Kathleen 'Kay' Brennan, 1944-2021
Dedicated, detail-oriented, determined – these descriptive words and phrases probably spring quickly to the minds of all who knew Kay. She was a person who lived a life of service to her church and community; all of us who love the natural world were part of the community that benefited from her service.
One of the first hires of the newly created Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management in January 1988, Kay spent the early portion of her 24 year career with the County diligently identifying and acquiring environmentally sensitive lands for the County’s Natural Areas Program. She spent the later portion of her career working on related ordinances, and management plans to keep acquired environmentally sensitive lands in their natural state. In January 1988, the County did not own any environmentally sensitive lands. Today it owns and/or manages over 31,600 acres of environmentally sensitive lands. We often sing the praises of those who champion great concepts, but sometimes forget the “behind the scenes” workers. Kay was an amazing “behind the scenes” worker.
In 1988 Kay was the main staff person overseeing the inventory and classification of remaining naturally vegetated land in the County. All of this work occurred before there was Google Earth, before there was an online Atlas of Florida Plants (in fact before there was a World Wide Web!), even prior to decent rectified County-wide aerial images. Today, when a few well placed GIS inquires can spew out (mostly) accurate data on ownership, land use and zoning on top of an aerial image of half-foot pixel size for any parcel, it is hard to imagine, or recollect, exactly how much dedication, determination and orientation to detail that took. Kay excelled at coordinating with outside contractors, other County departments, outside agencies and citizen committees – four in all. She was an excellent writer and editor, and someone with a wickedly dry and wry sense of humor. Her fingerprints are all over the County’s Natural Resources Stewardship program from applications for grant funds, to many of the management plans, to the extensive resource library staff still uses on a daily basis.
A zoologist by training (M.S. from Iowa State University), Kay was a long time member of the Native Plant Society and generous in her support of causes close to her heart. Kay retired from the County (a second time) in 2013, still single, still hard working, still highly organized and detail oriented (she left specific instructions requesting attendees wear green to her funeral service!) until she died on December 19, 2021. Soon there will be a memorial bench at Delray Oaks Natural Area, the site where Kay volunteered her time following her retirement – come sit on it – it is bound to be in a spot with lots of native plants.