The notable events of the past year in the southern portion of mid Pinellas were as varied as the communities that comprise the area. Some of the happenings were so bizarre they got international attention.
Ducks dominate again: For Kenneth City, the year began the way the previous one had ended — with feathers flying over ducks. The Town Council tried again to outlaw the feeding of ducks and other wildlife on private property. The monthslong battle ended with a compromise that permitted duck feeding unless it became a nuisance.
Several weeks later the controversial Muscovies started dying off. Duck lovers were convinced the downy critters were victims of foul play.
But town officials said no, the creatures fell prey to duck viral enteritis, also known as DVE, or duck plague. After necropsies, the verdict was in: The ducks died of natural causes. DVE had run through the flocks.
Mayor has lung transplant: In Seminole, Mayor Jimmy Johnson underwent a lung transplant. It was the only cure for pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive disease he had been diagnosed with in late 2007. Johnson never lost his cheerful outlook and vowed to become an advocate for organ donations.
Late in the year, Johnson, who is also executive director of the Greater Seminole Area Chamber of Commerce, again underwent surgery for the removal of three benign tumors in his colon. He returned to his council duties in time for the Dec. 23 meeting and said he hoped that would be the last of the surgeries.
Johnson, still incurably optimistic, said, "I'll be able to rejuvenate, revive and get back to my old self. ... I do anticipate that '09 is going to be a fabulous year and I will shine in Zero Nine."
Palms from afar cause a stir: Pinellas Park had one of its moments in the spotlight because of a Park Boulevard beautification project. Ignoring the local palm trees, city officials imported 14 Medjool date palms from Arizona to line the median of Park from roughly 58th Street N to 66th Street N.
The cost of the project — $89,040, or about $6,360 per tree.
Taxpayers were not the only ones unhappy. The palm closest to the city's faux train station has lost frond after frond until, a week before Christmassee cover photo), it resembled the sad little tree in the vintage Charlie Brown holiday special.
Community officers saved: Activists in unincorporated Lealman were successful in heading off a cost-saving move by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office that would have decimated the community police officer program. After a flurry of protests, the area got to keep its CPOs and even benefited from a drug sting to help clean up one of the neighborhoods.
Water taxing district may face sunset in Pinellas Park: As the year drew to an end, it appeared activists in Lealman and other unincorporated areas around Pinellas Park might get another wish — the elimination of the Pinellas Park Water Management District. The Pinellas Legislative delegation, to the dismay of the district and of Pinellas Park, appeared poised to allow voters to decide if they want to sunset the 35-year-old agency that was created to collect taxes to solve drainage problems in a portion of mid Pinellas.
Unclothed backseat passenger causes wreck: Not all news from Pinellas Park, Kenneth City, Lealman and Seminole was soberly serious.
In August, a driver ran the light at Seminole and Park boulevards causing a five-car wreck. She told deputies she was distracted when the passenger in her back seat moaned or groaned and she turned to see if everything was okay.
The passenger was fine physically. She just wasn't wearing any clothes.
News organizations from around the globe picked up the story.