On the Horizon

Published on: May 20, 2015

Wouldn’t it be nice if we really had a mayor?

Penny Fletcher

Penny Fletcher

Having covered the news in the 450-square-mile area known as South County since the mid 1980s, I’ve written about the Honorary Mayor races since they first began. This weekend, when I received the notice of the upcoming “mayoral” events for the next Honorary Mayor of Riverview, and seeing the charities this year’s candidates are supporting, I’ve thought about how many worthy causes these races have helped and how many stories and columns I’ve written about them over the years.

The “candidates” take time out of their busy work schedules and personal lives to gather a team to plan and run fundraisers for all kinds of things. I know they’ve helped several branches of Scouts and Boys & Girls Clubs and battered women’s shelters; migrant causes; housing for the poor; emergency food pantries; and medical care.

This year’s candidates are no different, so check out the calendar of events being presented by the Riverview Chamber of Commerce and have some fun attending them. Visit www.riverviewchamber.com/events/catgid/6 and scroll down the page to view.

But the Honorary Mayor’s race isn’t what this column is really about. I used it as an example of what “government” could really do if the people in it always operated from a charitable stance. My years as a reporter have shown me the closer to the people government officials are, the better they govern.

In 1985, for example, Pam Iorio became the youngest person ever elected to the Hillsborough County Commission. She was 26 and later went on to become Mayor of Tampa and Hillsborough County’s Supervisor of Elections. No longer “in politics,” she still spends her time working for the locals in charity work and on county issues. But this column isn’t about Pam Iorio’s political contributions, either; it’s about a discovery she made in 1993 while on maternity leave during her time as a County Commissioner and how that discovery might have changed South County’s future.

Going through old county records, Iorio found a charter for The City of Wimauma dated almost 100 years ago. For several years afterward, there was talk of the city becoming active again, which would give South County its own voice, like the cities of Plant City, Temple Terrace and Tampa. Many of the leaders in Sun City Center at that time thought it a good enough idea they even considered annexing their community into the “city area” so that they would have more input than they do as part of the huge area of unincorporated Hillsborough County.

The paperwork Iorio found explained that Wimauma was officially incorporated in 1925 as the county’s fourth municipality, but the city government ceased to function in the 1930s, probably because of the Great Depression. I don’t remember why the effort to revive the city was given up, but the reason given by the state was that after 60 years of nonfunctioning government, the incorporation was no longer valid.

Looking at Wimauma today, it’s hard to picture that area was the most thriving part of South County when the pioneer settlers came to what is now a bustling (and rather crowded) area of Florida. But timber and a railroad company brought many there and to Ruskin long before Apollo Beach and Sun City Center were ever even mapped.

Someday we’ll talk about all the different communities that existed in the areas now called Gibsonton and Riverview — but that’s a story in itself. Right now I’m just wondering if we would have had better planning in bottleneck areas like Gibsonton Drive and U.S. 301 and Big Bend Road if there had been a city government — any city government — in South County.

Which brings us back to the title of this piece: Wouldn’t it be nice if we really had a mayor?  If we had someone closer than Tampa to go to about things that affect “only us.”

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