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Longtime Anna Maria, Manatee plumbing entrepreneur dies

Mike LaPensee, who started LaPensee Plumbing with his wife, was successful in part due to his connection to the community, a former Manatee County commissioner says.

  • Manatee-Sarasota
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The co-founder of a local plumbing company who was known for making friends with everyone he met has died. James Michael “Mike” LaPensee of Anna Maria died June 22. He was 79.

He was a “true islander," former Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore says, describing him as the “never-met-a-stranger type guy, and I think that’s what made him successful.”

LaPensee was born April 10, 1945. He grew up in Michigan and moved in 1967 to Florida, where he lived on Anna Maria Island for more than 55 years. He and Whitmore moved to the island around the same time, she says, and they had their children about the same time as well.

Mike LaPensee
Courtesy image

A master plumber, Mike started LaPensee Plumbing in 1985 with his wife, Karen. (They married in 1977.)

Whitmore recalls being surprised to see the LaPensees getting involved with the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, because their business had expanded its reach beyond Anna Maria.

"I was surprised to see an island business grow like that from the island to all of Manatee County," Whitmore says. “In all my years, I’ve never seen an island business grow like that — maybe one real estate company, but not a service business. He broke the mold and actually made it into Manatee and Sarasota counties.”

The LaPensees worked with the chamber and other organizations, which contributed to and bolstered their success as business owners, according to Whitmore. She says the couple sponsored many events, including an annual bowling tournament at The Center of Anna Maria Island. When his children were younger, Mike coached their youth sports teams at the center as well.

“They both had the personality and the drive,” Whitmore says. "And they knew to be able to be successful in business you had to be part of the community.”

In 2009 Mike retired from the business, which is still run by the familly and has kept growing, the Business Observer previously reported. It is now known as LaPensee Plumbing, Pools & Air. Its cofounder continued his involvement in the community, including as a member of the Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island.

Mike “just was a good, good man and helped the less fortunate,” Whitmore says. “He was the fabric" of the community.



Elizabeth King

Elizabeth is a business news reporter with the Business Observer, covering primarily Sarasota-Bradenton, in addition to other parts of the region. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, she previously covered hyperlocal news in Maryland for Patch for 12 years. Now she lives in Sarasota County.

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