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Longtime ‘watchdog’ remembered as mentor, conservative

May 22, 2014
By CHUCK?BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

To one, Sal Grosso was a mentor who helped launch his political career. To another, he was the torchbearer for fiscal responsibility. To a third, he was a relentless digger of truth.

To each, he was a friend and trusted colleague.

Grosso, 89, passed away Wednesday morning following a long illness, according to the Grosso family.

Even if you didn't agree with him, you had to concede Cape Coral and what he thought was best for the city was always in his heart.

His influence brought about significant change in city council at a time when the Cape was ground zero for the real estate collapse.

"Everybody viewed him as a tireless researcher and a staunch fiscal conservative and his influence will be missed," said former council member Bill Deile.

That experience came from his long career at what was then the Bell system, where he became known for fixing problems that arose in the system, asking questions about it and holding people accountable.

Grosso was one of the inspirations behind the Cape Coral "Fab Five," a group that started as city activists that took control of the city council in 2009 and were hailed by supporters as crusaders who would save the city from economic doom.

Grosso, again, provided those lawmakers with the information they used to seek financial change.

One of those activists was John Sullivan, who was taken under Grosso's wing and would soon after become mayor, sweeping in Deile, Chris Chulakes-Leetz, Peter Brandt and, later, Erick Kuehn.

"He was a mentor, a tireless researcher and had a wealth of information and documents and knowledge about the operations of the city," Deile said.

Grosso also was a member of the Financial Advisory Committee, which was dissolved in 2012 by council after a presentation on the state of city pension plans by then FAC Chairman Don McKiernan, who said the city could be on the verge of ruin if it did not make changes.

"We had great talent on that committee. The problem was that they told the city council things they didn't want made public," said Bob Davies, president of the Cape Coral Republican Club and member of the FAC. "Like the fact the pension fund was woefully underfinanced."

Not everyone agreed, including voters who went in a different direction the next election.

His supporters, though, remain staunch in their memories of his efforts.

"People viewed him as a bull in a china shop because he dug up things people didn't want dug up. People would say he was closed-minded. I worked with him. If we disagreed on a point, if I could make my argument to him, he would see it and change his mind," Davies said.

"Sal was a fiscal conservative and believed in good management and accountability. The money the government has is ours and they should be careful in the spending of it," Deile said. "His legacy is that he looked out for the people who lived here and tried to make sure their hard-earned money was well-spent."

"He was a friend and a great American. He did what he thought was the right thing for Cape Coral," Davies said.

He will be cremated and a Memorial Mass will be celebrated at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Cape Coral on Tuesday, June 3, at 11:30 a.m. with a Celebration of Life to follow afterwards at the Palmetto Pine Country Club. Donations may be made to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105.



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