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Column | Billie Smith

Honorary mayor's race a charity fundraiser

It seems to come earlier every year. I think it's just that I'm getting older and summers come too quickly after an all too brief spring. The Fourth of July, with its blistering heat and afternoon thunderstorm, arrives right on time at the end of a grueling month of charity fundraising events in the Brandon area.

Hardworking, community-minded folks will throw themselves against the heat and the effects of an uncooperative economy to separate citizens from their money between May 31 and July Fourth to help elect a new honorary mayor of Brandon.

"Elect" in this case means the candidate raising the most money — every dollar is a vote — wins the race. In 2006, I won the race by raising almost $17,000. If I knew in May 2006 what I found out that June, I probably would have taken a loan out of my 401(k) to avoid all the hard work. Well, maybe not.

Brandon has had an honorary mayor's race since 1959, when Nat Storms was "elected." The Presidents' Roundtable Charities runs the race and takes 10 percent of each candidate's fundraising proceeds to produce the Fourth of July Parade.

Of the remaining money, 10 percent goes to the nonprofit group that sponsors the candidate and 80 percent goes to three charities in the Brandon area selected by each candidate prior to running.

For as long as I can remember, the funds have been tallied at Brandon's oldest law firm with longtime lawyer B. Lee Elam hovering somewhere nearby.

Candidates and spouses, campaign chairs, and the Presidents' Roundtable chairman and treasurer are usually all there waiting to find out who raised the most money.

It used to take some time to add up all the cash and checks, but now the process has been streamlined: one check is written from each candidate's campaign to the Presidents' Roundtable for the entire amount. The Roundtable then writes checks to the charities on behalf of each candidate and their sponsoring organization.

Past honorary mayors include Becky Jordan and Ryan Odiorne, both Brandon natives who used their connections to raise more than $50,000; the late James Young, who lived in Brandon for 30 years and raised $75,000; accountant Vince Ferraro; Anne Nymark, business owner and president of the Greater Brandon Community Foundation and lawyer Clif Curry.

The current honorary mayor is George May, president and owner of American Investment Advisors.

Candidates keeping the tradition alive this year are Tammy Holmberg, co-owner of the Chick-fil-A on Causeway Boulevard, and Jake Piascik, co-owner of Dream Limousine and Anytime Taxi. Holmberg has a '50s theme for her campaign, a nod to the 50th anniversary of the Presidents' Roundtable Fourth of July celebration and her own 50th birthday in June.

Her events flier features a patriotic button that simply says, "Vote". In keeping with her theme, she hopes to raise $50,000.

Piascik's campaign theme — "Jake in 08" — is less subtle than Holmberg's.

What's his fundraising goal? He wants to raise enough to win and has events lined up that delicately dodge the days of Holmberg's events.

Holmberg's charities are the YMCA, Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association and the Dream Factory of Florida. Piascik has chosen ECHO (Emergency Care Help Organization), the Trey Curry Foundation and A Kid's Place, an emergency shelter for children.

Holmberg holds her first event Monday evening at FishHawk Ranch with a $50 per person "Taste of Italy" dinner and auction.

That will be closely followed by a "Taste of Summer" food vendor sampling on Thursday, which will set you back a mere $15 at the Brandon Sports & Aquatic Center. She has scheduled five more events after that.

Piascik jump starts his busy month with a "Rock the Race" party featuring an evening of music, dancing, food and fun at the Barn on Bloomingdale Avenue.

A $25 ticket gets you a drink and some heavy finger foods so you can dance until you drop. His next event is June 13 at the ground-breaking of A Kids' Place. Like Holmberg, Piascik has an additional five events.

If you want to donate directly to either — or both — campaigns, give the candidates a call.

Holmberg can be reached at (813) 727-0749 and Piascik will take your money at (813) 662-7300.

Now here's something interesting: Both candidates are sponsored by local Rotary clubs. Rotarians are always up for a good contest.

Holmberg is sponsored by Brandon South Rotary; a small but determined club with a feisty president, Irma Davila, who is a Times employee. Piascik is sponsored by my club, Brandon '86 Rotary, which bills itself as "The Best Rotary Club in the Whole Wide World." Sounds like fun.

Billie Smith is the general manager of the Brandon & South Shore Times. She can be reached at (813) 661-2438 or bsmith@sptimes.com.

Honorary mayor's race a charity fundraiser 05/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 29, 2008 4:30am]
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