By Sherri Lonon
It’s not every day that politicians give kickbacks from their campaign coffers rather than get them from shady types hoping to get a favor or two during a victor’s time in office.
That was exactly the case, however, Nov. 20 when the two candidates in the Wesley Chapel Honorary Mayor’s Race doled out donations to three local charities. While the candidates did, in fact, buy their way into the positions they’ll assume on Jan. 1, there wasn’t anything “shady” going on.
The honorary mayor’s race is staged annually by the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce as a way to raise awareness about the organization and its members while garnering money for its efforts and charities in the community. Candidates in the highly unofficial event buy their way into office by earning “votes,” which are actually cash donations, similar to the annual Lutz Guv’na race. A portion of the money they raise in the mayoral race goes back to charities of their choosing.
“It gives us an opportunity to provide a figurehead to Wesley Chapel” for ribbon cuttings and other events, explained chamber president Jeff Novotny. It also delivers “benefits on many levels” for the community and chamber.
This year’s race had two candidates and two winners — Cathy Bickham bought her way to the “mayor’s office” and Mary Ann Yaney gets the honor of serving as Wesley Chapel’s deputy mayor in 2014. Bickham and Yaney collected $637 for their charities of choice while running for office.
Bickham, who is a market strategist for Florida Hospital Zephyrhills, donated proceeds from her campaign to Support the Troops, a Wesley Chapel-based nonprofit that sends care packages to soldiers serving overseas. Yaney, the assistant vice president of Central Bank in Wesley Chapel, donated her share to Tampa Leads & Philanthropy and the Wesley Chapel Rotary Club.
Both women say they got involved in the race to have fun, give back to the community and raise awareness for their businesses and the chamber.
While running takes a lot of work, Yaney recommends the challenge to other area businesspeople.
“If you want to work for your community and you want a way to get more” public relations, it’s a great opportunity, she said.
Bickham is no stranger to the mayor’s race. She’s worked on the campaigns of others in the past, so she knew what she was getting into, she said.
“I truly love Wesley Chapel,” she said. “I really care about the people and the prosperity of the town.”
For more information about the chamber, visit it online at WesleyChapelChamber.com.