Charlie Brooks, a community activist who helped found the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District and served on its board, died Sunday from a heart attack. He was 81.
Brooks grew up in Miami, graduated from Miami Senior High School and attended one year at the University of Miami. He then served in the military during the Korean War. From 1960 to 1974, he was employed as a manager at the Miami Herald. From then on, he began establishing and operating two corporations in the computer industry until his retirement. In 1986, Brooks bought property in Key Largo and built a Keys home for his wife, Margie.
"We saw eye to eye on 90 percent of everything we voted on," said Key Largo Wastewater board member Andy Tobin, who served with Brooks on the original board in 2002.
Tobin and Brooks were known for their occasional scuffles.
The most recent was whether to contract with Islamorada to build a pipeline to Key Largo's wastewater plant. Brooks was against the pipeline, while Tobin and board's majority supported it.
"He had a concern we should only take care of Key Largo," Tobin said.
In 1999, Brooks also unsuccessfully led a campaign to incorporate Key Largo. From 2002 to 2006, Brooks served on the wastewater board and again from 2008 to 2012, when he lost re-election.
David Asdourian, who serves on the wastewater board, agreed with Brooks that the district shouldn't have contracted with Islamorada.
Asdourian, a friend of Brooks who spoke with him weekly, said the former wastewater guru was still on top of current events. In the days leading up to his death, the two discussed Islamorada's pipeline and its environmental impact.
"I like to pick his brain on wastewater issues that come up in the meetings," Asdourian said.
Since he lost his bid for re-election, Brooks had been caring for his wife, who has been hospitalized. Asdourian said Brooks had a heart attack Sunday. There will be no service at this time and his remains will be cremated, he said. Attempts to reach Brooks' family were unsuccessful.
"I think taking care of his wife was taking a toll," Asdourian said.
The last three or four months, Brooks was spending much of his time at his wife's side.
Wastewater District Clerk Carol Walker, who sat near Brooks at district meetings since 2004, described his work as thorough.
"Charlie would look at every aspect of every detail," she said. "If you could show him a different opinion with information to back it up, he would be the very first to admit it."
Chief Information Officer Paul Christian said Brooks was very tactical at his job.
"Charlie is a master strategist," he said. "You may not have agreed, but at least you understood his position. It was well thought out and not whimsical or based on emotion."
When Brooks left office, he made it to clear to Christian that he did not want a plaque or any recognition. Plaques served as a standard thank-you to former board members.
"I didn't do it for the recognition," Christian remembers Brooks saying.
The county mayor described Brooks as a poised representative who defended Key Largo residents.
"Charlie usually made reasonable points," County Commissioner George Neugent said. "They were never aggressive or adversarial."
The board would regularly send Brooks to commission meetings to try and secure money for the district, most recently for a piece of the 1-cent sales tax.
Also on the original board with Tobin and Brooks was local historian Jerry Wilkinson, who said Brooks brought the district a long way.
"We started with zero," Wilkinson remembered. "We worked out of the library before they kicked us out."
Wilkinson described Brooks as someone who would take the time to learn the technical aspects of wastewater.
"He would know which airvac system to use and why," he said. "He was a smart guy."