We noted a letter to the editor in the Key West Citizen a few weeks ago written by our old friend (and helicopter pilot par excellence), long-time Middle Keys resident Lee Cranmer (pictured at left). Lee's letter suggested renaming the airport in Key West for former Key West mayor and popular Keys character Captain Tony Tarracino. Captain Tony died in November 2008 at the age of 92.
The newly remodeled airport terminal recently opened amid the usual fanfare surrounding such openings, and not a little controversy over design, construction delays, cost overruns, and the death of at least one man in the collapse of a concrete form. Add to this another controversy over naming the airport for a still-living politician, a former county commissioner defeated in the polls last year as one of a dreaded "gang of three," and you have the makings of a proverbial "hot potato" for the present county commission.
Perhaps that's why Lee's letter didn't get the attention that it deserved. But many people we've talked with think it would be a stroke of genius. A Keys resident since 1948, Tony embodied the island's reputation as a refuge for eccentrics and renegades who had found their way to the southernmost point of the continental United States. He was friends with literally thousands of people. And he served an honorable two years as the city's mayor.
And, in contrast with certain others, Tony has now gone on the that Great Dog Track in the sky. (Tony always maintained that he did his best thinking while serving as mayor at the now defunct dog track on Stock Island.)
As we think of the many bed tax dollars that the tourist industry spends every year to keep Key West's economic pump primed, we should consider the advantage of Captain Tony International printed on every travel document, air schedule, and plane ticket having to do with Key West.You just can't buy that type of publicity. Now, you can't blame anybody for not wanting to handle a "hot potato," but can it hurt to let the County Commission know how we feel? If Tony didn't embody the best of Key West, who did? And since when was Key West ever know for political correctness? It's time Lee's idea got some serious consideration.