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Oldsmar race a matter of style

Published Oct. 6, 2005

As far as the issues are concerned, rivals Richard Schauseil and Tom Pinta often have struck similar notes in their campaigns.

So for the voters, the decision to elect one of them to council Seat 3 on Tuesday could hinge on the candidates' personal differences, not their political ones.

Even the surface differences are striking.

Pinta is 78 and has been retired for more than two decades. Both his sons are older than his opponent. With two terms as a council member and two as a mayor under his belt, he is regarded by his supporters as a learned veteran.

The youngest of Schauseil's four children is an infant. Schauseil, 42, works two jobs and attends college. He has never before run for office, but has applied for two committees. His backers herald him as a forward thinker with fresh ideas.

Pinta has said several times that he is still able to serve another term on the City Council. With his membership in several organizations for seniors, he has been described by others as an vibrant champion of the elderly.

"I hope when I get to 78 I can be as big a pain in the butt as Tom Pinta," said Mayor Jerry Provenzano.

Pinta recently was the chairman of the Electric Utility Review Board. He formed the city's Over 55 club in 1987. He is on the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council's Agency on Aging.

"His energy is overwhelming," said council member Jerry Beverland, the current occupant of Seat 3. "There's not a bottom end to it."

Still, a few people have dubbed Pinta too old for another stab at city government, said former council member Loretta Wyandt. She disagrees with that assumption.

"I don't think age should have anything to do with it. I'm 63 and I'm still in the work force," said Wyandt, a real estate agent. "His health seems to be all right. How much energy do you need to sit up there a couple of hours?"

Pinta has a reputation for being as opinionated as he is energetic. He enthusiastically embraces that description.

"I'm willing to offer an opinion and not worry about how somebody's going to take it," Pinta said. "One good thing about being opinionated is you're not a sheep."

Schauseil's resume suggests he's no slacker in the energy department, either.

But can a man who is pursuing a chemistry degree at USF, running a construction business in Miami, working as a real estate agent and raising a family take on a City Council seat, too? Schauseil's friends say yes.

"He's a man of enormous capacity. He could easily do it," said Schauseil's friend, John Doble. Doble has known Schauseil for five years and bought a home in Odessa from him. Schauseil's baby daughter, Victoria, was named after Doble's wife.

Schauseil's cool-headedness helps him juggle multiple duties, said Bob Rogan, a fellow real estate agent at the Polo Group.

"Many times in this business, things get hectic," Rogan said. "Richard is not someone to overreact. Each thing has its own crisis level at times and it takes a level-headed person to handle all of that."

Schauseil said he likes being busy.

"I'm just a very active person and consider life as something of an adventure."

Schauseil's supporters say he is creative and visionary. Even people who don't know him suggest that a different face might be just what the City Council needs.

"There's no new life being breathed into the city of Oldsmar," said resident Dion Weaver, who became the city's first black City Council candidate three years ago. He dropped out of the race due to other obligations. "It's the same people just doing the same things. It's like a revolving type of door."

"I think he (Schauseil) brings a fresh viewpoint that the voters would like," said Wyandt, who is a member of the Greater Clearwater Association of Realtors. The group, which held a candidate forum last month, recommended Schauseil. "If he wins, I think he'd be an asset. He's got new ideas. Maybe the council needs that."

Said Doble: "Anyone that knows Richard would vote for him.'

Schauseil's main obstacle may be that many locals don't know him. He said he has met more than 600 Oldsmar residents by walking through neighborhoods to chat with people about their concerns. But some still regard him as an unknown, especially in light of Pinta's firm entrenchment.

"I know nothing about him. He hasn't been active in anything," Beverland said of Schauseil. "I can't even pronounce the guy's last name."

It's pronounced Shah-SELL.

Beverland said he isn't rooting for either candidate but is more comfortable with his knowledge of Pinta's background.

"Right now, he's the only one that knows the city," Beverland said. "If he is elected, he won't have to sit there a year and try to find out what's going on. Would I have to support somebody like that? Yes."

"I'm sure once he (Schauseil) learns the city he would do a good job, too."

Though she is impressed with Schauseil, Wyandt conceded that his newness is a handicap.

"It's going to be kind of hard for a newcomer to beat somebody everybody knows," Wyandt said.

Schauseil is aware of his underdog status. But he said he is confident that positive word of mouth will earn him votes.

"This stuff is what gives me goosebumps _ people that fight against the odds and succeed anyway," he said. "I like good competition. I've got a good race."