JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Former Jacksonville Mayor Hans Tanzler died at 6:40 a.m. Thursday, surrounded by his family. He was 86.
Stacks of photos, newspaper headlines marking his accomplishments , and a family that loved him are all signs that he lived a full life.
"He's a John Wayne. He's a statesman. And a leader," said son Hans Tanzler III.
With his two children by his side, Tanzler III recounted the contributions his father made to Jacksonville. Tanzler Jr. modernized city government, leading consolidation efforts in the 1960s.
"Which was the first time that had happened in the nation, where Jacksonville became the largest city in the nation," he said.
Tanzler was the first mayor to lead an effort to clean up the St. Johns River at a time when it really needed it.
"He led the effort to get a new sewer system established with the bond issue. And when they flipped the switch to get the sewage out of the river to symbolize the new clean river. That's when they had the Cypress Gardens event."
That event was when that well-known photo was taken of the mayor water skiing down the St. Johns with the Cypress Gardens girls.
His grandson, Hans Tanzler IV, said he has, "Nothing but find memories about him. The world won't be the same without him."
The former mayor's grandchildren knew him less for his accomplishments and more for his kindness and character.
Granddaughter Emily Tanzler said, "He was an honorable man. He was a loving man. He truly loved Jacksonville."
He was an athlete, a sailor, a judge, a mayor. And to his family, he was an inspiration.
"He was the kind of guy that goes about doing things because they're the right thing to do. And darn the consequences," said Tanzler III.
Funeral arrangements are still being made.
Tanzler served as mayor from 1967-1979.
Statement for Mayor Brown
Mayor Alvin Brown honored Tanzler as a lifelong public servant.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of former Jacksonville Mayor Hans Tanzler, who has passed at the age of 86. Mayor Tanzler led a life dedicated to public service and his legacy will forever be remembered by our citizens and all who had the opportunity to know him. He guided our city through consolidation, paving the way for much of the success we enjoy today. Mayor Tanzler was a tireless advocate for local education, public health, economic and downtown development and our treasured St. Johns River. We will always be grateful for his service to the great City of Jacksonville."
Jacksonville University Past President and Chancellor Emeritus Dr. Fran Kinne worked with Hans Tanzler after his election and grew to become close friends with him.
She remembered him as a decisive mayor who, during her time as Dean of JU's College of Fine Arts, took action on improving Jacksonville's cultural climate and quality of life.
"He was very supportive of JU, and very supportive of education. At that time after his election, Jacksonville's arts community had many splintered groups going in different directions. Hans had the foresight to bring these groups together and form committees so that everyone began working together in unison."
Kinne remembered fondly the former mayor's great sense of humor, and recalled that in 1972, when she brought both Bob Hope and Jack Benny to JU to receive honorary degrees, that Tanzler gave both celebrities keys to the city.
Tanzler offered several comments during the ceremony, and Hope, in moving to the lectern, looked up at the tall Tanzler and quipped about the festivities, "Fran, did you have to include a funny mayor?"
"Hans loved taking part in that event," Kinne said. "He always recognized when there was a chance to bring people together in the community."
Tanzler at work
Action News has uncovered numerous documents from Hans Tanzler's time as mayor.
One document talks about his discussion with his division chiefs over implementing a new Affirmative Action Plan following the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972.
Another document is an Executive Order ending the moratorium on merit raises on January 1, 1970. The letter is addressed to his department heads and elected leaders in Jacksonville. Another Executive Order establishes a Facilities Planning Committee to screen all applications for new buildings. Alton Yates served as the committee's acting chairman.
Mayors of Jacksonville after Tanzler
Jake Godbold (1979)
Tommy Hazouri (1987)
Ed Austin, Jr. (1991)
John Delaney (1995)
John Peyton (2003)
Alvin Brown (2011)