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Panel will decide how to honor King

(ran West, Seminole editions)

The city of Largo approved a committee last week to help create a memorial to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Largo Central Park.

City officials and residents said Largo had made a solid step toward racial tolerance.

"I have hope in the city that we're moving forward," said Rodney Woods, a black Largo resident and a committee member. "The city has made this official."

For months, the city struggled to name a street after the slain civil rights leader, but the process stalled as some people resisted the idea and those who supported it could not agree on which street.

Efforts to name a street for King also alienated neighboring Ridgecrest, a predominantly black unincorporated area. Largo is 2 percent black.

"Hopefully, it won't be as divisive. If you get a lot of creative people to think outside of the box, that's going to be a positive step," City Manager Steve Stanton said.

"Anybody can just tack up a street name on a sign. It's making it relevant to a community that is not a minority community," Stanton said.

Committee member Anne Scofield, who trains teachers for Pinellas County schools, said she has been reading about King and his speeches and writings.

"I hope it gives us the opportunity to have a wonderful place to be reflective and think about American history, where we came from and where we are today."

The committee will have three months to brainstorm on the memorial's design, location and its name. The city will provide $15,000 from its general fund and will encourage contributions.

Woods said he wants to incorporate ideas from the community. Woods, who originally pushed for a street name change in a high-traffic part of town, said his hopes for Largo were never really about the street. They were about honoring King, the man.

Bettie Shue got pulled into the committee mix because, years ago, she won a contest to name Central Park Drive, one of the streets that had been under consideration for renaming.

She said she likes the idea of the memorial being an educational landmark .

Other committee members are: Beth Darnell, Wanda McCawthan, J.B. Butler and the Rev. J. Arnold Johnson.

Largo Recreation, Parks and Arts director Joan Byrne, parks superintendent Greg Brown and city buyer Joan Wheaton will be advisers.

_ Lorri Helfand can be reached at 445-4155 or at lorrisptimes.com.

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