Tom spent all 42 years of his newspaper career in Stuart. As far back as the 1970s, Tom looked beyond his backyard and saw so much more than a small-town editor should see. He looked across the St. Lucie River at a vast scrubland and saw the future of Port St. Lucie. He looked north to Vero Beach and saw a beachside community of similar size with a similar makeup and a similar newspaper. He saw the Treasure Coast region, from the Sebastian Inlet to the Jupiter Inlet as an entity. His vision of the Treasure Coast as one market is now realized.
Without Tom, who retired on May 31, 2009 at the age of 65, the Treasure Coast might not exist as we know it. As editor and president of The Stuart News, Tom committed untold newspaper resources to editorial campaigns that would help get schools built, restore a sick lagoon, maintain an inlet, build bridges, protect endangered species, attract new businesses, win desperately needed services for children and persuade voters to buy lands for anything and everything – from beaches to parks to preserves.
Few people alive have a better grasp of Treasure Coast history than does Tom. Fewer still are better at sensing emerging shifts in the public lives of Treasure Coast communities. That – and not simply his title – is what put Tom at the head of the table at editorial board meetings.
Those who worked for Tom have much that they will remember. For most, it’s his sense of humor, his humility, his frugality, his abiding kindness and compassion. But it’s also his great sense of posterity.
How many people do you know who would landscape a new business with live and laurel oaks and Poinciana trees they won’t live to see mature – trees for their grandchildren? That’s what Tom did when he built The Stuart News building and developed the park-like grounds on U.S. 1 in Stuart in 1990. And those trees were more precious to him than the desks or the computers or the fancy artwork on the walls. After every big blow – never mind an actual hurricane – Tom was first in the next morning, zipping tree to tree in his golf cart, examining victims like a battlefield medic.
It was not by accident he fought off Knight-Ridder, Cox and Freedom newspapers to defend the E. W. Scripps Treasure Coast market. It was by intellect, ingenuity and guile. Tom took a small weekly newspaper in a ramshackle storefront building and within two and-a-half decades turned it into a regional chain that is a strong franchise today.
Forty-two years in the trenches, acquisition of several newspapers from Jupiter to Sebastian, an office building and a production plant built – and, oh, yes, a combined Treasure Coast circulation of more than 100,000.
Tom volunteered significant time to the industry and may be the only person to serve as chair of both the Florida Press Association and the Florida Society of News Editors.