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Business Observer Tuesday, Jun. 30, 2020 4 days ago

Mentor, 'dean' of real estate lawyers dies at 91

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George Dietz was one of 10 Sarasota lawyers recognized as a Legal Legend by the Sarasota County Bar Association in 2013.

The architects of the Williams Parker Harrison Dietz & Getzen law firm office addressed a unique challenge when they built the downtown Sarasota complex in 1976: make a separate, but easy-to-access, space for George Dietz’s records and files.

They succeeded — sort of. Williams Parker partner Dan Bailey says there was something like a long and narrow walk-in closet right behind Dietz’ office, with ample space. “But he filled that one up real quick, too,” says Bailey, who, like others at Williams Parker, would often walk into Dietz’s office and be overwhelmed with the foot-long stacks of papers.  

“It wasn’t that he was disorganized,” adds Bailey. “He had a visual filing system. He would never let his assistant file anything. He wanted to be able to get at it.”

An attorney who specialized in real estate development, Dietz had a lot to get at in some 60 years at Williams Parker, which added his name as a partner in 1958. Dietz died June 21 while a resident of Aravilla Memory Care in Sarasota. He was 91.

Dietz was the lead attorney on some of Sarasota’s most notable projects, often seeking approval from one of three panels of commissioners — the city of Sarasota, Sarasota County and Longboat Key. The list of projects he steered through development include the acquisition of property and rezoning of The Meadows by Taylor Woodrow; Arvida on Longboat Key; and both Bay Isles and the Longboat Key Club.

More than development success, Bailey recalls fondly how Dietz handled the process side of a development argument. “It was like watching art being created,” says Bailey. “He was so lofty, eloquent and formal. It was as if he was arguing before the Florida Supreme Court.”

Courtesy. George Dietz was born in St. Petersburg.

Dietz was born in St. Petersburg. An Eagle Scout and University of Florida Law School graduate, Dietz entered the U.S. Marine Corps in 1951. He was sent with the 1st Marine Division to Korea, according to his official obituary, where he was a platoon leader and then later reassigned as defense counsel for court martials. Military service was a wide-ranging family trait: his brother Bill was in the Navy, brother Peter in the Air Force and brother John in the Army.  

Back stateside, by 1955 Dietz was a practicing attorney. That’s when his college classmate Bill Harrison, who had also served with Dietz on the front lines in Korea, asked him to join a small firm in Sarasota as an associate. At the firm Dietz, in addition to cases, went on to mentor many young attorneys, including Bailey. Dietz also created transactional templates for deals the firm still uses today.

A managing trustee of the Sarasota County Law Library for over 35 years, Dietz was one of 10 Sarasota lawyers recognized as a Legal Legend by the Sarasota County Bar Association in 2013. “He was so accomplished,” Bailey says. “He was like the dean of real estate lawyers.”

Dietz was also involved in the legal and civic community for most his working life, doing so much, says Bailey, he had forgotten some. The list includes president of the Greater Sarasota County Chamber of Commerce; founding member of the United Way Foundation; and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota Foundation. Notably, in 1980, Dietz worked with Kay Glasser to create a nonprofit entity to purchase land for what’s now the Glasser-Schoenbaum Human Services Center. Dietz handled legal work for that project, pro-bono, for some 20 years.

Bailey kept in touch with Dietz and his wife, Fran, as his mentor’s health began to decline in recent years, and especially in the last six months. “He was a very fine boss, a very fine law partner,” says Bailey, “and a very fine friend.”

 

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