Today we welcome Largo readers to the Neighborhood Times family.
Those readers will now receive an edition of Neighborhood Times that focuses on news from Largo, Seminole, Pinellas Park, Kenneth City and surrounding communities.
The change will help us give people in the communities north and west of St. Petersburg a meatier presentation of news, features, photos and advertising.
Nestled in the heart of Pinellas County, Largo is the county's third-largest city with a population of 73,215, according to 2009 census figures.
It is also where crucial decisions about schools, county parks, pets, public safety and public transportation are made since it is the home of the Pinellas County School District, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and the county's parks and recreation, animal control and EMS departments.
Over the years, Largo also has been a hotbed of news and entertainment. City politics is rarely dull. When a former city manager announced he was planning to become a woman, the debate — and his ouster — made national news. More recently, the Largo City Commission has debated a proposal to ban hiring anyone who uses tobacco products.
For the past three years, models celebrating Earth Day have donned outfits created from bottle caps, cereal boxes, dryer sheets and hamburger wrappers for Largo's Trashy Fashion Show. "The Tonne Playhouse glittered in garbage and the debris was absolutely gorgeous,'' we reported in April.
Largo also is home to Eight O'Clock Theatre, a community theater group that has survived and thrived despite the dismal economy, and Heritage Village, the county's 21-acre living history museum.
For the past three weeks, I've wandered around the city's landmarks and picturesque parks. I also got a quick tour of the popular Largo Cultural Center.
Jean Bridges, who works in the box office, was like a walking chamber of commerce for the city and the center. The Boston native beamed as she talked about the center and some of the people who frequent it. From weddings to performers to residents attending performances on their sick beds, she painted a picture of why residents love the city's bustling complex, which offers arts, culture and recreation.
Other municipalities could learn from Largo and its city planners. Central Park Drive, in the heart of the city, meanders along beautiful vistas at the 70-acre Central Park, the Largo Public Library and the Cultural Center.
And while it doesn't rival the new Dalí Museum and upgrades to the Mahaffey Theater in downtown St. Petersburg, the complex offers a glimpse at the popularity of resident-focused amenities. Sure, tourism is a huge part of the economy in much of Pinellas, but it's not the only thing driving it.
The organizers of the Old Northwest Community Garden in Largo could share the secrets of their success with similar groups in the Bartlett Park and Historic Kenwood neighborhoods in St. Petersburg.
The city of St. Petersburg, where attendance lags at some city swimming pools, would be wise to take a look at the Highland Family Aquatic Center at 401 Highland Ave. NE, which earlier this year drew more than 430 visitors in two days.
It's too bad that Largo has no nuggets of wisdom to offer about the Pier or BayWalk.
Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at email@example.com or at (727) 893-8874.