The Guv’na is back.
The race for Lutz Guv’na, that is.
The campaign is a community tradition that was put on a two-year pause because of the pandemic.
That meant that current Guv’na Amy Lancaster became the first one-term Guv’na to serve beyond a single year.
Lancaster is eager to join others, to turn her sash over to whomever can claim the honorary title.
“I think that everyone is just ready to get back to it — it’s part of the community; its tradition!” said Stephanie Ensor, who serves on the Lutz Guv’na committee.
Ensor knows how it feels to hold the title.
She won it in 2010.
“It means a lot to a lot of people, and to the candidates, who do it to raise money for charities, nonprofits and the community,” Ensor said.
The whole process — the campaigns, the debates, the speeches and promises — is all tongue-in-cheek, mocking the real-life politics that often flood the news cycle. Even though it’s been going on since the 1950s, it’s only been more historically tracked since 1991 when the Lutz Civic Association took over. Each campaign season, which begins May 1, candidates raise several thousand dollars for about 20 Lutz nonprofit beneficiaries.
The campaign season culminates when the candidate who has raised the most money is announced and awarded a “sash” during the annual Lutz Fourth of July festivities.
The announcement takes place following the community’s annual parade. The Guv’na is sworn-in on the stage of the train depot building, at Lutz Lake Fern Road and U.S. 41.
“Couldn’t do it without the parade,” Ensor said. “People are so glad to get back out, to be able to contribute and, of course, celebrate it all with the parade. And let me tell you, we did not have to hunt to find candidates.”
This year’s contest features candidates Stacee Campbell, Atlas Cortecero and David Penzer. Whomever is crowned Guv’na gets to earmark 10% of the proceeds to a Lutz charitable organization of his or her choice.
“It’s been a crazy couple of years, so it’s great to do anything again, plus raise money for good causes,” said Penzer, wearing an American Flag shirt. “Let’s have some fun with it!”
“It’s so great to be able to do this again and raise money for local nonprofits,” Campbell said. “That’s what being Guv’na is all about!”
“It was frustrating not to be able to fundraise and raise money for charities,” Cortecero added. “It’s so good to be able to do this again.”
As for these candidates’ false promises and ridiculous rhetoric, they were able to put that on full display during the annual debate held on April 30 at the Old Lutz School House.
Over-the-top and somewhat topical questions were passed around to the crowd — friends, family and members of GFWC Lutz-Land O’Lakes Woman’s Club.
The questions are designed to elicit humorous responses and spoof actual politics.
There’s a talent portion, too, and this year’s included a cow patty toss — to see which candidate could fling the dried-out patty the farthest.
Donations and monetary prizes are awarded during the debate.
After the debate, the candidates raise campaign funds by having raffles, car washes, lunches or other events.
They can also “panhandle” in the parade, in a final push to cash in for the sash.
“Like real politics, the candidates will make promises they don’t intend to keep and they will tell other lies, as well,” said Guv’na Committee’s Marion Smith, who has been involved with this event for 20 years.
“Quite a few years ago, a candidate who was an Elvis impersonator was asked who he would make his assistant Guv’na. He named his mother and spoke fondly of her, just like the real Elvis would have responded!” Smith said.
MEET THE CANDIDATES
Bio: Campbell has been a Lutz resident since 2009 when her family moved to Florida from Indiana. She took right to the small town, especially because of close proximity to Tampa and the beaches. In 2014, Campbell opened Mascot Universe, which is a school spirit wear store that lets kids and parents try on apparel specially made for their schools. Not wanting to stop there, Campbell also opened Lutz Scoops, the small ice cream shop in the Lutz Lake Crossing Shopping Plaza.
Campaign Slogan: Make life in Lutz sweet!
Quotable: “It’s so nice to see people back out in the community and enjoying things, but I also do want that sash!”
Bio: Born and raised in São Paulo/Brazil with a Spanish/Portuguese family, Cortecero says it’s been a dream to live in America since childhood. He’s the lead singer in a country-rock band and a music producer. He also holds a degree in social work based on nonprofit organizations and office administration. As an entrepreneur, he and his wife, Michele Northrup (The Saucy Queen), sell a line of gourmet hot sauces locally.
Campaign Slogan: Keep Lutz saucy!
Quotable: “My beautiful wife was Guv’na in 2007, and I plan to bring home the sash once again.”
Bio: As a 20-year Lutz resident and a local Re/Max Capital Realty realtor, Penzer has been heavily involved in the community in many aspects. He’s been chairman of the Heritage Harbor Community Development District, and he and his wife have worked for years with the Lutz Chiefs and Steinbrenner Warrior sports organizations. Beyond that, Penzer also has been a longtime wrestling announcer. He worked a decade as ring announcer for World Championship Wrestling and worked with wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper and Jimmy Hart. He’s now the part-time ring announcer for Impact Wrestling on AXS TV.
Campaign Slogan: Free mortgages for everyone in Lutz!
Quotable: “As a wrestling announcer, I’ll moderate a match between my opponents, while I take the sash!”
Past Lutz Guv’nas
2019 – Amy Lancaster
2018 – Domenic Definite
2017 – Kori Rankin
2016 – Greg Gilbert
2015 – Jennifer Rankin
2014 – Dr. Cindy Perkins
2013 – Suzin Carr
2012 – Karen D’Amico
2011 – Kevin White
2010 – Stephanie Ensor
2009 – Suzin Carr
2008 – Teri Burgess
2007 – Michele Northrup
2006 – Edwina Kraemer
2005 – Liz Incorrenti
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
Published May 11, 2022