First and foremost, my heart goes out to the Surnow family. Jeff Surnow was a Birmingham developer that I have known for twenty-five years. And while I never had the opportunity to meet his wife Elaine, or his children Sam, Max and Lisa, I can tell you that everything I heard them say about their amazing husband and father was exactly what I thought of him for all the years I knew him. I make no claims to be a close friend of Jeff’s, but my interactions with him were exactly what you see in the picture I’ve included in this blog. Happy, full of life, energetic, and driven. I worked with Jeff years ago in my role as Assistant City Administrator of Lathrup Village. From time to time during my long career in local government in Oakland County, I would cross paths with Jeff. Some years ago, in my early years working for Auburn Hills, I received a telephone call from a broker saying that a local developer was seeking to acquire a site in Auburn Hills for future development. My name was mentioned to that developer by the broker. That developer was Jeff Surnow. In typical fun-loving Jeff Surnow style, he made the broker promise that he wouldn’t tell me who the developer was until we met at the property. Much to my great surprise, up walks Jeff Surnow. Jeff re-surfaced in my career over and over again, and each time it was as much an honor to interact with him as the time before. He was always focused on doing the right thing for the community, taking cues from the local community in which he embarked upon development projects so that his projects were a success for him and a success and welcome addition to the community. Jeff was a charitable man who put family first, but a lot of other people right up there at the front of the line too. He was a role model for those who did well for themselves, and then used that to do well for others.
I doubt that I will ever meet another guy like Jeff Surnow during my career. His enthusiasm for everything was contagious. How he ever kept up the pace is beyond me. I can only say this. In a way, I think Jeff’s life was not really cut short. Although he died last week at the age of 63, his family and friends will tell you that he had about twenty more years crammed into that 63 years. We can only hope that we have a life as well lived as Jeff Surnow’s, no matter how long it lasts.
Tom Tanghe, City Manager