Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Venice's History, through One Lens

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Venice's History, through One Lens

Article excerpt

BOOK: Chronicle of city's fire department has a broader story to tell

VENICE

In a sense, Jack Mersereau is right when he maintains that "Venice Fire Department, 1926-2011, 85 Years of Service" has a limited audience.

His new book, however, is a historical snapshot of the city taking readers on a journey across Venice's booms and busts and other changes, through the prism of the city's 22 fire chiefs and the politicians who oversaw them.

"What happened in the fire department reflects what was happening in the city," Mersereau said, including changes in the economy and population.

A simple book chronicling the department's history turned into more than two years of tedious research using newspaper and city archives and City Council meeting minutes to back up sometimes foggy recollections of those who were there.

"The history needs to be recorded for those who come in the future," Mersereau said.

The last couple of years, including current tensions about a year- long contract bargaining process and whether the city can save money by ceding control of the department to Sarasota County, will need to be addressed in another book, but not by Mersereau.

"That's the last book," he said.

The retired firefighter, who moved to the city in 2003, and his editor, Dorothy Korwek, former director of historical resources for the city who also was a councilwoman for a term, said they are pleased with their work.

"It's to show the importance of the different individuals and the department to the running of the city," Korwek said. "We take so many things for granted these days."

The personalities making history are important, she said, because "If you don't write it down, these are just names."

They received the first 100 copies Dec. 12.

There, 23 autographed copies went to people eager to compare the early days of the city, which had about 300 settlers in the 1920s, to today, when 20,000 people live year-round within the city limits.

From the first, appointed paid fire chief, J. …

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