(ran North, East editions)
It was love at first sight.
After growing up in Alabama and Georgia, backpacking around Europe and starting school at St. Petersburg College, Thomas Tatum arrived at the Saint Leo University campus last year.
"As soon as I pulled onto the campus, I saw all the palm trees, the beautiful scenery, the architecture," he said. "I loved it. I'm from a small town, where everyone's friendly.
"It just reminded me of where I'm from."
Which is why Tatum can think of no better place to launch his political career.
The 22-year-old Saint Leo student filed last week to enter the St. Leo Town Commission race.
He'll challenge Sister Donna Dewitt, a nun at Saint Leo Abbey.
"About six months ago I got the idea," he said. "I'm very interested in politics. I thought I should just take my chances and see what happens, get some experience for the future.
"I started discussing it with some of my fraternity brothers . . . and they were very supportive of it. They thought it was a nice idea. It would be nice to have a younger face on the council up here."
Thomas filed days after the political science major's birthday. It's his third semester at the school, where he's also president of his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a member of the National Political Science Honor Society Pi Sigma Alpha and a "positive role model for my friends."
He's also a Republican, but isn't ready yet to share his campaign platform.
"I'll release that information later," he said. "It's still in the process of forming."