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The courage of her convictions

Cam Oberting said she is proof you don't have to be a lawyer, developer or politician to make a difference in Hillsborough County.

"You simply have to believe what you are doing is right and be persistent," said Oberting, a Thonotosassa homemaker and grandmother who has spent the last 12 years fighting for a cleaner environment.

That conviction and persistence are two reasons the County Commission on Wednesday gave Oberting its first-ever Moral Courage Award.

Although she has done battle for many different projects involving environmental concerns, Oberting is best known for her efforts to prove that the county's Hillsborough Heights and Taylor Road landfills threatened area water supplies.

"She speaks of what our form of government is all about and she proves that one person can make a difference," said Commissioner Pam Iorio. "She has been a lobbyist for family values and good government."

Oberting said she first made a personal commitment to environmental causes in August 1979.

She and her husband, Leo, had just returned from a trip to Indiana when a neighbor told them the county planned to build the Taylor Road Landfill, a garbage dump, within sight of their front yard.

"I became concerned about pure water and other environmental issues involved in the garbage dump there and other places," she said.

Over the years, Oberting has monitored county cleanup activities at the landfills and repeatedly urged county officials not to expand the landfills, often arguing her case before the County Commission.

"She is a bulldog with a tenacious bite," said Commissioner Jim Selvey, smiling. "We have not always agreed, but I have always respected her drive to help protect her neighbors."

The county established the Moral Courage Award to encourage and recognize ethical conduct and moral courage by individual citizens or groups.