Frank Meeker, County Commission Workhorse and Tenacious Optimist, Is Dead at 61
FlaglerLive | July 22, 2016
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.”
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.”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.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 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.”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.
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