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Phil Price, who helped shape Crystal River in its early years, was known as a fiscal conservative when he served on the city council. One of his four sons, Chuck Price, announced Sunday that his father died earlier that day of natural causes.
Winning a seat on the city council in 2006, Price said saving money and cutting costs were his strong points. He pushed for the sheriff’s takeover of law enforcement in the city, saving at least $500,000 annually by eliminating the police department. He also led the successful effort for a $500,000 property tax rebate.
Price also led the effort to restructure the Community Redevelopment Agency by eliminating the nine-member board and giving oversight of the CRA to the city council. He thought Crystal River City Manager Andy Houston and his staff could do the same job for less expense.
Price did not run for another term on the city council as he ran for mayor in 2010, coming in second with 37 percent of the vote in a three-candidate race. He also served on the city council in the 1980s.
A certified public accountant, Price established his business, Price & Co., in 1972 in Crystal River.
Phillip W. Price, CPA, MBA, PFS, received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of South Florida, with a major in accounting and economics. He received a Master of Business Administration degree from Florida State University, where he also attended law school. He was a senior cost accountant with Honeywell and NASA from 1964 to 1967. From 1967 to 1971, he was with Ernst & Young in Tampa, one of the largest public accounting firms in the country.
Price was a member of the American and Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants and served several terms as a chamber of commerce board member, treasurer and president. He was elected “Person of the Year” by the three area unified chambers in 1992.
“He was active in the community since forever,” said his son, Chuck Price. “He’s been here since 1972. He enjoyed work and FSU football with his kids. He was very involved in our lives. He was the first CPA in the county. He was a great father to his kids. He was a super-hard worker.”
Ron Kitchen, former Crystal River mayor and city council member, said he knew Price for “years and years.”
“We went back for 25 years with the chamber of commerce,” Kitchen said. “The year I was president, Phil was the president elect. That’s when I really first met Phil. I got to know him through our chamber work together. In the last few years, I got to work with him on the city council, and I knew him as a businessman.”
Price’s death was “shocking,” Kitchen said, because: “He supported me in my campaign for county commission. Every time I talked to him, I’d say, ‘I’ll see you around, and he’d say, ‘If I’m still alive.’ I don’t know if he knew he was in bad health or if he was joking. It’s a shame to hear that.”
Kitchen said he appreciated Price for his responsibility to taxpayers.
“I knew him to be a very staunch fiscal conservative,” Kitchen said.
“He was front and center when it came to the city fighting for reduced spending. No matter how much we reduced the millage, he felt we could reduce it more. We would pat ourselves on the back for doing a good job, but Phil would say, ‘Oh, you could have done another millage point,’” Kitchen said.
According to Kitchen, Price leaves an unsung legacy.
“He wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed in,” Kitchen said. “He was a good advocate for the taxpayers. He was one of those guys who made a huge impact on the community, and I don’t think a lot of people know all the good things he did.”
Maureen McNiff worked alongside Price on the city council.
“I had the greatest respect for him,” McNiff said. “He had a great financial mind. He did a lot of good things for the city.”
McNiff said Price was instrumental in reducing the millage rate and controlling the city budget.
“He certainly did a lot of service for the citizens,” McNiff said. “He’ll be missed.”
Houston admitted he and Price did not always see eye to eye.
“Phil and I had a rocky time to begin with,” Houston said. “I think he thought I tried to undercut him on the issue of transitioning the city to the sheriff’s office. But by the time he reached the end of his term we were working well together. I respected his financial knowledge and know he had the best interests for the city at heart. There was not exactly a lovefest between us, but I respect the qualities that he brought to the city council.”
Strickland Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements, which will be private by Price’s wishes.
“He was humble,” Chuck Price said.
Chronicle reporter Chris Van Ormer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-564-2916.