CLEARWATER - Once upon a time, Pinellas County had a robust Cultural Affairs department with its own staff and an annual budget of $2.9 million.
Its mission was to act as an advocate for the arts by promoting the development and appreciation of the arts throughout the county via programs and services. County grants were available to artists, teachers and art organizations to help fund their needs.
The county began funding art and culture in 1976, providing money to a non-governmental Arts Council, which acted as the official local arts agency. In 2006, Cultural Affairs became a part of county government and that department took over as the local arts agency.
Then came the Great Recession. Most county departments that did not provide essential services suffered massive budget cuts. The commission decided to disband Cultural Affairs in 2010, but they set aside $300,000 in seed money in hopes that a private organization would be interested in taking the job.
A task force formed to look for a way to create a private local arts authority. During the process, a local group did come together. The commission voted unanimously on June 14, 2011 to pass the seed money to Creative Pinellas. As the new local arts authority, Creative Pinellas also would receive revenue from the sale of specialty license plates to help fund its operations.
CLEARWATER - The 2014 RS:X Youth World Windsurfing Championships is coming to Clearwater Beach Oct. 18-25, marking the first time the event will be held in the United States.
About 100 competitors from 20 or more countries are expected to participate in the event. Windsurfing has been an Olympic sport for about 30 years.
Jerome Samson of Clearwater, president of the U.S. Windsurfing, is the event co-chairman.
“I’m delighted that the event will be on Clearwater Beach for two reasons: First, sailing is a great sport, and Olympic-class windsurfing is particularly spectacular to watch, but the action is too often staged very far at sea,” Samson said. “With the race course this week set near Pier 60, and athletes launching and landing directly on the beach throughout the week, there will be plenty for spectators to see, even without binoculars.”
The second reason, he said, is that this event is an opportunity to showcase the Clearwater area to the rest of the world.
“Locals know how great the sailing is around here and how beautiful our outdoors are, but it's been a hidden gem. It’s time for us to share it with the international sailing community. These windsurfing Youth Worlds are the first sailing world championships to visit Clearwater, but everyone is taking notice and more world-level sailing competitions are in the wings,” Samson said.
SEMINOLE - As a Seminole High School baseball player, Brett Phillips knew there were three things he needed to turn his dream of playing professionally into a reality: hard work, focus and commitment.
So while his friends were distracted by parties and girls, the 2012 grad focused more on hitting the gym and practicing, sometimes six days a week.
“In high school, I stayed away from partying,” he said. “I felt like all that stuff would potentially hold me back.”
It certainly paid off for him. Upon graduation, Phillips was a sixth-round draft pick by the Houston Astros and only one of three high school players in the country drafted by a professional team in 2012.
Three seasons later, he not only has a 2014 championship ring, which he won with the Lancaster JetHawks, the Astros’ High A advanced minor league team in California, he also was named the franchise’s Minor League Player of the Year.
“I had no clue I would win that award,” he said.
In fact, he learned about the award not long after Lancaster’s championship win.
BELLEAIR - The town of Belleair has a new Police Chief. Bill Sohl was sworn in by Mayor Gary Katica Oct. 7 at the commission meeting.
Sohl takes over from former Chief Tom Edwards, who resigned in mid-September after a report found that morale in the department was low because of his management style. Attempts to fix the issue didn’t take root because Edwards decided to resign just days after meeting with Town Manager Micah Maxwell to try to solve the problem.
Edwards said at the time it was clear some officers would be unable to get past the morale issue and for the sake of the good of the department he should resign.
Sohl, for the past seven years, was Edwards’ lieutenant. The two worked together on the St. Petersburg police force for more than 30 years. When Edwards got the job as chief in Belleair, the first person he called to be his number two was Sohl.
Upon Edwards’ resignation Maxwell appointed Sohl interim chief, then chief.
Also sworn in at the meeting was the new lieutenant of the Department, Officer Jeff Wolfe. Wolfe, chosen by Sohl for the job, has been on the Belleair force for the past three years. Prior to that he served nine years on St. Pete force and before that had a 29-year career as a wildlife officer with the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. He was deputy chief of that department.
ST. PETE BEACH - A new, revitalized fresh market opened Oct. 5 along the Corey Avenue business district.
The market, called Corey Avenue Sunday Market on St. Pete Beach, offers a variety of produce, cheeses, baked breads, dried fruits and nuts, plants, pottery, arts and crafts, and food truck vendors Sundays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., through the end of May.
The market is a partnership between the Corey Area Business Association and Tampa Bay Markets Inc., a local company that puts together six fresh markets in the Tampa Bay area. The addition of Tampa Bay Markets into the equation gives the market more vendors and variety than in the past when the market was operated solely by CABA.
“The vendors here today are scheduled for the whole season,” said Tiffany Ferrecchia, operations director for Tampa Bay Markets. “We still have 10 spots to fill, but we’re only going to put in what the market needs.”
She said that would probably be meats, fresh chickens, eggs and space for farmers to sell their fresh goods.
CLEARWATER - The last award at the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce’s 62nd annual meeting and awards breakfast Sept. 25 was an unexpected surprise to its recipient.
“I know this honor will come as a surprise to him, especially since we tricked him by getting him to come here to give the invocation,” said chamber Chairman Jim Rivenbark. “He is one of the most recognized and experienced volunteers in the history of the Largo Police Department. All totaled, he has contributed more than 16,000 volunteer hours to the citizens of Largo.”
The honoree was the Rev. J. Arnold Johnson, Largo police chaplain.
“I’m speechless,” he said when he had reached the podium. “This can’t be real, but it is.”
Johnson boarded a bus to Hollywood after graduating high school in New York in 1948. However, at age 17, he attended a Billy Graham rally in Modesto, California, decided to give his life to God and returned to New York to pursue a degree in theology at Nyack College, where he met his wife of 63 years, Mary.
“We have loved Largo (and) decided after almost 40 years pastoring five churches that we would stay in a place we loved: Largo,” Johnson said.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - It is all about helping people who need it. That is why two men have left Indian Rocks Beach on an epic journey by foot. They are walking to California.
Indian Rocks Beach resident Sam Leonard, 72, and his friend Al Blake, 74 of Sarasota say they are determined to make the 2,700-mile journey no matter how long it takes. Leonard was particularly descriptive about the time it might take.
“I think it is going to be like having a baby,” he said. “It will take about nine months. If we really hurry we might make it in six months.”
He did say that if some typically cold weather hits by the time they get to west Texas they might have to take a break.
“Sometimes it gets so cold there it can affect your skin. We can’t walk in weather like that. If a long term cold snap hits we might come back home and resume the walk later,” he said.
However it plays out Leonard says they will complete the journey, which is important because of the cause they are helping.
CLEARWATER - Thousands of spectators lined Clearwater Beach, both on shore and in boats on the water, to watch the Clearwater Super Boat National Championship Sunday, Sept. 28, after a weekend full of other fun and entertainment.
With the top boats reaching over 100 miles per hour, these aren’t your typical boat races. The following is a list of the results:
Superboat Unlimited Class
- Miss Geico took first, reaching top speeds of 104.3 miles per hour, and averaging 98.96 miles per hour. The boat completed the 68-mile course in 41 minutes, 14 seconds.
- Lucas Oil Silverhook took second place by mere seconds, sliding in just behind Miss Geico at 41 minutes 21 seconds. Its top speed per lap was 91.1 miles per hour and averaged 87.06 miles per hour.
Superboat Extreme Class
- Hooters Instigator easily won first in this race, completing the 40-mile course in 27 minutes and 39 seconds with an average speed of 86.8 miles per hour.
- Twisted Metal Motorsports came in second, only completing 24 miles at an average of 73.34 miles per hour.
- Stihl came in first with a top speed of 103.6-mile-per-hour lap and averaging 103.09 miles per hour. The driver completed the 76-mile course in 44 minutes and 14 seconds.
Demonic decorations herald the haunting season: Halloween will soon be upon us!
Bewitched and bedeviled, Pinellas residents busily prepare their costumes, stockpile sweets and seek out some of the area’s most terrifying Halloween happenings.
During this creepy season, communities throughout Pinellas and around the Tampa Bay area play host to horrifying haunted houses, fiendishly fun festivals and tantalizing trick-or-treating. With such a variety of activities, there’s plenty to do for the adult crowd as well as all the little ghouls and goblins.
LARGO - Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a crane accident at 9142 Dream Way in unincorporated Largo about 11:35 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 19.
According to the sheriff’s report, no one was injured, but a home and four vehicles sustained damage.
Deputies said Danny Tomas of Sustainable Tree Service was using a heavy-duty crane to remove a tree, which was damaged during a storm earlier in the week, on the property of Melinda Jenkins, 50, at 9115 Dream Way. When the crane began to tip over, Tomas was able to jump off and avoid injury.
Pinellas County’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment fell 0.6 percent in September, going from 6.4 percent in August to 5.8 percent in September, according to the Oct. 17 report from Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
Unemployment in September 2013 was 6.8 percent.
The state’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate also declined from 6.7 percent in August to 6.1 percent in September. The state reported an unemployment rate of 7 percent in September 2013.
Loggerhead turtle nest numbers remain high and leatherback turtle nesting reached a new record in 2014, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission research scientists.
“Sea turtles face many important threats at sea and on land, which need to be addressed for the recovery of these charismatic and endangered species, but the results of the 2014 nesting season in Florida are encouraging and provide a positive outlook for the future,” said research scientist Simona Ceriani.
ST. PETE BEACH - City commissioners ended a three-month search for a new city manager Oct. 14 when they selected Wayne Saunders, a former city manger in Clermont.
After three ballots, the St. Pete Beach City Commission voted unanimously to have executive recruiter with Colin Baenziger and Associates offer the position to Saunders. Commissioners also voted unanimously to give City Attorney Andrew Dickman the authority to begin initial contract discussions.
Commissioners expressed hope that Saunders, who is not currently working, could be on the job as soon as possible.
Saunders was one of five finalists for the position that was vacated when former City Manager Mike Bonfield was fired in March. After one-on-one interviews last week, commissioners said it was clear Saunders was the choice.