Annual charity campaign gets underway
By Kyle LoJacono
Each year the Guv’na race brings attention to Lutz and thousands of dollars to local charities. The 2010 field is now set with four candidates.
“We like to have four, so we have the perfect number this year,” said Eleanor Cecil, who has been a member of the Lutz Civic Association for 10 years.
Each year the candidate who raises the most money by the Lutz Independence Day celebration is declared the winner. The celebration is July 3 this year.
“That’s the most important part of the race,” Cecil said. “These are wonderful organizations that do so much for others.”
To be eligible for the position, Guv’na candidates need to either live or work in Lutz. Suzin Carr is the current Guv’na and this year’s hopefuls for the position include J.R. Roche, Laurie Jennings, Stephanie Ensor and Colin Cook.
Roche, 45, has lived in Lutz for three years. He and his wife, Kim, own and operate three businesses in the town. Two of those businesses, Felicitous coffee house and Fast-Craft Cabinets, are located at 19015 N. US 41. The other is World Wide Telecom and Media Group, which started and maintains the business directory Web site www.inlutz.com.
Roche said if he becomes Guv’na he will focus on promoting and supporting Lutz businesses.
“People come into the coffeehouse and always complain about how slow business is, so we developed inlutz.com,” Roche said. “The mission is to drive awareness to businesses in the area and that’s what I really want to do as Guv’na.”
Roche’s goal is the same as Carr’s, who has created and organized several events to support local businesses this past year.
“It is kind of scary following the current Guv’na,” Roche said jokingly. “She’s such a dynamic person and is out there all the time doing events and helping Lutz businesses…It’s important to help out our local businesses especially now. I hope to get people to look at our Lutz businesses first before going elsewhere.”
All of Roche’s planned events to raise donations involve getting people to go to local shops.
“We’ll have auctions and raffles all over Lutz to bring people out to our local places of business,” Roche said.
Roche and Kim have one child, a son named Key, 16.
For more information on Roche’s campaign, e-mail him at or call (813) 690-7768.
Jennings, 39, has lived in Land O’ Lakes for less than one year, but her business, Grandmama’s House of Lutz Preschool and Child Development, has been located at 112 Myrtle Ridge Drive in Lutz for three years.
“When I first learned about the race I became interested,” Jennings said. “The parents whose kids come to our school thought I’d be a good Guv’na. Then I meet Suzin and learned about everything she does and I decided to go for it.”
Jennings said as Guv’na she will also support Lutz businesses, but added that community involvement and supporting groups are just as important.
“It’s great to have fun as a community, but it’s even better when you can raise money for good causes like the Lutz library and the Joshua House,” Jennings said. “…Everything we do as a community should be to support each other first. We should support the people and businesses here first because the money stays here instead of going elsewhere.”
Some of the fundraisers she is planning include offering babysitting to parents so they can have a night out, selling box dinners, carwashes and selling popcorn.
She is married to Robert and the two have three sons — Blake, 14, Brent, 12, and Roff, 9.
“It would be a huge honor to be Guv’na,” Jennings said. “…The best thing about the race is that it’s not about who wins. It’s about who raises the most money for the area charities.”
For more information on Jennings’ campaign, e-mail her at or call (813) 909-2424.
Ensor, 37, has lived in Lutz for 10 years and owns Flip Flop Embroidery Shoppe. The business does not have a physical address, but has a Web site, www.flipflopembroidery.com. She is married to Troy and the couple have two daughters — Hailey, 12, and Ashley, 10.
Ensor said one of the reasons she wants to be the Guv’na is to get more involved in the Lutz community because it is a fun town with a lot of traditions. She also said the example of the current Guv’na has motivated her to enter the race.
“Suzin has inspired me to continue her efforts to support local businesses her in Lutz,” Ensor said. “She has done an amazing job. I hope to bring more people to Lutz for services and shopping.”
One of the draws to living in Lutz for Ensor is the close community atmosphere.
“Being Lutz Guv’na would be a great opportunity for me to have fun, while creatively finding ways to support Lutz,” Ensor said. “I love the small town feel of Lutz and being Guv’na would keep me in the center of the spirit.
“Raising money for the local charities is an awesome privilege for Lutz Guv’na candidates,” Ensor continued. “For me and my family, it means so much to help make a difference for those in our own backyards. What is great about the race for Guv’na, the whole community benefits from the efforts of our campaigning.”
For more information on Ensor’s campaign, e-mail or call (813) 244-2256.
Cook is the youngest of those in the Guv’na race at 22-years-old. He has lived in Land O’ Lakes for six years and his business, Best in Show Pet Boutique and Grooming Salon, has been located at 18470 N. US 41 in Lutz for two years.
The fundraising aspect of the Guv’na race is what first interested Cook.
“That was the reason I got into the race was the community involvement,” Cook said. “Anything that I can do to help with our nonprofits is a good thing. If doing so helps the local businesses here I’m also all for that too.”
If “elected” Cook wants to continue a new tradition started by Carr.
“I’ll continue on the path that Suzin Carr has started,” Cook said. “I love the idea of the Shop & Stroll as a way to support the community and local businesses.”
The Lutz Shop & Stroll started last December and there was a spring version in March. Money was raised to support the Old Lutz Schoolhouse and stations were set up at various Lutz businesses.
“For the race we are working on a big event that includes all the businesses in the Sunset Point (Shopping Center) where we are located,” Cook said. “We will have a fashion show with animals from Best in Show and models with Repeat Boutique. Weck’s (American Grill) is providing the food and we’ll be raffling off gift baskets and having silent actions too.”
For more information on Cook’s campaign, e-mail or call (813) 949-2225.