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Dwight Brock, the pugnacious watchdog for Collier County taxpayers, took on developers, businessmen and politicians over his 26-year career but lost his final battle Tuesday.

The clerk of courts in Collier County since 1992, Brock died Tuesday afternoon at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, where he was awaiting a lung transplant, said his wife of 32 years, Cheryl.

He was 64.

Brock had been suffering from lung disease for several years, but his health had worsened in the last few months.

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In this 2016 video, Dwight Brock ran for re-election against Georgia Hiller. Brock was elected in 1993 as Clerk of Courts. Luke Franke/Naples Daily News

A frequent visitor to the podium at meetings of the Collier County Commission, Brock in recent appearances was breathing with the help of an oxygen tube and moving around on a scooter.

Cheryl Brock said he continued to work from Jacksonville right up to the end.

“He was working until the last minute. He was on the phone Friday night until he just didn’t have the oxygen,” she said.

Taxpayers will remember Brock for his fierce challenges to the way the county spent money.

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However, Cheryl Brock remembers a man who loved his family with the same intensity.

“When he loved the people in his life, he loved the people in his life. He did that just as tenaciously as he did his job,” she said.

The couple have one son, Bradley, a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island.

“He was Dwight’s proudest accomplishment,” Cheryl Brock said.

Born in Panama City, Brock was one of three children. He is survived by a brother, Delano Jerome Brock; and a sister, Frankie, who lives in California. Brock’s parents were great admirers of presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, Cheryl Brock said.

Dwight Brock earned degrees from Florida State University, Stetson and the Nova Law Center.

Jerry Brock, as Delano Jerome Brock was known, was a prosecutor in Southwest Florida, working with Dwight in that capacity before Brock ran against then-Clerk of Courts Jim Giles in 1992. In their most famous case, the Brock brothers led the prosecution of Steven Benson, who murdered two members of his family with a pipe bomb at their North Naples home in 1985. Dwight Brock focused on the financial motive behind the crime, an early glimpse of the determination with which he would follow a money trail. 

Early in his term, Brock found fault with the way business was done in Collier County. He successfully sued the county’s investment managers in the 1990s over derivatives that put the county’s money at risk.

Later, he sued developers who had underpaid on impact fees owed to the county.

His battles earned him accolades but sometimes drew criticism. Often that criticism was that Brock still maintained his prosecutorial stance, even though his job had shifted to one of auditor.

He once conducted an audit of a nonprofit housing initiative started by an opponent he had vanquished in a prior election, drawing accusations of using his office to bully those who didn’t agree with him.

He engaged in a costly years-long legal battle with county commissioners over who should monitor county spending and how.

He challenged invoices from vendors, slowing payments and creating a fear in the business community that Collier County would gain a reputation as a place where it’s hard to operate.

Bob St. Cyr, Brock’s director of community outreach for eight years, said that through those times, Brock remained steadfast.

“He was committed to what he believed in. He really believed in honesty and transparency in government. He knew what he was doing was right for the taxpayers.”

With the election of new county commissioners in 2016, Brock offered a more conciliatory tone but still held firm to his role as a watchdog.

In March, he released a scathing audit of the practices at a county-backed business accelerator.

More: Collier Clerk Dwight Brock releases scathing audit of county business accelerators

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Supporters of the accelerator turned out en masse to tout its benefits, and Brock agreed to work with the group to help the accelerator conform to his methods.

"I think we have ground this large boulder into fine grains of sand at this point in time. I don't have any desire to cast any greater aspersions against anyone, and I'm willing to do whatever you ask me to do,” Brock told commissioners, employing the sort of aphorism characteristic of his Southern roots.

St. Cyr recalled Brock’s rural upbringing and the stories he’d tell in the office after spending a weekend at his farm in Vernon, a town in Florida's Panhandle.

“He delighted in the time he spent there. He relished the fishing, the hunting. That was the time he went back to doing what he enjoyed.”

Despite his persona, “You wouldn’t find a nicer guy,” St. Cyr said of Brock. “Even though he had the aura and the image of being a tough guy, he was always friendly and approachable.”

Commissioner Penny Taylor, who sided with Brock in most of his clashes with the board, said Collier County is better off for his service.

“He was and lived the role of the people’s elected official. He never forgot that role,” she said.   

And voters acknowledged that time and again. However contentious Brock’s relationship with his fellow officeholders became, he always maintained voters' confidence.

He won a seventh term in office in 2016, defeating former County Commissioner Georgia Hiller with 70 percent of the vote.

More: Collier Clerk Dwight Brock wins 7th term, beats Hiller

St. Cyr said that when he started working for Brock, someone asked him whether he was going to speak for him. He laughed and said, “No one speaks for Dwight Brock but Dwight Brock.”

Although Brock's attitude changed in recent years, his role, in his own words, remained as he explained it to a Naples Daily News reporter in 2016:

“This office is the check and balance, and it’s the only check and balance that exists on local government, on the Board of County Commissioners.”

A memorial service will be announced at a later date, Cheryl Brock said.

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