BRANDON — Every year on the morning of July 4, the candidates for honorary mayor of Brandon gather at Lee Elam's law office.
Each candidate presents a check with proceeds from hosting a month of fundraising events to benefit local charities. Elam announces the highest fundraiser as the new mayor on his marquee sign at Lumsden Road and Parsons Avenue. By 10 a.m., thousands of people line the surrounding streets for the annual Independence Day parade.
The honorary mayor's race and the parade are put on by the Community Roundtable, a nonprofit organization formerly known as the Presidents' Roundtable. The group, which once consisted only of presidents of local organizations, works with charities and businesses to promote community service.
A Brandon tradition for a half century, the parade will take place Saturday. Little is new about the parade, but the organization behind it aims to transform into a younger version of itself.
Leaders of the Roundtable, which began in the 1950s, decided last fall that some changes were necessary to keep the organization afloat in the future.
First, the group needed to open its doors to more locals. So the Roundtable changed its bylaws, allowing individuals to join, as well as companies and other nonprofits.
But now comes the hard part: getting a younger generation to step in and help take the Roundtable in a new direction, one that hasn't yet been determined.
"We want to get new members in there, new energy, new vitality," said Janine Nickerson, vice president of the Roundtable. Nickerson has been involved with the Roundtable for a decade and hopes to attract a younger crowd of 20-, 30- and 40-somethings.
The original intent of the Roundtable, she said, was to help Brandon grow while developing a small-town feel. Now that growth seems to have peaked, leaders aim to set new goals and expand membership.
Along with holding the parade and the mayor's race, the Roundtable presents an annual Father of the Year award and holds a community affairs dinner.
The average age of Roundtable members is 55, said Elam, the organization's 70-year-old president. Some, he said, are closer to his age.
Four former members who played significant roles with the Roundtable and in the parade have died since last summer. All were elderly, leaving Elam to recognize the need for a new wave of members.
"You have to be thinking about moving forward by getting all the participation you can," he said, adding that only a couple of people in their 20s joined the Roundtable since it restructured last year. Overall, the group has about 50 members.
In an effort to appeal to busy young adults, Nickerson stressed that the jobs new members can take on don't have to be overly time consuming. Some tasks are as simple as organizing parade entrance applications or reserving convertibles for the festivity.
The Roundtable might not have to look far to find a younger crowd of community leaders. Young Professionals Brandon, a networking group through the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce, has about 120 members. The youngest members are in their 20s. The oldest are 40-somethings.
With the Roundtable's membership in the Chamber, a partnership with YP Brandon seems logical, Nickerson said. She's received interest from YP Brandon members at Chamber events, but none have signed on yet.
Aubrey Primrose, one of YP Brandon's founders and a former advertising sales executive at the Times, said a partnership is possible. But she thinks there needs to be a bigger push from the Roundtable's end.
"I think potentially there's a good opportunity for young professionals to get involved with the Roundtable," Primrose said. "It's probably the responsibility of the Roundtable to get the word out, as to what they do, a little better."
Once the parade ends, Roundtable leaders will focus their efforts on attracting new members, Nickerson said. They hope to launch a Web site by the end of July and plan to hold speaking events to make their presence more visible.
"We've got to reinvent ourselves," Nickerson said, "is really what it basically boils down to."
Kevin Smetana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2439.