History of the annual charity campaign
By Kyle LoJacono
Most people in Lutz have heard of the Guv’na race, but few know the history of how the charitable campaign got its start.
“I learned about it as soon as we got here,” said current Lutz Guv’na Suzin Carr, who moved with her family to the town in 2003. “I first thought what’s that about? I didn’t understand it at first, but like most people I got the idea.”
The Lutz Guv’na race was started in 1991 as a way to raise money for area charities while bringing the community together. The first winner of the race was Jo Van Bebber, according to Phyllis Hoedt of the Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Women’s Club.
“It’s a great way to have a good time while bringing in money for important nonprofit groups,” said Eleanor Cecil, who has been a member of the Lutz Civic Association for 10 years. “The race is sort of a spoof and we say it is the only honest campaign in America. We tell people up front that the candidate who raises the most money wins.”
Each year the candidate who raises the most money by the Lutz Independence Day celebration at Bullard Park is declared the winner. The celebration this year is July 3 and all the money raised goes to local charities. Donations to potential guv’nas can be made right up until the winner is announced.
“That’s the most importance part of the race,” Cecil said. “These are wonderful organizations that do so much for others. It gives them a chance to do a little extra for the area by supporting people and kids they might not have been able to.”
The civic association is in charge of the Guv’na race and decides where the denotations are allocated, but the women’s club gives some support during the process. The women’s club also usually endorses a candidate.
The amount of money brought in from Van Bebber’s campaign was not available. The candidate who raised the most money ever during a campaign was Michele Northrup in 2007 when she managed to bring in $17,000, according to Cecil and Northrup.
“For me it’s been tremendous,” Carr said of being the reigning Guv’na. “It’s been great meeting zillions of people, attracting them to our local businesses and helping get the community excited about Lutz.”
Last year, the total brought in by the race was $11,786, but the exact figures from Carr’s campaign were not available.
“We considered running for (Guv’na) as a family,” Carr said. “We’ve drawn from the community to raise our son (Chandler). He goes to school in Lutz, we use the Lutz library and the parks and enjoy the events like breakfast with Santa at the old Lutz school and the parade in July.
“I thought I knew what it meant to be Guv’na from hearing about it for so many years, but the last year gave me a chance to see everything that goes into it,” Carr continued. “…It has been an experience and it’s been great. People have been so positive it’s been unbelievable. It has been a lot of work, but I chose to put that much into it. I guess you could say I became addicted to the Guv’naship.”
To be eligible for the position, Guv’na candidates need to either live or work in Lutz. People can run for the position even after winning, but there has never been a two-time winner.
“I had many people ask me to run for it again, but I thought it would be good to let someone else shine,” Carr said. “I might do it again later, but not this year.”
When asked what her plans were for her last few months as the Guv’na, Carr said, “I have some special things in store. I plan to blow out Lutz in my last three months as Guv’na.”
Past and present Lutz Guv’na winners
2009 Suzin Carr
2008 Terri Burgess
2007 Michele Northrup
2006 Edwina Kraemer
2005 Liz Iaconetti
2004 Dean Rivett
2003 Joni Cagle
2002 Brett Montegny
2001 Helen Kinyon
2000 Vince Arcuri
1999 Danny Neeley
1998 Sandy Ruberg
1997 Earl Smith
1996 Ben Nevel
1995 Kay Dahman
1994 Lorraine Dabney
1993 Leslie Dennison
1992 Betty Neeley
1991 Jo Van Bebber