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College student Zachary Kurtz seeks Largo City Commission seat

Zachary Kurtz, 19, is the youngest Largo City Commission candidate in recent memory. He’s a student at St. Petersburg College.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Zachary Kurtz, 19, is the youngest Largo City Commission candidate in recent memory. He’s a student at St. Petersburg College.

LARGO — He's 19. But he doesn't want to spend his free time partying, meeting girls or hanging out at the beach.

He would rather be up on the dais at City Hall, persuading other city leaders to start a scholarship fund or find ways to reduce crime and drugs in Largo.

Then again, Zachary Kurtz doesn't drink or smoke. He has a steady girlfriend. And he baked in the sun plenty as a kid.

"It's so played out for me," said Kurtz, who is the youngest City Commission candidate in recent memory.

"I think it's safe to say he's the youngest person to run, maybe ever," said Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert, who has worked for the city for almost three decades.

George Boyd says his grandson has "got his head on straight."

But Boyd, 83, admits he was "kind of surprised" about Kurtz's plans.

You're young and nobody knows you, he warned.

"That's all right," Kurtz replied. "They will sooner or later."

Kurtz's mom, Georgia Kurtz, 47, said, "Nothing comes as a surprise when it comes to Zack. He's always marched to the beat of a different drummer."

At 16, Kurtz got a job as a drugstore cashier. He wanted to make things easier for his mom, who was raising him and his sister on her own, he said.

Now, he attends St. Petersburg College and works full-time as a shift supervisor at the same CVS on Indian Rocks Beach.

"He's got superior intelligence and he has an interest in politics," said Kurtz's boss, Mel Schwartz, 66.

Schwartz hired him four years ago when Kurtz was a foot shorter and 50 pounds lighter. Kurtz, who turns 20 next month, is now 6 foot 4 and about 230 pounds.

"We work side by side unloading trucks. He does everything that I do. He's always been the one I go to for assistance," Schwartz said.

Kurtz, who graduated from Largo High School in 2006, said his economics and psychology teacher, Rick Penberthy, inspired him. Penberthy ran for the District 5 congressional seat in 2004 and 2006.

"Even though he didn't win, he made the effort to go for it and that's what matters most," Kurtz said.

Penberthy is glad Kurtz is interested in his city, he said.

"We need more young people to get involved," Penberthy said.

Kurtz hasn't always fit in and can empathize with others who don't. That's one reason why he decided to run against Commissioner Mary Gray Black, he said.

He felt she led the charge to fire former City Manager Steve Stanton, who is now Susan.

Stanton's sex change would not have affected her work ability, he said.

"I like Commissioner Black. She loves the community and she loves the city and she's done a lot for the city, but I think that was a bad call," Kurtz said.

The city has done a lot to revamp its image over the years, but Kurtz said a lot of young people refer to Largo High and to the city itself as "Larghetto."

"I'd really like to change the image," Kurtz said. And the way to do that, he said, is to cut down on drugs and crime.

He also doesn't think city leaders should be spending money to fix the Clock Tower right now. And he would like to see commissioners put $1,000 of their salary toward a college scholarship fund for residents.

Some have told Kurtz he is too young to run, but he thinks the timing is right.

"In three years, I could be on a whole different path. While you can take this shot, you might as well," he said.

College student Zachary Kurtz seeks Largo City Commission seat 07/12/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 5:43pm]
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