Safety Harbor Connect celebrated its one-year anniversary on November 1, 2014, and looking back over the first 13 months of our existence, we realized we’ve covered a number of topics of interest to the community during that time.
From trees to trolleys, cops to Mrs. Claus, the city known as the “Hidden Jewel of Tampa Bay” provided a seemingly endless stream of subjects to report on, with many receiving attention from large segments of readers.
While a plethora of end-of-the-year activities in Safety Harbor prevented us from doing a proper Year in Review post on our first birthday, the “dead zone” between Christmas and the New Year afforded us the perfect opportunity to make up for lost time.
So, without further ado, here’s a look back at the top ten stories, events and/or topics, based on community interest, comments on the website and our Facebook page, and the amount of traffic articles on the subjects received, that we’ve reported on since our launch.
And a special thanks to all the readers who made Safety Harbor Connect’s first year such a success!
10.) Young Author Madison Jayanna
2014 was quite a busy year for young Safety Harbor author and philanthropist, Madison Jayanna. The eight-year-old wrote her first book, Tripp McQueen, last spring as a way to raise money for, and lift the spirits of, a young Georgia boy with brain damage. Not content to rest on her laurels, Madison quickly went to work on her next story, all while helping other disadvantaged kids through her charity, the Giving Foundation for Children. For her many selfless acts, Madison capped the year off by being selected by the Safety Harbor City Commission as the Grand Marshal of the city’s 2014 Holiday Parade. Pretty cool year for a very special young lady.
9.) New Businesses Open in Town
Business articles always get a ton of traffic on our site, as everyone from residents to visitors want to know what new bars and restaurants, shops and services are being offered in Safety Harbor. The past year saw a large number of new establishments open their doors, including a coin shop and a paddleboard company, a pharmacy, a custom furniture store and a bakery, to name a few. In addition to reports on those that have already opened, stories about businesses that are coming soon, like the new brewpub, or those that have have undergone a major transformation, also gained a lot of attention in 2014. So basically business is big, well, business on Safety Harbor Connect!
8.) Jolley Trolley Comes to Safety Harbor
While Safety Harbor is considered a “hidden” jewel, a new transit service came to town in 2014 that could go a long way to uncovering the biggest unkept secret in Tampa Bay. When the Clearwater based Jolley Trolley started operating in the city last February, it marked a new era for the downtown district, as residents and visitors are now able to travel to and from Clearwater Beach, with stops in Dunedin and Westfield Countryside Mall along the way.“This has been a long time coming for the City of Safety Harbor,” then-Mayor Joe Ayoub said at the trolley’s launch party.“One of the commission’s goals is to revitalize the downtown, and this service is an important step towards doing that.” Following a successful 8-month trial run, the city renewed its contract with the company for another year in October.
7.) Land Ho!
A number of stories about property and the issues surrounding it made headlines this year. From a longtime landowner donating 10 acres of property to the city and an access road being built on church property to downtown residents feuding over an age old parking ordinance, it’s all about that space when it comes to the subject of land in Safety Harbor.
6.) A Plane Crashes in Safety Harbor
File this one under “things you never expect to report on in Safety Harbor”: A small plane traveling from Chicago to Clearwater crashed on McMullen Booth Road back in March, killing all three people on board, including the pilot, his teenaged daughter and her friend. As tragic as the incident was, the accident led to an outpouring of support from members of community, including an emotional heart vigil, that did not go unnoticed by the victims’ families and friends.
5.) Safety Harbor Gets a New (Old?) Mayor
Elections typically receive a lot of attention in local news, and the re-election of Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold was no exception. Steingold, who stepped down as mayor in the summer of 2012 in order to run for circuit court judge, returned to run against incumbent Joe Ayoub in the city’s municipal election, which was moved to March of 2013 to coincide with a special countywide election. After winning a tight race by fewer than 100 votes, Steingold, along with new commissioners Andy Zodrow and Carlos Diaz, took office in March, and the Safety Harbor City Commission took on a new, yet familiar, face.
4.) Lois “Mrs. Claus” Spencer Passes Away
The untimely passing of a civic icon is never an easy subject to report on, but the overwhelming response to Lois Spencer’s death last July at the age of 83 led to many stories and comments and spoke to the immense influence she had on the town. Best known for playing Mrs. Claus in the annual Safety Harbor Holiday Parade, Lois was much more than a costumed figure on a float. In addition to owning her downtown antique shop, Mrs. Spencer was active in many community organizations, including the library, and she played an instrumental role in many events in the community, including the seafood festival, the Kiwanis arts and crafts show and, of course, the parade. As we witnessed during the most recent parade, Lois might be gone, but she will never be forgotten in Safety Harbor.
Unfortunately, Lois wasn’t the only untimely death the community had to deal with over the past year-plus. Longtime resident and respected writer and poet Romeo Lemay passed away just as this site was launching in fall of 2013; Paul Lares, the owner of the landmark Athens restaurant in downtown Safety Harbor, passed away last October; and beloved barber Tony Comeiro, who worked in town, at T&T’s Salon and then the Chop Shop, for more than 15 years, died suddenly while on his way to work on December 5. May all these beloved and respected Harborites rest in peace.
3.) Bad Boys, Bad Boys What You Gonna Do When Safety Harbor’s Finest Come For You?!
We haven’t had to report on a lot of crime stories over the course of the year (thankfully), but a few weeks ago, an article about Safety Harbor’s new community patrol officers arresting a suspected flasher really blew up, as the kids like to say. The fact that Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputies Joel Morgan and Nick Hammack caught the suspect using a combination of modern technology and old fashioned police work was cool enough, but when a subsequent follow up story revealed the two officers are both from the Safety Harbor area and have been close friends for many years, it made the whole incident feel like a script for a buddy cop flick!
2.) Events Truly Are Special in Safety Harbor
It may sound like a cliche, but Safety Harbor really does put the “special” in its special events. It’s not just the sheer volume of events the City puts on every year, which run the gamut from arts & crafts and car shows to food, health and music festivals, including roughly five road races, but it’s the amount of care, coordination and cooperation that goes into planning and pulling off each event that truly makes residents and visitors rave about the productions. Each year it seems many of these events, such as the holiday parade, the tree lighting ceremony, Main Street Trick or Treat, and of course, the annual Safety Harbor Wine Festival, get bigger and bigger, drawing more out-of-towners to the city than ever before, exposing the Hidden Jewel of Tampa Bay to another group of people who are sure to keep coming back for more.
1.) Tree City, USA
It’s not an understatement to say that trees are the biggest subjects in Safety Harbor, and I’m not talking about age, width or Diameter at Breast Height. I’m talking in terms of interest to readers and residents. I mean, this is a community that is home to one of the oldest Grand oaks in Pinellas County, one that goes by the nickname “Tree City, USA”, one that saw a group of irate residents picket outside the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa as well as in front of City Hall until a moratorium was enacted, preventing any more trees from being cut down until a more stringent tree ordinance could be put in place. Is it any wonder these jolly green giants occupy the number one spot on our list?!
Our coverage of the concerns over the city’s towering majestic beauties in the last year led to numerous articles about tree workshops and town hall meetings, not to mention several pieces dealing with disputes and disagreements over the treatment of trees in the community.
As you can see, trees are huge in Safety Harbor, so it comes as no surprise that the leafy green giants were the biggest topic of interest on Safety Harbor Connect in 2013.
Well, there you have it, a comprehensive compilation of the top Safety Harbor Connect stories and subjects from 2013.
We’re looking forward to reporting on these and many more subjects in 2015, and doing a list like this all over again one year from now.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a tree workshop to attend tonight!
Editor, Safety Harbor Connect.com