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Jack Shreve, 85; took on utilities on behalf of Florida consumers

Jack Shreve, a long-time champion of the rights of Florida consumers in cases involving telephone and utility companies, died June 12. He was 85.

Shreve served two terms in the state House as a Democrat from 1970 to 1974, representing Brevard County.

After he left the Legislature, he ran the Office of Public Counsel for a quarter of a century, acting as the people's lawyer on behalf of consumers in utility rate-increase cases. The post was created during an energy crisis in 1974.

"I love the job, and I've been at it for 25 years," Shreve said in a Times story when he retired in 2003. "A lot of people retire to try to get away from work, but I don't feel that way. But it's probably time for me to go."

Tall and courtly with an easy smile, Shreve had a low-key demeanor and avoided confrontation, and won praise for getting results.

"Shreve has survived not by being a bomb-throwing publicity hound, but a mild-mannered compromiser," Times columnist Howard Troxler wrote in 2003. "His demeanor is Jimmy Stewart-ish, or sometimes Columbo."

As the Times reported, Shreve negotiated many rate-case settlements with electric utilities and phone companies including a 1994 agreement in which Southern Bell, as BellSouth was then known, agreed to reduce rates by $300 million a year.

"When they (utilities) file, they know they're going to have to deal with him," Bill Newton of the Florida Consumer Action Network told the newspaper. "So that's kept things reasonable."

Shreve later returned to state government as special counsel and consumer advocate in 2007, working for Gov. Charlie Crist.

A native of Crestview, he was a U.S. Navy fighter pilot and later was a helicopter pilot in the Navy reserves while attending law school at the University of Florida.

At UF, he was a track champion, president of the prestigious Florida Blue Key and a classmate of Lawton Chiles, who served three terms in the U.S. Senate and two terms as governor.

Shreve also served as Cocoa city attorney, assistant state attorney and general counsel for the Florida Department of State.

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