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IT'S OFFICIAL: NORMAN IS RUNNING

Jim Norman said he wasn't running for office, even as he distributed old campaign literature to homes outside his County Commission district last month. Now the Carrollwood Republican has filed paperwork allowing him to raise and spend campaign money. He said he is running for a countywide seat on the commission after eight years of representing District 2. Term limits prevent him from running for that seat again.

The paperwork was filed on the same day the Times revealed that Norman distributed old campaign material in Valrico without a campaign account. His commission aide often accompanies Norman during work hours as he distributes taxpayer financed door-hangers to get public feedback. The aide, Ben Kelly, is also Norman's campaign treasurer, records show.

Norman called the timing coincidental. He said he filed for office around the Fourth of July holiday the last time he ran. Norman is running for the countywide seat held by Republican Chris Hart, who also is barred from running because of term limits.

Norman said Kelly likely will accompany him on future, campaign-related neighborhood tours, but only after hours or on weekends.

RANCHER, YBOR PATRIARCH SAM LETO DIES _ Sam D. Leto, an Ybor City patriarch who raised palomino horses in Citrus Park, died Thursday while in surgery at St. Joseph's Hospital to repair a heart valve. He was 76. He had been in declining health for months and in the hospital the past few weeks, said his daughter, Mary Leto Granell.

Mr. Leto was born in Ybor City and his father served on the board of directors of the Italian Club. Mr. Leto served in the Marines during World War II and worked as a stunt man on locally filmed movies in the '50s. He moved to Citrus Park about 30 years ago.

In 1994, the Ybor City Round Table created the Sam D. Leto Award for the person who has done the most to promote Ybor City. The first year, Mr. Leto received the award for the effort he put toward bringing a statue honoring immigrants to Centennial Park.

In addition to his daughter, Leto is survived by his wife of 50 years, Nina; and three grandchildren, Jamie Granell Jr., 19, Sam-Anthony Granell, 15, and Francesca Granell, 11.

SLAIN OFFICER REMEMBERED IN CITRUS PARK _ Relatives of Lois Marrero, the Tampa Police officer gunned down in South Tampa on July 6, attended a tree-planting ceremony Thursday near her home in Fawn Ridge. As volunteers planted a white magnolia, Marrero's sister, Brenda Ayoub, led her 2-year-old daughter to the tree to toss in a small handful of dirt.

"It helps in some ways but not in others," Ayoub told reporters after the ceremony. But "my mother lives near here and will drive by, continually seeing it."

They planted the tree on the grounds of Citrus Park Elementary School because Marrero, just 15 months shy of retirement, planned to spend her free time working outdoors and with children. The tree was planted on the west side of the historic Little Red School House and was ringed with colorful annuals.

"I went to the nursery and picked the prettiest tree," said David Bright, a Home Depot employee who suggested a tree in the officer's memory. "I said, "Let's show the community that we share the love she had for the kids.' "

Marrero was shot twice by Nester DeJesus, 25, who later killed himself during a standoff with police.

USF FORCED TO SETTLE IN ART SUIT _ State insurance officials forced the University of South Florida to settle a lawsuit by a student who sued after a sexually explicit photograph was shown during an art class, USF said Thursday.

In a statement to reassure faculty members that the university was committed to academic freedom, USF officials said the state's Division of Risk Management overruled the university's desire to fight the lawsuit.

The decision to settle "was based strictly on a business analysis," the statement said.

Graduate assistant Derek Washington showed the photograph of himself appearing to have sex with a woman as part of a class discussion on controversial art in September 1999. Students were forewarned that some images planned for the discussion might be offensive and told they could miss the class, Washington said.

Student Nicole Ferry saw the image as pornography and filed a federal sexual harassment lawsuit against the university, Washington and art instructor Diane Elmeer.

USF agreed in May to settle with Ferry for $25,000.

NORTHDALE WOMAN DROWNS _ An 80-year-old woman apparently drowned in her backyard pool early Friday, Hillsborough County Sheriff officials said. Helen Gibson was found floating in the swimming pool at 4117 Summerdale Drive about 2 a.m. by her husband of 59 years, Wilkes Gibson. Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene.

"She was very nice, a sweet lady," said neighbor Carolyn Battaglia. "I used to see her all the time in Publix. And they were ushers at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. I used to see them there with their black and white suits on."

TBPAC volunteer coordinator Gloria Heath said the Gibsons "were really a nice couple, both of them. She was just really sweet and always very helpful."

Wilkes Gibson described his wife as a lifelong overachiever. "She was the first in her family born in the U.S. Her family came here from Poland," he said. "When she went to school the first day she couldn't speak English. When she graduated, she was the valedictorian in her class and made the highest marks in that high school that anyone has ever made."

They met near Mrs. Gibson's hometown of Gardner, Mass., when Wilkes Gibson was stationed at nearby Fort Devens. They married on Valentine's Day in 1942. Gibson said his wife had suffered heart problems recently and high blood pressure. Early this month doctors performed quadruple bypass surgery. "She tried to live every day like it was the last one," Gibson said.

Mrs. Gibson is survived by two children, Linda Wilson of Temple Terrace and Sonny Gibson of Southern Pines, N.C.; three sisters and two brothers; and four grandchildren.

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