OLDSMAR — For nearly 40 years, the pea-green and yellow seal has been the official emblem of this community of about 14,000.
It is etched in the glass at City Hall, hoisted above the council dais and splashed across flags, letterheads and city-owned vehicles.
But as Oldsmar prepares for its centennial in 2013, city leaders want a new look. They want to retire the current symbol and create something more identifiable and reflective of the city's automotive past.
They say nothing depicted in the current rendition distinguishes it from any other Florida municipality. The seal contains birds, palm trees, water, the sun — but nothing that is distinctive to Oldsmar.
"It looks like everybody else's seal," said Vice Mayor Jerry Beverland, who pushed for the current logo in 1971 and is pushing for the new one now. "I'm proud of that seal, but it's out of date. Who wants to be associated with a palm tree and a seagull? That was old Florida. We're not old Florida. We are a city with a definite identified history."
A 1901 Curved Dash Oldsmobile similar to the one Oldsmar purchased in 2003 figures prominently in the proposed redesign, which pays homage to the city's founder, automotive pioneer R.E. Olds. In 1913, he paid $400,000 for 37,541 acres on Tampa Bay's northern tip that he envisioned would swell into a bustling farm and industrial community of 100,000 people.
It didn't grow as fast as he had planned, and there were just 200 people there when he sold off his properties in 1935. Still, longtime residents are proud to tout their city's connection to the automaker.
"I've lived in this city for a long time," said Suda Yantiss-Colon, the graphic artist whose design the council is now considering. "The icon is the 1901 Oldsmobile."
Other features included in the redesign are the pier at R.E. Olds Park and a new red, white and blue color scheme.
"The current seal is very clean, pristine, generic," said Yantiss-Colon, who also chairs the city's cultural affairs advisory board. "The new seal is warm, real and depicts a physical place that's inviting with a great history."
Yantiss-Colon's interpretation has not been approved, but the City Council on Tuesday took the first step toward formally adopting it. Without much discussion, the council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance to adopt the seal. The ordinance will go through a second and final reading, which will probably be scheduled for the Oct. 20 meeting.
"I think the seal is great," City Council member Doug Bevis said. "I think the Oldsmobile should have been on there long ago."
It wasn't an oversight on the original artist's part, Beverland said. In the 1970s, nobody knew anything about Oldsmar. "The Olds family didn't know Oldsmar existed before we contacted them in the late 1990s," he said.
How much it will cost to put up the new seal around town has not been determined.
In addition to the signs at City Hall, the old symbol is featured on welcome signs in the medians of Forest Lakes Boulevard, Tampa Road, Curlew Road and State Road 580.
Mayor Jim Ronecker said that given the recession, the city has no intention of spending a bunch of money swapping out the current emblem for the proposed one. Instead, Oldsmar would slowly phase it in over a five- to seven-year period as the city runs out of business cards and letterheads.
"It's just like a new pair of shoes," Beverland said. "It's going to cost some money, but it's going to shine a lot better than the ones you got on now. And you'll make a better impression."
Rodney Thrash can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4167.