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A rocker of boats will leave Treasure Island

St. Petersburg Times
published September 3, 2003

TREASURE ISLAND - George Makrauer, one of the city's most public personas who is not a public official, is moving to Celebration.

Allowing that some of his critics may be celebrating, Makrauer described his decision to move as "an undeniable disappointment."

But Makrauer and his wife, Taaron, decided they could not ignore the opportunity to move their real estate and Internet consulting business to Central Florida.

"That area is not at all built out. Pinellas County is all built out," Makrauer said. And because all of the residents have lived in Celebration for less than 10 years, "there is no good ol' boys or good ol' gals network, which is very refreshing."

Celebration, a community developed by Disney, was suggested as a model for blending residential and commercial development during Treasure Island's heated debates about new land development regulations.

Those discussions last year prompted Makrauer to run for mayor in March. Although he lost the race - his third run at elected office - Makrauer said he raised awareness of the city's inability to support commercial redevelopment.

In Celebration, "they have businesses there that are very much supported by the local residents," he said. "There, it's as though there is a welcome wagon on every corner looking for out-of-state license plates."

Makrauer said he will probably move in January. The couple bought a home with enough room for two offices and a guest house over the garage. In the meantime, he will sell his waterfront home on the Isle of Capri, his business office across the street from City Hall, a condominium on Sunset Beach, and a house and apartment property in the Historic Kenwood neighborhood of St. Petersburg.

Friendships and their backyard, open-water view will be the two most difficult things to leave behind, the Makrauers said.

Some of those friends say that Makrauer, a former city commissioner, will never be completely absent from Treasure Island politics because of his passion for the community.

"With his involvement and dedication to this city, he'll still continue to be a behind-the-scenes player, in my opinion," said Jim Dobyns, who co-founded a voters watchdog group with Makrauer.

Since the spring elections, Mayor Mary Maloof's predecessor, Leon Atkinson, moved to Istachatta, near the Hernando/Citrus County line. His predecessor, Walter Stubbs, who had been mayor for 20 years, moved to Largo. Now Makrauer, Maloof's main opponent and most verbal critic, will be gone as well.

"Can you believe that?' Maloof said Tuesday. "I wrote him a nice e-mail, but then I didn't send it in case it might be a joke."

Maloof said she is kind of sorry to see Makrauer go.

"I feel like he's kept everybody on their toes," she said. "I haven't always agreed with him, but I think he got people in this community thinking like they had never thought before and like they may never think again."

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