SEMINOLE — Years before he partnered with Peter Hofstra in 1976 to found DeLoach Hofstra + Cavonis, PA, and Seminole Title Company, Dennis R. DeLoach Jr. played an integral role in the formation of the city of Seminole.
After serving in the Army, the University of Georgia graduate joined his wife, who was working in St. Petersburg at the time, in Pinellas County. DeLoach earned his law degree from Stetson University in 1963, and by the next year, he was practicing law with Fisher & Sauls PA, which had offices in St. Petersburg and Seminole.
He immediately became involved in the Seminole community, joining the chamber of commerce and the Kiwanis Club. Through these involvements, he met many “wonderful, community spirited leaders,” he said, including Jesse Johnson, Charlie Block, Gene Mohney, Russ Stewart and Arnett Brown. “These were people who were very deeply embedded in Seminole.”
Johnson, who founded Seminole Nursery and was the driving force behind the Bank of Seminole, long dreamed of incorporating Seminole as a city, DeLoach said. His plans to incorporate failed twice in the 1960s, though.
“It wasn’t a popular thing to even discuss,” said DeLoach, who imagines that people at the time were opposed to being taxed.
Johnson renewed his efforts to form a city when Block began working for the bank, and in 1969, Block tapped DeLoach to join Seminole’s Christmas Tree Committee, which began studying the state’s requirements for incorporation.
After determining the legal requirements to form a city, DeLoach and others founded the Seminole Improvement Committee, which had the goal of incorporating Seminole, he said.
The Bank of Seminole donated $5,000 to the committee, while Fisher & Sauls chipped in $500, and other individuals and businesses “contributed minor funds,” he said.
They used these funds to hire an expert, Glenn Van Treese, to help them create the city of Seminole.
“He was instrumental in organizing the people,” DeLoach said.
The committee and other volunteers went door to door to determine an area with around 1,000 people who supported forming a municipality.
“Have you seen the city? The shape that it is? It’s a weird shape,” DeLoach said. “It’s a weird shape because people went door to door to see who was really interested in forming the city… (It was) gerrymandered to find the people who were really interested in the city.”
Once they established an area, the committee organized a community meeting Nov. 15, 5 p.m., at the Seminole Mall. More than 800 freeholders attended this meeting and the majority voted to incorporate as the city of Seminole, the last municipality to be incorporated in Pinellas County. Russ Stewart was elected the city’s first mayor.
“It was a community effort and it was done by people who really wanted a city,” DeLoach said.
Holland Mangum, who was instrumental in Seminole’s formation and later served as mayor, put it best, DeLoach said. “(Mangum) said, ‘Government is best when it’s closest to the people.’ That was the idea, that Seminole could govern itself better than the county could.”
After that meeting, DeLoach and Bill Dunlap were tapped to serve as Seminole’s first co-city attorneys.
DeLoach recalls the first Seminole City Council meeting.
“It was like a dog who had caught a truck. What do I do now? It was people who had never done this before and were just trying to accomplish a goal,” he said. “We had the first meeting and conducted business and got organized.”
One of the first things the council decided was to establish a cigarette tax within city limits. This was Seminole’s “initial source of funds,” DeLoach said.
DeLoach served in the role of co-city attorney for about a year until he and Dunlap disagreed on something.
“I can’t remember what it was,” he said, but he decided to step back from the position.
Today, he fondly remembers the individuals who helped make Seminole a reality, and said the city was “fortunate” to have people like Johnson, Brown and Stewart in its ranks.
“Looking back, it was the people that made it happen, and Seminole was blessed to have hardworking honest people that really cared and wanted a city,” DeLoach said. “They would just be proud of where the city is today, and I think the citizens of the community are glad.”