By Mitch Traphagen
APOLLO BEACH - When John MacDonald decided to run for the honorary mayor of Apollo Beach, he approached that decision in the same way he seems to have approached all challenges in his life: He intended to succeed.
In this case, he measured his success not only by raising enough money to earn the title but rather by raising money for his chosen cause, the Childrenís Burn Center at Tampa General Hospital.
MacDonald is a Vietnam veteran and a volunteer at the V.F.W. post in Ruskin. Other members of the post suggested that he make a run for honorary mayor.
Although he signed up late for the event, he hit the ground running. "I started campaigning right then and there," he said.
MacDonald expected to face name recognition challenges. "Iíve been retired since 1993 and of course that takes me out of the limelight. But the businesses and the residents knew me," he said.
As mentioned, he approached his campaign seriously. Through out the heavy rains of the past few weeks, MacDonald was out going from door to door. He also inadvertently took advantage of a competitorís campaign strategy.
"One of the candidates was having a beer bash along with the chamber," he said. While they were doing that, I went and campaigned in his neighborhood!"
"This is a fun thing," MacDonald continued. "Iím sure that I will be involved in ribbon cuttings and Say No to Drugs programs in the school and Iím looking forward to it."
Unfortunately, however, the title does not bring official power. "Iíve been asked about fixing tickets and Iíve had to tell people that this is not that type of mayor," he said with a laugh.
MacDonald would also like to use his new honorary title to get a junior softball league started in the community.
The new honorary mayor kept track of everyone who donated so he could personally thank them for their support. Several donations, however, were made through the mail with no contact information provided. One donation in particular sticks out in his mind.
"I got a letter that contained a $100 bill. On the bill someone wrote, Good luck, John - if anyone deserves to be mayor, you do." The note was signed simply ĎT&B.í Both MacDonald and his wife have searched their memories and their address books and have yet to learn who ĎT&Bí are. "I would really like to thank those people," he said.
The honorary mayor was chosen based on the amount of money they collected. Although each candidate had a chosen outside charity, the chamber was the primary beneficiary receiving 75 percent of the money collected with 25 percent going to the charity.
As most chamber members can confirm, money collected from events such as this help the chamber to continue working towards the betterment of the community.
While acknowledging that the chamberís community work is important, MacDonald is hoping that for next yearís race, the ratio will be 50-50.
"If Iím involved next year I want to donate 50 percent to the Childrenís Burn Center," he said.
MacDonald has participated in several community volunteer programs and is heavily involved in the Ruskin V.F.W. post. He has always been committed to serving the community, even through his company, Apollo Electric. "Iíve tried to do what I can for people in this area, especially the elderly," he said.
For now, however, MacDonald is looking forward to promoting Apollo Beach as their first honorary mayor. It is likely he will approach his new post with the same drive he used to campaign - a drive to succeed.