BRADENTON – The Manatee County Commission chambers are now “The Honorable Patricia M. Glass Chambers” in honor of the county’s first female commissioner.
Pat Glass, 91, was elected to the County Commission in 1978 and during her 28-year tenure that ended in 2006 she served as commission chair seven times.
The commission renamed the chambers with a resolution on Tuesday, Nov. 27, with Glass in attendance, accompanied by her sons Marty and Michael, her daughters Diane and Mary, her granddaughter Nicole and a chamber full of well-wishers.
During his introductory remarks, County Attorney Mickey Palmer thanked Assistant County Attorneys Anne Morris and Alexandria Nicodemi and legal assistant Katie Pearson for preparing the detailed five-page biographical resolution he would read aloud.
“When I was initially informed that Mrs. Glass expressed a preference for me to read the resolution today, I must say I shed a tear and I began to do a lot of reflecting. In the late 1980s, and the entire decade of the 1990s, I was a young, impressionable assistant county attorney learning the right way to do things while Commissioner Glass was demonstrating the right way to do things,” Palmer said.
Lifetime of accomplishment
Glass was born in Cleveland. She and her husband Hank moved to Sarasota County in 1954 and to Manatee County in 1960. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a master’s degree in Behavioral and Social Sciences and served as chief of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council’s Division of Aging before Hank encouraged her to run for a commission seat.
As a commissioner in the early 1980s, Glass lobbied the Florida Legislature for the funds to build the non-profit hospital that became Manatee Glens, later the Centerstone Behavioral Hospital Addiction Center.
When the county-owned Manatee Memorial Hospital was sold in 1984, Glass helped turn those proceeds into a trust fund for indigent health care.
In the 1990s, Glass created the AIDS Council of Manatee County and helped create what is now the Michael Bach Clinic.
Glass served on the Committee to End Chronic Homelessness and worked closely with the Bradenton Housing Authority. She also helped establish the Children’s Services dedicated millage that is the county’s most substantial source of funding for children’s programs.
“Never have I encountered anyone with as much honor, grace and intelligence.”
– Nick Azzara, Manatee County Information Outreach Manager
Glass served on the Board of Governors for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, chaired the Environmental Action Commission and was a founding member of the Sarasota Bay, Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Programs.
Glass served as Tourist Development Council chair five times, led the efforts to purchase and preserve the Powel Crosley Estate and helped create environmental policies that protect county parks and the Duette, Emerson Point and Robinson Preserves.
“She earned a reputation as a consensus builder capable of accomplishing great things and creating enormous advancements in the areas of healthcare, affordable housing, environmental protection and drinking water resources for Manatee County residents,” the resolution says.
When Palmer finished, Glass said, “The money that funded all those programs did not come out of Manatee County, but from Washington and Tallahassee.”
She also mentioned the importance of working together for the love of the county and the love of one another.
At Glass’ request, County Commissioner Carol Whitmore spoke next. Whitmore met Glass in the 1980s while working as a nurse at Manatee Memorial Hospital and she still visits Glass regularly.
“Pat started the AIDS Council. She served as the president for years and that’s territory a lot people didn’t have enough nerve to do in those days,” Whitmore said.
“And my beloved trolley: She was one of the few commissioners that stood with me every time I came and asked to get that program going,” Whitmore, a former Holmes Beach mayor, said of Anna Maria Island’s free trolley service.
Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department Director Charlie Hunsicker recalled how Glass once insisted he join her at a party in Tampa, where he met his future wife, Susan.
“From my family to your family, thank you so much for bringing us together,” Hunsicker said.
Just for Girls CEO Becky Canesse thanked Glass for securing the funds that helped form that organization 25 years ago.
County Information Outreach Manager Nick Azzara worked with Glass when he was a newspaper reporter.
“I formed a unique relationship with you. We trusted each other. We talked about what was going on behind the scenes and you always let me know what was really going on. Never have I encountered anyone with as much honor, grace and intelligence,” Azzara said.
Commissioner Steve Jonsson said, “You broke the glass ceiling. You are an inspiration.”
After the resolution was adopted, the crowd moved to the lobby for the unveiling of the inscription, plaque and painting of Glass that now grace the chamber’s outer wall.
“She was a mentor to me. She showed you how to be an elected official – do what’s in your heart and do the right thing,” Bradenton Beach Mayor and former County Commissioner John Chappie said afterwards.
As the crowd thinned out, Glass was asked how it felt to have the commission chambers named after her.
“I never would have dreamed it, but we shocked a lot of them. If you’re going to be there, have fun doing it. The people in that audience did more for me than I did for them. It’s just a matter of bringing people together and that’s where the word ‘love’ is important,” she said.