LUTZ — The evidence of Kevin Wright's successful campaign to become Lutz Guv'na is all around Splash! An Ocean Grille, the restaurant where he is a partner.
Customers paid to have their portraits drawn and hung on the walls. The restaurant also sold naming rights to menu items, leading to some interesting new entrees, such as the "Linky Drinky After Dinner Drinky" beverage and "Steve's Scrumptious Soothing Succulent and Serious Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail."
Wright beat out three other candidates by raising the most money, $6,286.51, to earn the title of Guv'na. He said his long-standing Lutz ties helped keep him ahead of the pack.
"I think I had the advantage because I've been in this community for a long time and I had a great wealth of friends that have helped out," he said.
The Guv'na's race is one of the highlights of the town's annual Fourth of July celebration, which took place Monday and included a 5K race down Lutz Lake Fern Road, parade, barbecue and cake auction.
"Overall, it was a fun day and lots and lots of families were there," Lutz Civic Association member Eleanor Cecil said.
After a couple of down years in fundraising, the Guv'na's race netted more money this year. More candidates this year planned large-scale events, Cecil said, and an improving economy might also have helped.
Candidate Annette Bellingar raised $5,110. Mitchell Smithey and Sheila Tramontana collected $938.08 and $910, respectively.
By comparison, last year's winner raised about $3,100. In 2008, the winning candidate raised about $17,000 and the total haul was more than $27,000.
The total raised this year, $13,244.59, will be made available to Lutz-area schools and nonprofits. Groups interested in applying for a grant can contact Cecil at email@example.com or (813) 727-7549.
Tia Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3405.