Cyd Weeks says:

    May he Rest In Peace. {{{Hugs}}} to his family.

  21. Denise Calderwood says:

    Frank was one of a kind and a great advocate for what he believed in whether it be family, the water, the environment and soccer. And his leadership, research abilities, directness and presence on the county commission will be sorely missed. To honor his memory I think the Indian Trails Park should be rededicated Frank Meeker Park to honor his legacy and to respect his dedication youth soccer He would have loved to have Wadsworth Park since that is where his soccer history occurred however, it already bears the Wadsworth name and afterall, he was a Palm Coast City Counselor first. Rest in Peace Frank, my prayers go out to your family.

  22. David B says:

    Had the pleasure to know Frank from our ITT days, and assist with him on the Flagler Firestorm Girls Traveling Soccer team that my daughter played for. He was a good man, with a good heart. My prayer s and thoughts for the Meeker family.

  23. KMedley says:

    I am saddened by today’s news. Frank Meeker was a man I am proud to have called friend.

    Frank guided our son Ean with his Eagle Scout Project. He even took time from his schedule to meet with Ean at Princess Place to review Ean’s idea.

    Frank was a fierce competitor, from soccer fields to stinging retorts on local blogs, Frank fought!

    Finally, while I know angels now comfort him, many tears from all who loved him have started. Please keep his family in your prayers.

  24. Roy says:

    Some of my best memories of Commisioner Meeker are at the Union Christmas parties. As many jokes that were made on his behalf, he gave it right back 10 fold. He was always in good spirits and quick with joke and will be sorely missed. Rest in Peace Commissioner.

  25. Old Lady says:

    So sad,he will me missed by all of Palm Coast

  26. Ray Douglass says:

    We lost a good one. Condolences to the family.

  27. Realist says:

    R.I.P. to a real asset to Flagler County who left us much too soon. Condolences and prayers sent.

  28. Ed Caroe says:

    Dear Debbie and Family: There are no words to express my feelings
    about the terrible loss of your wonderful Frank as well as your
    grandchild. All I can say is “I’m sorry, so very sorry” and pray you
    gather up the faith and strength that you will need, and which your
    two new “special angels” deserve that you strive to build.

    Frank and I last chatted in our oncologist’s office early this month.
    Then I lost a 5-year old great grandson to cancer this July 10th.

    “You’ll get over it in time” is a total falsehood only expressed by
    people who haven’t felt a terrible family tragedy like yours. However,
    with strength, love, faith, drive and time you can gradually rebuild
    your life around the empty hole in your life that you must learn to
    accept, but never can (nor want to) forget.

    More and more over time, you need to recall and reflect on all the
    wonderful times that you shared. That’s essential.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you. Maybe this sums them up:-

    Dear God, your Frank touched many lives in wonderful ways.
    It is comforting to know that you are peacefully sheltering
    him, and that those who love him will someday share that
    peace. Amen. Ed Caroe

  29. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    How very sad. My last words to him after the July 6 meeting ” Thank you for caring about us
    Frank Meeker was my top support at his last meeting July 6 – at the end of the meeting he asked Craig Coffey for a new FDOT workshop for a US 1 Gateway project that a few of us tried for last year but dropped out because Coffey insisted our HOA pay to maintain ( a federal road).
    After the meeting was adjourned I walked up to Frank – he told me his chemo treatments were scheduled until October.. As I left the bldg I had tears in my eyes as my heart told me he would need prayers to make it.
    He helped us in Platation Bay with our water – he called me many times although not MY commissioner.
    We did not always agree but he was a fantastic person who I will miss –
    He must be in a better place

  30. Thomas Conrad says:

    He was a fine man in the truest sense of the term.

  31. Sandy Ausbrooks says:

    Deb and family…. our deepest Christian sympathy is extended to you all. I knew Frank primarily through church at Parkview Baptist. I loved our joking together about who was older (me) and who was better looking (Frank)… we had a lot of laughs that I will never forget. When walking into the church foyer or at DD, I would start to smile when I would see Frank. That’s the kind of man and friend he was – he could bring a smile to your face by just being in the same room with him. I will miss him. I know you will miss him more. Please feel our love, and the love of the whole community.

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