Pinellas Park manager found dead
By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
PINELLAS PARK -- City Manager Jerry Mudd, who presided for five years over a troubled and often contentious city government, commited suicide Tuesday at his Pinellas Park home.
"Jerry died of a self-inflicted knife wound and he did leave a brief note that expressed his despondency or concern over work pressure and health; basically, (it) said the pressures of his job and his health," city spokesman Tim Caddell said.
Mudd's wife, Ethel, discovered her husband's body about 8 a.m. Tuesday, and a neighbor called for help, said city officials, who declined to provide further details.
The death of 56-year-old Mudd, a slender, graying history buff, stunned city officials and neighbors in Pinellas Park.
"It's a total shock," Mayor Bill Mischler said. "In my wildest dreams, I never thought this could happen."
Pinellas Park council member Ed Taylor praised the leadership of Mudd, and said he was caught completely off guard.
"I said, 'What are you talking about, killed himself?"' Taylor said.
Taylor, who owns a funeral home, will be handling the arrangements, which will not be scheduled until later this week.
Taylor and a Pinellas Park police officer informed Mudd's mother, Mae, and son, John, of the death. Mudd ate lunch with his mother every day, Taylor said.
"It'll be a heck of a loss for her," Taylor said. "He was the light of her life."
Mudd's son, John, said his father's death was his greatest loss ever.
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of my father," he said. "He was a good, noble and honorable man."
Mudd, a West Virginia native, began working with Pinellas Park as a construction management director.
He worked his way up the ladder and was appointed interim city manager in mid 1997 when the council abruptly fired Jim Madden. In December of that year, Mudd officially was appointed city manager of Pinellas Park, the fourth-largest city in Pinellas County, with about 45,000 residents.
His tenure was punctuated by scandal and conflict.
A federal audit in mid 1997 found the Police Department had misused funds from a community policing grant. The city was ordered to repay $359,418.
The problems escalated after Mudd fired an assistant city manager and later accused then-police Chief David Milchan of threatening him. Milchan resigned and later called Mudd a "consummate liar."
More recent problems have centered on financial issues. The City Council instituted a hiring and construction freeze to avoid a projected $1.1-million deficit in the 2003-04 budget year. The freeze was lifted last month after a closer look at the city's finances showed a shortfall was unlikely.
Soon after, Mudd fired finance administrator Dick Wheaton, saying he had twice failed to send money to the city's pension plans.
Wheaton denied wrongdoing. He said Mudd, as his direct supervisor, knew he had not paid off the bonds.
Mischler said Mudd had taken Wheaton's firing badly.
"He took it very personal," Mischler said.
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