The job doesn’t come with any pay or power, but that hasn’t stopped two Land O’ Lakes residents from running for mayor.
Dr. Deborah Hawley, a local dentist, and Rene Van Hout, co-owner of , have both announced their intentions to vie for the honorary title.
The annual race pits residents against each other in a battle to earn “votes,” which are actually contributions to a fundraising campaign for the . The winner is announced at the chamber’s holiday party in December and is determined by who raises the most money. Each candidate is able to select a charity to receive 10 percent of the amount they raise, as well.
The winner of the mayor’s race gets to wear a sash, preside over ribbon-cutting ceremonies in the community and represent the chamber at special events. In years past, the mayor also wore a top hat as a symbol of the “office.”
Tradition is a big part of the race, said Kathy Dunkley, the chamber’s executive director.
“The chamber started in 1975 and I believe the honorary mayor has been around since the 60s and the chamber somehow inherited it,” Dunkley said. “It gives the people a good sense of community … it’s just a fun fundraiser.”
Meet the Candidates
Both Van Hout and Hawley say they’re in it for the fun, to support the chamber and to help bring the community together.
“It’s everything I already do without the sash,” said Van Hout, who also serves as a chamber ambassador. “I just want to make the honorary mayor fun again and create traditions.”
Van Hout plans to bring back that top hat if she’s elected and establish a few other traditions, as well.
Her charities of choice are the and the .
Hawley is a long-time Land O’ Lakes resident who has been involved in the chamber for more than 20 years. She sees the race as “a great opportunity to help the chamber of commerce.”
Hawley’s charity of choice is the Pediatric Cancer Center.
The race, she said, gives her a chance to host some “small-town fun” events.
Both candidates have a number of upcoming fundraising events. Here’s a look at what’s set for September:
- Italian Ice Social – This event is a fundraiser for the Van Hout campaign. It takes place 5-7 p.m. Sept. 6 at Copperstone Executive Suites, 3632 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., Suite 108, and is hosted by the Oasis Pregnancy Center. The cost is $5 at the door.
- Chamber mixer – The Hawley campaign will host a chamber mixer at , 21752 State Road 54, at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 15.
- Social Media Marketing Strategies Workshop – This fundraiser is for the Van Hout campaign and is set for 5:30-7:30 p.m. Sept. 20 It takes place at Copperstone Executive Suites, 3632 Land O’ Lakes Blvd, Suite 101, and is hosted by Christine Campos of Social MediaTS. The cost is $20 at the door, and participants should bring their laptops.