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Lutz will secede to honor Fourth

Those folks in Lutz have always had an independent streak. A few years ago, there was serious talk of incorporating the community into a city of its own. Then, Lutz civic activists fought and won a battle against a road planned to run through their neighborhood.

Now, while other communities across the county have taken to using the Fourth of July to stage fund-raisers and elect honorary mayors, Lutz is going one step further.

This small, semi-rural community is heading straight for secession.

And come July 4th, residents expect to have a brand new governor, or "guv'na" as they like to call it, in office.

"We wanted to do something a little different in Lutz," said Jan Smith, one of the organizers of the community's annual Fourth of July activities.

Like the honorary mayors in places such as Brandon and Keystone, the Lutz "guv'na" will be the resident who collects the most money during a fund-raising drive ending July 4th. Money will go either to a needy Lutz family or to the local volunteer fire department, which also helps organize the festivities, Smith said.

"For one day, well, we just want to be able to run Lutz the way that we want to," said Jo Van Bebber, one of the first declared candidates in the governor's race. She took the plunge into politics at the behest of fellow members in the Lutz-Land O' Lakes Women's Club.

Smith won't say who came up with the idea, only that it "came up in conversation" at a meeting of the committee planning the Fourth of July activities, which also include a parade and barbecue chicken dinner.

But given Lutz's history of arguing with county government about its ideas for the community, pretending to secede seems like a natural move.

A press release announcing the decision begins this way: "Fed up with the local politics of unwanted roads, shopping malls and power lines, the theft of water by alien governments and other insults to peaceful country life, Lutz will secede from the County of Hillsborough and the State of Florida to become the 51st state."

"I wish it were for real," said Lutz civic activist Carolyn Meeker. "It's going to be a fun thing," she said, but added, "Some of what is said in jest can be taken quite seriously."