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Tuesday, January 9th, 2018


Heeren Jumps into Race for Florida House District 66

Alex Heeren | House District 66 | Politics

Alex Heeren is the fourth person to announce his candidacy for the seat.

PINELLAS COUNTY – Alex Heeren announced today (Jan. 9) that he is running for Florida House of Representatives in District 66.

“I’m running for the Florida House because District 66 deserves a representative who will actually listen to the residents,” Heeren said. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to be heard, and as this district’s representative, I’ll have an open-door policy. We must work together to make progress in our state.”

Heeren is a technology integration coordinator with Pinellas County Schools, helping teachers incorporate technology into their classrooms. He previously taught at Meadowlawn Middle School in St. Petersburg, as well as ran the Girls Who Code after school program. He still coaches the middle school’s volleyball team.

Heeren is  Eagle Scout and has lived in Pinellas County his entire life. He lives with his wife, Teal, who is also a teacher, in Seminole.

The HD 66 seat is currently held by Republican Larry Ahern who is term limited and running for the Pinellas County Commission. Heeren is the fourth candidate, and first Democrat, to announce his candidacy HD 66. The other announced candidates are Republicans Nick DiCeglie and Berny Jacques, and Reform candidate Paul Anthony Bachmann.

HD 66 is in the mid- and western side of Pinellas County. It includes portions of Pinellas Park, Largo, Clearwater and Dunedin, and the municipalities of Belleair, Belleair Shore, Belleair Beach, Belleair Bluffs, Indian Shores and Indian Rocks Beach. Members of the Florida House serve two-year terms. They are limited to four terms in office. They are paid about $29,697 a year.

The primary election is Aug. 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

For information about Heeren, go to

Alex Heeren | Florida House | House District 66 | Politics | Election | Larry Ahern | Nick DiCeglie | Berny Jaqcues | Paul Anthony Bachmann | Tampabay News

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George Edgecomb Bar Assn. Received Statewide Award

George Edgecomb Bar Assn. | Tampa Lawyers | Courts

The Tampa-area George Edgecomb Bar Assn. serves as a model for pro bono service by a voluntary bar, not just reaching out to the community it serves but also going out to churches and community centers in order to find people in need, according to the Florida Bar.

TAMPA – The George Edgecomb Bar Assn., the largest predominately African-American voluntary bar association in the Tampa area, is the recipient of the 2018 Voluntary Bar Association Pro Bono Award.

The award, which recognizes a Florida voluntary bar that has demonstrated a significant contribution in the delivery of legal services to individuals or groups on a pro bono basis, will be presented by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga at a Jan. 25 ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida.

The George Edgecomb Bar Assn. serves as a model for pro bono service by a voluntary bar, not just reaching out to the community it serves but also going out to churches and community centers in order to find people in need.

Since 2004, the major outreach effort of GEBA has been its Legal Redress Workshop, held in predominately minority neighborhoods, and even at a local community college, in Hillsborough County. The workshops offer legal counseling to an underserved indigent population, helping to fulfill the bar’s mission of empowerment.

Through its workshops, GEBA offers opportunities for lawyers to provide residents with legal education and limited pro bono legal services. As many as 100 people have attended. In 2017, the workshops also included 15-minute, one-on-one counseling sessions on many areas of the law.

The workshop model also uses volunteer lawyers to lead classes, typically lasting 55 to 90 minutes, on a legal topic, with a portion of the time dedicated to answering questions from those in attendance. The workshops also connect citizens with existing pro bono resources.

GEBA also provides complimentary breakfast and lunch at the workshops, and the lunch usually features a presentation on a topic with broad appeal to the audience.

GEBA estimates that it has contributed almost 2,000 hours to its 16 workshops from 2004 through last year.

The George Edgecomb Bar Assn. was founded in 1982, in memory of the late George E. Edgecomb, the first African-American county judge in Hillsborough County. The current president of GEBA is Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy; she also has served as the co-chair of the Legal Redress Workshop.

This year’s awards ceremony, which also honors individual, circuit, law firm, young lawyer, state judicial and federal judicial pro bono efforts, is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Jan. 25, at the Supreme Court of Florida. The ceremony will be streamed live at

Photo shows George E. Edgcomb. Courtesy of the George E. Edgecomb Bar Assn.

George E. Edgcomb Bar Association | George E. Edgcomb | Lawyers | Pro Bono | The Florida Bar | Tampabay News

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Tampa Attorney Earns Statewide Bar Award

Stephen M. Todd | Tampa Lawyer | Florida Bar Award

The award is intended to encourage and recognize extraordinary contributions by Florida lawyers in making legal services available to people who otherwise could not afford them.

TAMPA – Attorney Stephen M. Todd of Tampa, who says his pro bono legal work has helped him understand that life is about serving others, is the recipient of the 2018 Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award, the highest statewide pro bono award.

The award will be presented by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga at a Jan. 25 ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida in Tallahassee.

Todd’s dedication, compassion and support when dealing with his clients can be captured in an encounter with one teenager. It was the foster child’s 17th birthday, a milestone that triggers case management plans and decisions. It also was only the second assignment for Angela Rauber, an attorney at Crossroads for Florida Kids, and she had read the teen’s file with pessimism. But Todd walked out of the meeting and exclaimed, “Wow! What a bright future that young man has.”

Todd became a trusted adviser to the young man, and Rauber learned what an extraordinary lawyer he was.

Todd’s service has gone in four main directions:

Crossroads for Florida Kids: Through Crossroads, Todd has represented a baby boy, a young teen girl, and five older teen boys, most of whom also were charged with delinquencies. Even if the clients ran away or committed crimes, Todd stood by them, giving them a constant positive presence in their lives.

Guardian ad Litem: Todd has served as a GAL for more than 20 children since 2007. Each case had special challenges; one involved seven children in one family, others have dealt with violence or sexual abuse. He helped one teen launch a fledgling musical career and prevented the expulsion of a bullied client after a school fight. Todd is now a Master GAL, a new program in which new guardians are assigned to more experienced guardians.

Hillsborough County Bar Association Mentoring Program: Abraham Shakfeh was one beneficiary of this program, when Todd took him under his wing.

“There were so many things I didn’t know about the practice of law,” Shakfeh recalled. Four years later, Todd remains “on call” for questions from his protégé. 

Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office: Todd approached the management staff at the county attorney’s office with a recommendation to organize a Hillsborough County attorney intake night at Bay Area Legal Services. Several of the attorneys in the office volunteered to take training and handle intake for one night in November. Now, the office plans to make this an annual event.

During his 27 years as a member of the Florida Bar, Todd has donated more than 2,000 hours of pro bono service.

Todd earned his J.D. in 1990 from the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis and was in private practice from 1991 to 2000. Since 2000, he has been a senior assistant county attorney in the Office of the County Attorney.

The Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award commemorates the late Miami lawyer Tobias Simon, who was a tireless civil rights attorney, a crusader for prison reform and an appellate authority. The award is intended to encourage and recognize extraordinary contributions by Florida lawyers in making legal services available to people who otherwise could not afford them, and to focus public awareness on the substantial voluntary services rendered by Florida lawyers.

This year’s awards ceremony, which also honors other individual, law firm, voluntary bar, young lawyer, state judicial, and federal judicial pro bono efforts, is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Jan. 25, at the Supreme Court of Florida. The ceremony will be streamed live at

Stephen M. Todd | The Florida Bar | Attorney | Lawyer | Pro Bono | Award | Tampabay News

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Realtors Endorse Hamilton for Clearwater Council

Hoyt Hamilton | Clearwater Council | Politics

Hoyt Hamilton is running for reelection to Seat 5 on the Clearwater City Council.

CLEARWATER – The Pinellas Realtor® Organization has endorsed the candidacy of Hoyt Hamilton for Seat 5 on the Clearwater City Council.

The PRO is one of the largest professional trade organizations in the Tampa Bay area and represents about 8,000 real estate professionals.

“Based on the interview and various other criteria, I am pleased to report that our board of directors has voted officially to support your reelection campaign. We appreciate your commitment to the community, understanding of economic issues, and your advocacy for property owners and the real estate industry,” PRO President and CEO David B. Bennett said.

Hamilton said, “I have always been a strong advocate of property owner’s rights, and I am proud to receive this endorsement from the PRO. It is gratifying to know that this organization views me as the most qualified candidate for Seat 5.

“As a life-long Clearwater resident, I am able to bring history as well as vision for the future to the city council. I have tried to do that during my time on council, and hopefully the voters will allow me to continue to do so.”

Hamilton said he believes that, for Clearwater to continue to be a leader in the region, it is essential that the city remains focused on the quality services it presently provides. Public safety, improvements to and maintenance of infrastructure, safe and healthy neighborhoods, and an environment that encourages private investment in our business community.

Since graduating from Georgia Tech in 1980, Hamilton has been active throughout the community. His family has owned the Palm Pavilion since 1964 and the Palm Pavilion Inn since 1988.

He is a graduate of Leadership Pinellas and Leadership Tampa Bay. He has served on numerous oards including the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce, Clearwater for Youth, Religious Community Services, Pinellas Chapter Florida Restaurant and Lodging Assn., Tampa Bay Hospitality Alliance, Suncoast Georgia Tech Alumni, and was two-time president of the Clearwater Beach Rotary Club. He is a member of the Clearwater High Basketball Hall of Fame and former Little League baseball coach.

Hamilton and Sheryl Hamilton, his wife of 35 years, have two sons and four grandchildren.

Clearwater is governed by a council-manager form of government. The Clearwater City Council is comprised of the mayor and four councilmembers, who each serve four-year terms. The council is the legislative and policymaking body of the city, responsible for approving the budget and determining the ad valorem tax rate on all real and personal property within the corporate limits of the city.

In addition, the council members evaluate the job performance of the city manager and the city attorney, attend city council meetings, special workshops/meetings, schedule and attend community meetings to address various topics and initiatives, serve as the city liaison for various areawide boards, and represent the city at ribbon cuttings, opening day festivities, and organizational welcomes and events.

Council members are paid about $21,892 a year. They are elected at large in a non-partisan election. The election is March 13. The last day to register to vote in the Clearwater municipal election is Feb. 12.

Hamilton is facing a challenge from John Funk.

For information about Hamilton, go to

Hoyt Hamilton | Clearwater City Council | Clearwater Election | Politics | Elections | John Funk | Tampabay News

#HoytHamilton #ClearwaterCityCouncil #ClearwaterElection #Politics #Elections #JohnFunk #TampabayNews

Keller Seeks to Revitalize All of Clearwater

Tom Keller | Clearwater City Council | Politics

Tom Keller is running for Seat 4 on the Clearwater City Council.

CLEARWATER – Tom Keller says all Clearwater neighborhoods deserve “love, respect and attention.”

Keller is running for Seat 4 on the Clearwater City Council.

“Clearwater Beach and the downtown Clearwater district are important to our economy and identity as a city,” Keller said. “In the same way, our communities in all of Clearwater deserve a lot of love, respect and attention.”

Keller, a Florida native, was the Men’s National Barefoot Water Ski Champion in 1997. He helped organize the Frenchy’s Fund Raiser Tennis Tournament in Clearwater every year since 2008.

“I’m all about competition and winning, and to me it will be a great challenge to help our city council make the best choices with the many issues facing residents and businesses now and in the future,” he said.

Keller is making his first run at public office. That, he said, is an advantage.

“I’m not influenced by any special interests or cliques going in,” Keller said. “We need that independence and fresh perspective on the city council, and I pledge to stay that way for as long as I serve.”

He added, “”I look forward in this campaign to putting forth my platform on how I — and all of us together — can help make a better Clearwater for all of Clearwater.”

Keller is running for Seat 4, which is being vacated by Bill Jonson, who is term limited. He is opposed by David Allbritton.

Keller has been employed for 31 years as a sales representative for the same company.

The Clearwater City Council includes a mayor and four council members who can serve two consecutive four-year terms. The council oversees the functioning of the city manager, budgets, projects and ad valorem tax rates. The council meets every two weeks and council members also appear at workshops and special events. Council members annually receive $20,629.72 and the mayor $24,755.36.

The nonpartisan city council election is March 13. The last day to register to vote in the election is Feb. 12. All registered voters in Clearwater can vote by mail or at their polls.

For information about Keller, go to

Photo courtesy of Tom Keller.

Tom Keller | Clearwater | Clearwater Council | Politics | Election | David Allbritton | Bill Jonson | Tampabay News

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Time to Choose a Pinellas School, Sign Up for Kindergarten

Education | School Choice | K 12 Education

Kindergarten registration and the application period for choice schools in Pinellas starts Wednesday (Jan.10).

PINELLAS COUNTY – It’s time for parents to start thinking about the next school year if they have a child of kindergarten age or if they want to choose a school.

Kindergarten registration and the application period for choice schools begins Wednesday (Jan. 10).

“Ready, Set…Kindergarten” open houses will be held at Pinellas County elementary schools across the district Thursday (Jan. 11) and Friday (Jan. 12). Discover Pinellas County Schools award-winning art and music programs, gifted services, STEM Academies, physical education and other enrichment programs. At “Ready, Set..Kindergarten” events, parents can register for kindergarten, explore classrooms, meet teachers, find out about aftercare and learn how to get involved.

Go to for “Ready, Set…Kindergarten” and registration info. Click here to see a schedule of Ready, Set…Kindergarten events.

Wednesday also marks the first day of the application period for Pinellas County’s choice schools. The application deadline is midnight Jan. 19. Choose from 70 magnet, fundamental and career programs. Apply at

Need help with the application process? Go to or attend one of the district’s application assistance nights:

  • Thursday, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. at Sandy Lane Elementary School, 1360 Sandy Lane, Clearwater
  •  Jan. 17, 5:30 p.m. -7:30 p.m. at Gibbs High School, 850 34th St. S, St. Petersburg
  •  Jan. 18, 4:30 p.m. -7:30 p.m. at the Student Assignment Office, 301 4th St. SW, Largo

The Student Assignment office can also assist families during normal business hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Call (727) 588-6210.

Pinellas Schools | Education | School Choice | Kindergarten | Apply for School | Tampabay News

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