Jennifer Rankin was supposed to be a Lutz Guv’na candidate in 2014, but something came up.
It was her daughter, Abigail.
“I wanted to do it last year, and I got pregnant. She was born in August,” Rankin explained. “In July, I would have been eight months pregnant at the Fourth of July parade.” Since she would have spent her entire campaign in the latter stages of pregnancy, Rankin decided to wait a year before running for the ceremonial title, awarded to the candidate who raises the most money for local organizations. The current campaign runs through the Fourth of July, and the winner is announced at the annual festivities in Lutz.
Following her pregnancy, she spent 10 days in an intensive care unit with life-threatening hemorrhaging. Now that baby and mother are both healthy, and the Lutz Guv’na race has returned, Rankin is going for the winner’s sash with guns blazing. Literally.
One of her big campaign events is a clay pigeon tournament on June 27 at Tampa Bay Sporting Clays, 10514 Ehren Cutoff in Land O’ Lakes. The cost is $130 per person, or $480 per team of four, with prizes for the top teams and shooters.
Rankin is hoping to have 10 teams in place when the tournament starts. If that seems ambitious, that’s the kind of person she is. But she also knows her supporters well, and chose an event she thought would be popular with them.
As a Lutz native who grew up in the family business, Al’s Lawn Care at 18905 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Rankin has a good feel for the area and its residents. She attended Lutz Elementary, and it was in those formative years she decided to be a Lutz Guv’na, even if she didn’t know exactly how it worked. At the time, she thought it was an actual political race instead of a fundraiser.
Now that she knows it’s all about the money, she’s even more determined to be a part of it.
“I think it’s the coolest thing,” Rankin said.
Unfortunately, not everybody knows about the Guv’na’s race. Even longtime residents don’t always understand her latest project, and she has to explain the race and where the money goes.
“It just surprises me how many people live here that don’t know anything about it,” she said.
Most people who run into Rankin learn about it, mostly because she’s always asking them for money. If she wins the title, she’ll direct a portion of the funds to the organization of her choice, and she’s already made that executive decision: The Steinbrenner High School cheer team. Her youngest stepdaughter, Kori, was a member, and Rankin saw how hard the team works with little fanfare.
And they’re working hard for her campaign as well. The team is helping out with her fundraisers, including the clay pigeon tournament.
Rankin is having fun with her candidacy so far. So much fun, in fact, that she said she’ll run again if she doesn’t win. But she’s doing everything she can to make her first campaign a winner, and with the support of husband Adrian, stepdaughters Kori and Klarissa — and Abigail, of course — she’s pulling out all the stops to take the title. That includes making sure everyone knows she’s running, and asking them to dig deep for the cause. And considering where the money goes, she’s not ashamed to have her hand out right up through the holiday weekend.
“I don’t mind asking anybody for any money, because I know it’s going back to where I live,” Rankin said. “Knowing that it’s just going right here, it’s some way, somehow going to better Lutz.”
For more information about Rankin’s events, call Al’s Lawn Care at (813) 949-1384, or visit Rankin’s Facebook page by searching for “Jennifer Silence Rankin” at Facebook.com.
Published June 17, 2015