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City honors chamber boss

(ran EO edition)

When Kevin Gartland accepted the position of Oldsmar Chamber of Commerce executive director about four years ago, City Council member Ed Manny was suspicious. He thought Gartland would ditch the job and be gone within a year.

"I knew his wife had relatives in the area, but I wondered about Kevin when he first came to town," said Manny. "I thought he was over-qualified. I thought he'd use the job as a stepping stone."

Unbeknownst to Manny, almost half a decade later, his fears would be laid to rest and he would find himself nominating and later presenting Gartland with the City Council/City Manager Award.

The presentation took place Jan. 18 at a City Council meeting.

Gartland found out he won the award by accident.

"I saw it on the agenda before I got my invitation," Gartland said, adding he had planned to attend the meeting regardless of whether he would be honored.

Manny is pleasantly surprised that Gartland did not bolt for a higher-profile job in a larger city, but instead has "taken the chamber to the next level."

He has acted as a liaison bringing city employees and business owners together, enhancing relations and strengthening the bond between the two.

"Ed has worked with us on the Economic Development Committee. He's seen what we've done and thinks it's working," Gartland said.

So strong is Gartland's interest in city government and business harmony that he took on the job as the Business Assistance Program specialist. The program helps small- to medium-sized companies in the city and offers counseling on contract negotiations and city ordinances.

There is a two-fold purpose for the program Gartland has called a "clearing house of information" _ to help the existing businesses succeed and attract new companies to the city.

Gartland said so far, the Business Assistance Program has gotten good reviews from business owners and city officials. He is currently helping four or five businesses.

"He has done a very good job bringing the city and the chamber together to work for the same purpose, to be a friend to the business community," Manny said.

"A lot of small businesses don't know where to start. Sometimes there isn't any help for a specific company. He gives them free advice. He has been able to lead them through the process.

"I think he likes what he does," Manny added.

Swing dance class

scheduled Feb. 17

Swing dancing in Oldsmar?

Why not?

The dance is alive and well in other places such as the Gulfport Casino in south Pinellas.

"We have 200-plus people ages 8 to 80 years old every Friday night from all over _ Brooksville, Plant City, north of Tampa," said Johnny Green, manager of the facility.

"Some come in the retro outfits with the shoes and the jackets from the 1940s. It's fun and interesting even from a spectator's point of view. The spins and the flips are interesting to watch."

One night each month, the casino hosts swing dances. They have a live band if one can be arranged.

Laure Day, Oldsmar's arts coordinator, would love it if swing dancing became as popular in Oldsmar as it is in Gulfport.

Maybe it will.

For the past several months, a swing dance and social has been held at the Oldsmar Arts Centre, giving locals a place to learn the steps without traveling far.

Beginning at 7 p.m. Feb. 17, there will be another class, led by professional dance instructor Nelson Melendez. Singles and couples are invited.

Melendez will teach for one hour. Then dancers will be able to try out their new moves during the social, with live music by the Endangered Species Band.

The class costs $10 for singles or $15 for couples. Those too shy to dance can attend for free.

Because the venue is smaller than the Gulfport Casino, only 40 dancers can comfortably take part, so making an early reservation is a good idea. Call Day at (813) 814-1562.

_ We need news for this Oldsmar column. If you have news about Oldsmar organizations, churches, schools, neighborhoods or residents, please contact Eileen Schulte at the North Pinellas Times. You may call her at (727) 445-4229, fax material to her at (727) 445-4206 or mail it to the North Pinellas Times, 34342 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor, FL 34684.

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