PLACIDA — Jack Perkins, formerly of NBC News and A&E’s “Biography,” said small towns often have big people with big dreams who make them better every day.
Wednesday, the local Secret Society of Smoked Mullets decided the person who best embodied that ideal this year in Englewood is Charlie Hicks.
So, in their time-honored tradition, society members welcomed Hicks as the newest in their notso-secret ranks, during the 16th Annual Smoked Mullet Award Luncheon at the Fishery Restaurant in Placida.
“I feel it’s a real honor,” Hicks said. “I feel that more people probably have been here longer and done much more. I appreciate what they think of me.”
Hicks said he grew up with a lot of the members. He originally moved to Englewood in 1948 from Lakeland, Fla.
“I came here in the third grade,” he said. “I think there were six people in my class at Englewood Elementary School. That’s how big we were. I love this community.”
Hicks came back to Englewood after a career working for Delta Airlines in Georgia and Louisiana.
“Charlie’s been here for a long time and he did a lot I understand with the Little League way back,” said Nita Edmondson-Cole, a former Englewood Chamber of Commerce president who founded the Smoked Mullets. “He was one of the past winner’s coach. He’s also a sign maker, so he made all the signs in town. He’s real active with the (Lemon Bay) Historical Society.”
The luncheon peaked with 72 in attendance, the most ever.
Perkins was the featured guest speaker. Other guests included Don Musilli, executive director of the chamber; Charlotte County Commissioner Bill Truex; and chamber President Scott Barber.
“I think it’s fantastic (to be a part of this),” Barber said. “I think it’s a great event that we have in our community to recognize the contributions, the dedication and commitment that people (have to) make Englewood a better place for us all to live and enjoy.”
Following Hicks’ award speech and a speech about early Englewood from past winner Tom Dignam, Perkins spoke of the appeal of small towns, specifically about how he and his wife preferred to live in them, compared with big cities.
“You get into larger cities and politics takes over,” Perkins said. “Politics can be corrosive and destructive while it’s pretending that it’s giving you progress.”
Perkins retired after 40 years as a news personality. He last was host of the PBS affiliate WEDU’s “A Gulf Coast Journal,” a monthly program focusing on Sarasota County for eight seasons. The show was funded by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice. The program featured Dignam in a June 2010 broadcast. Perkins now is working on two books — one a book of photography and poetry called “Marveling,” and the other, a book of nature writings called “The Nature of God.”
“It was an honor to have Jack here,” Edmondson-Cole said. “He’s got a great sense of humor. He’s a great speaker, and I’m sorry we didn’t have more time with him.”
At the end of the ceremony, Edmondson-Cole and Larry Nicol presented Perkins with the book “Last 100 Years of Englewood” by Tom and Pat Newton.
“It was a wonderful event,” Perkins said. “There are a lot of people here so dedicated to the community and making the community better. That’s an admirable thing anywhere you go.”