Maynard Hiss, 56, lives in Gainesville these days; but his influence only continues to increase in Sarasota, where he grew up on Lido Shores, son of developer and Sarasota School of Architecture advocate Phillip Hiss. An often barefoot minimalist who's been known to show up for dinner parties carrying his own granola mix, Maynard mounted a challenge to the county's comprehensive plan 20 years ago. At the time, many dismissed him as a wild-eyed socialist for suggesting that estuaries and rivers were as vital to land use as schools and highways; but his untiring activism resulted in the creation of Jelks Preserve, large purchases of public lands along the Myakka River, and more recently, the creation of Martin Luther King Park.
His pioneering ideas favoring high-density development to preserve open lands form the backbone of today's Sarasota's 2050 plan. "He thinks so far out of the box," says longtime friend and county commission chair Jon Thaxton. "He's just ahead of his time."
(Pictured in 1978)