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    Ten tails of Florida

    Six finalists for the design of the state's commemorative quarter hail from the bay area. Controversy surrounded some choices.

    [Times photo: Mike Pease]
    Tim Boatright of Tampa holds his design for Florida's commemorative quarter. It shows a wading bird in the Everglades and is ranked No. 2 overall out of 10 remaining designs. Boatright said he went with the Everglades because it is the only such ecosystem in the world.

    By JULIE HAUSERMAN, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 8, 2002


    Jeff Girard,
    St. Pete Beach
    TALLAHASSEE -- Florida got one step closer to picking a design for its new commemorative quarter Friday when judges chose the top 10 finalists, six of them from the Tampa Bay area.

    On Monday, Gov. Jeb Bush will winnow the list to five before sending them to the U.S. Mint for approval. Floridians get to vote on a final design in November through the Internet.

    Tampa native Tim Boatright's design of a wading bird in the Everglades was ranked No. 2 overall.

    John Ashley, Brooksville
    "Thinking about Florida, and what makes it really unique, I went through everything, from oranges to the space shuttle, and ended up with the Everglades because it is the only Everglades in the world," said Boatright, a 43-year-old commercial artist.

    Boatright's design has some powerful friends: Ten members of the Florida congressional delegation sent a letter to Gov. Jeb Bush urging him to pick the Everglades coin.

    "As the quarter is circulated throughout the country, Americans will be encouraged to learn about this unique ecosystem," the lawmakers wrote.

    Tim Boatright, Tampa
    Friday, six volunteer judges handpicked by Bush met by video conference in four Florida cities to narrow 26 designs they chose last month to 10.

    At one point, things got testy when judge Maria Martinez-Canas, a Miami art professor, complained that the voting process was unfair. She didn't demand a recount, though.

    Another dust-up occurred over a design with a leaping sailfish -- the official state fish -- and the words: "Fishing Capital of the World."

    Patricia Brown, Wesley Chapel
    Judge Chantal Nichtawitz of Fort Lauderdale wanted to knock it off the list.

    "I see the fish fighting for its life!" Nichtawitz said.

    The sailfish design, drawn by St. Petersburg artist Diane Peebles, 41, wound up 10th. It was submitted by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission chairman John Rood.

    Ralph Butler, Bayonet Point
    "Some of the best fishing in the world is here in Florida, and I think we should celebrate that," Peebles said Friday.

    There was another controversy. One designer, a Hillsborough schoolteacher of homebound or hospitalized children, was shocked to learn Friday that the state tinkered with her design.

    Patricia Brown submitted an art deco-inspired coin with a flamingo on it. But when a state artist rendered the design on a computer, the flamingo was changed to a heron because flamingoes aren't native to Florida (that definition does not include pink plastic ones).

    Tim Prusmack, Fort Pierce
    "They changed it? How can they do that?" said Brown, 48, of Wesley Chapel.

    Brown said she had no idea that flamingoes aren't native to Florida. She isn't either: She moved here in 1989 from Maryland.

    "The flamingoes had a history with us. When we were teens, the flamingo symbolized this tropical paradise," Brown said. "We kept visiting Florida, and eventually, we packed up and moved down here permanently."

    The head of the commemorative coin judging committee, Gary Lewis of Cape Coral, said the designers need to realize that changes might be made, both to find the perfect design and to make sure the coin is "mintable."

    James McMillan, Palm Bay
    After the meeting got a bit testy, Lewis called a break.

    "Next time, I'm just going to go with the state seal and cut out all these middlemen," he joked in the hallway outside.

    Eventually, the committee settled on the first-place pick: Tim Prusmack of Fort Pierce, whose coin is a montage with the state outline, the space shuttle, a palm tree, two wading birds and the legend "America's Spaceport."

    Here's a look at other local semifinalists:

    Jack Luedke, Jacksonville
    Third place went to Ralph Butler of Bayonet Point, a commercial illustrator whose "Gateway to Discovery" coin shows a Spanish sailing ship approaching the coast, while the space shuttle heads toward the sky. "Florida was the first place in the continental United States to be explored," said Butler, 58. "I consider this to be the frontier for America. When they started launching the shuttle, Florida became the first step in the final frontier."

    In sixth place was Jeff Girard, 50, a St. Pete Beach Realtor, the only one of the top 10 designers to include a Native American. It also shows a Spanish conquistador, the space shuttle and a palm tree.

    Diane Peebles, St. Petersburg
    Ninth place went to John Ashley of Brooksville, with a coin that showed a manatee and a manatee calf swimming together.

    The selection process

    A total of 1,500 designs were submitted. A committee narrowed those to 26 on May 22. On Friday, the committee recommended 10 to the governor. Here's what happens next:

    Jeremy Cain,
    St. Augustine
    MONDAY: The governor will winnow the finalists to five.

    NOVEMBER: The U.S. Mint will choose among those and return the finalists to the state. The public will will get to vote through the Internet.

    JANUARY: The winning design will be announced. Florida's quarter will be minted in 2004.

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