LUTZ - While one of the four candidates will be named the Guv'na of Lutz, organizers of the honorary "election" say the real winner is the community.
The race, where candidates raise money for votes and awareness of Lutz businesses, funds a grant program through the Lutz Civic Association. Lutz nonprofit groups apply for those grants, which usually is a "pot" of several thousand dollars with amounts varying depending on the number of candidates.
Eleanor Cecil of the civic association said the "election to the office" began in 1991. Since that time, the groups funded have included scout troops, North Tampa-Lutz Cadet Squadron, Old Lutz School House, Lutz-Land O'Lakes Women's Club and many others.
The winner of the title is announced at the annual July 4th celebration, which includes a race, parade, displays and food vendors.
This year is a first, though, in the 22-year-old fundraising project; a sitting guv'na is seeking re-election. And one of the three challengers also has served before.
"It's the centennial of Lutz and I want to make a little history in Lutz," said Karin D'Amico, the current guv'na, who works for LabCore and is supported by the Lutz-Land O'Lakes Women's Club.
"I got to meet so many people from Lutz, taste all kinds of good food. It really makes me appreciate the small-town feel," said the Cheval resident, who is married and helps with Florida Dachshund Rescue.
This year included several events, including a car wash and a flea market, where the money was split before the four candidates.
"With those events, no matter who showed up, the candidates benefited," said Suzin Carr , who served as Guv'na in 2009.
"I support local businesses," the author and married mother of a 13-year-old son said. She noted that too many businesses from the 2009 campaign were no longer around. "Let's get this community rockin.'"
Candidate Susan Gulash, who lives in Pasco County, said she decided to get into the race "because I thought it was an actual race. I'm trying to get into shape for the three-day event (walk for breast cancer)."
She said when she found out that it was a different kind a race, "I was honored to raise money. I love the fact they do it; it was great thing they started."
She is the married mother of two daughters and owns Gulash Graphics, which she operates from her home.
Candidate Lauren Leah also lives in Pasco, where she went to high school at Land O'Lakes High before attending the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
She is a member of the Pasco Junior Woman's club and said she thought this was a good way "to get us some more members as well as help the community."
Married with no children, Leah works in human resources at the Coca-Cola Co.
Any nonprofit group or organization in Lutz is eligible to apply for a guv'na grant. For information, contact Cecil at firstname.lastname@example.org.