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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 22, 2004 16 years ago

FCCI's Pilot

Russell Currin Jr., the Sarasota-based insurance companyis longtime chairman, is honored posthumously by The Argus Foundation with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

FCCI's Pilot

Russell Currin Jr., the Sarasota-based insurance companyis longtime chairman, is honored posthumously by The Argus Foundation with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

By Sean Roth

Real Estate Editor

Shortly after take-off, Ron Foxworthy noticed there was a problem. It was after dusk, his friend and business partner, Russell Currin Jr., was supposed to be following him in Foxworthyis airplane o the two had exchanged planes after completing repairs. As Foxworthy watched in horror, the plane Currin was flying crashed into a wooded marsh a few hundred feet from the airport.

After turning around and landing the plane, Foxworthy ran toward the downed plane. In the dark, Foxworthy ran into thistles and barbs cutting himself. He fell several times. When he reached the plane in a breathless daze, Foxworthy saw Currin o completely unfazedo sitting on a stump smoking a cigarette.

iSo what took you so long?i Currin asked. When the two got to the hospital, Foxworthy had to keep telling the medical staff he wasnit the one who needed attention.

Sarasota almost lost one of its business giants that night, but Currin got to show off what his friends say was his incredible calm under pressure.

Currin, who died Feb. 20 from cancer, is being honored posthumously with The Argus Foundationis Lifetime Achievement Award.

In the early i60s, he became a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force flying F-100s. After his service, he went to work at his fatheris contracting firm, Logan & Currin Contractors Inc. When Currin Sr. died in 1964, Currin Jr. acquired his fatheris ownership in the firm and stepped into his fatheris board seat on self-insurance fund for local contractors, created by Sarasota businessman Gil Waters.

In the early i70s, through a chance happening, Currin became a developer.

iI was a plumbing contractor and he was a general contractor,i Foxworthy recounts. iI was working for him on a deal out on Siesta Key called the Island Reef Club. When the developer ran into money problems. The bank was looking for someone else to complete the project. They asked Russ and I if we wanted to finished the project.i

Foxworthy, Currin and Currinis partner Jack Bryant completed that project and ended up developing Sandy Cove IV and Hidden Lagoon condominium on Siesta Key and Hideaway Bay on Little Gasparilla Island. The three partners also went on to develop Whitfield Industrial Park, portions of the Saunders Road Industrial Park and the Clark Road Industrial Center.

iMy dad always told me, eThere are people that have a lot of common sense and not much brains and youire one of themii Foxworthy says. iSo when I met Russ, I knew to latch on to him and ride that horse all the way. He was a genius. It was a perfect match . He really liked the paperwork, and I liked being out in the field.i

In 1989, Currin and Foxworthy completed their largest development, Laurel Oak Estates and Country Club, one of the most successful golf course communities in eastern Sarasota.

Locally, Currin is most notably remembered for his 40 years on the board and eventual chairmanship of that small insurance group, which grew to become FCCI Insurance Group o one of the areais largest, successful homegrown businesses.

Currin, chairman of the board for 22 years, is credited with FCCIis transformation during the past decade from a single-product Florida-based workeris compensation self-insurance fund into a $500 million (annual premiums) property and casualty insurer that does business in 14 states, insures 13,000 policyholders and employs nearly 1,000 people.

iHe was also very instrumental in moving FCCI from Cattlemen (Road) to Lakewood Ranch,i says Charlie Stottlemyer, of the Stottlemyer and Shoemaker Lumber Co., a lumber distributor and past Argus Foundation Lifetime Achievement recipient. iIt was a great new facility for the company. I would say that Russell was one of the most brilliant men I have ever met. Personality wise he was very quiet, shy and reserved; he was just a very gracious person.i

Robert Flanders, owner of Sarasotais Quality Walls Enterprises Inc., recalls his friend as quiet, but not an introvert.

iHe was just one of those guys who thought about everything they do, whether its the next golf shot or developing a condominium,i Flanders says.

His children agree.

iIf you saw his head slowly nodding you knew his mind was going,i Amy Currin says. iHe liked to look at things from a lot of different angles.i

Kerry Kirschner, executive director of The Argus Foundation, remembers meeting Currin when Kirschner was Sarasotais mayor.

iHe got involved when we floated the bond in 1986,i Kirschner says. iWe had allocated all the money ... (on different projects) when we found out that the federal money for road construction stopped the expansion of Fruitville Road (to four lanes) at U.S. 301. We needed to find the money to pay for expanding it from 301 to U.S. 41. So a lot of the people in road construction (including Currin) took a look at the project list to see if they could tweak it to find enough money for the road. They came back with a revised list that included all the major street work and the expansion. He was really quite a guy.i

Currinis legacy includes his two children.

iSome of my earliest memories are of being out on the job site riding on the heavy equipment,i says Amy Currin, director of architecture and design for Gibraltar Homes Inc., Sarasota.

Peter Currin is now a real estate attorney with the Sarasota law firm of Williams Parker Harrison Dietz and Getzen.

iI was really drawn to the real estate side of law,i he says. iIt gets in your blood a bit. I remember being driven all over the state to see different sites. O We used to talk if dad had lived longer the three of us would have done something together.i

The Argus Foundation award ceremony will be Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. in Serendipity at The Country Club of Sarasota, 3600 Torrey Pines Blvd. Ted Morton will also be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

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