TAMPA — Campaigns often draw the crusaders, but in Hillsborough County, they are the Tampa Catholic High School Crusaders.
Exhibit A: Doug Belden Jr., Class of 1972. Tax collector.
Exhibit B: Craig Latimer, Class of 1970. Elections supervisor.
Exhibit C: Bob Henriquez, Class of 1982. Property appraiser.
"We're taking over the world," Henriquez said, having fun.
Smell a conspiracy, Sheriff David Gee of Brandon High? Get this on the record, Clerk Pat Frank of Rosarian Academy: Tuesday's vote left Tampa Catholic alumni in charge of three key Hillsborough County offices.
Holy political trinity. A coup? From a high school with an enrollment of 688?
Alumni director Rosalyn Rodriguez (Class of 1973) was among the first to notice the auspicious activity. Republican Belden was unopposed. Democrat Latimer faced Republican Rich Glorioso. Democrat Henriquez would defeat Republican Ronda Storms.
"I really can't remember a time when Tampa Catholic was so represented in the elections," the alumni director said.
She wrote them up in alumni newsletters, recognizing, too, the local and state bids of Grant Rimbey (Class of 1982), Rob Wallace (Class of 1970), Cheri Rowe Donohue (Class of 1967) and Joe Jordan-Robinson (Class of 1972). Among those, Rimbey won a seat on Temple Terrace City Council.
It was all a nice birthday gift for a Central Tampa school that turned 50 in September on a campus that abuts the Hillsborough River.
In five decades, the school had turned out lives that mirrored Tampa in most every way — among them, doctors, lawyers, police officers and firefighters, drawn from families that ran bakeries and plumbing companies.
Property Appraiser-elect Henriquez, a former state representative who coaches football at Tampa Catholic, relishes an opportunity to praise the school that taught him much about life.
He notes that Monsignor Laurence Higgins has often called it "the people's school."
"You get the best of all worlds," Henriquez said. "It's a Catholic school, grounded in Judeo-Christian values. At the same time, it's very diverse in terms of the population: culturally, ethnically, economically. It's real world. It teaches you to respect and honor and understand people from different walks of life."
Public service, a road to scholarships in many schools, is required of all Tampa Catholic students, and rules specify that 50 of the 100 hours must be given to seven "corporal works of mercy," which include feeding the hungry.
Elections Supervisor-elect Latimer, now a Tampa Catholic trustee, recalls delivering meals to the needy as a teen.
"I think the school's done a great job in teaching students to pay back to the community," he said.
Tax Collector Belden said it prepared him for college and introduced him to dear friends.
He and Latimer have known each other for decades.
"Doug Belden, I used to give a ride to school to," Latimer concurred. "I made him sit in the back seat."
Belden, whose lost his father at 17, says classmates were like family. He got into politics before high school, in the late 1960s, giving a speech at 13 in a congressional race. His father was a councilman and his grandfather ran a hospital welfare board.
His early experiences meshed well with the lessons taught at school, and his respect for diversity earned political support.
He said he expects to work closely with Henriquez, though he tried to remain neutral during the election because he also considers Storms a friend.
She didn't go to Tampa Catholic, though. She graduated from Brandon High School.
That distinction didn't hurt re-elected Sheriff Gee. Of course, Gee figures he gets special dispensation because of his chief deputy.
That would be Jose Docobo.
Class of 1975.
Patty Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3382.
Class of 1970
Class of 1972
Class of 1982