© St. Petersburg Times, published September 21, 2002
LARGO -- Former Clearwater Commissioner Fred Thomas this week emerged as Largo's most generous library supporter by donating $100,000 to the city's building fund.
Thomas, who founded the Pinch-A-Penny pool supply chain now located in Largo, has pledged $20,000 a year for five years once construction begins.
He commended city leaders for thinking ahead and said the library should be built to accommodate growth 10 years down the road.
"Libraries should serve the overall community as much as possible," he said, "and they should also be built to where they don't become obsolete themselves 10 years later."
Though it's not the largest donation in city history -- one woman bequeathed $600,000 to the Largo Cultural Center -- it comes as the city gears up for a major fundraiser expected to begin in December.
His money raises the total of donations to more than $142,000. City officials say that helps a campaign expecting to raise $1.9-million in donations for the $21-million budget.
This week, Mayor Bob Jackson said he would donate $50 from each of his 26 city pay checks during the next year -- roughly the amount of his 7 percent raise as mayor. Commissioner Pat Gerard has donated $1,000, too.
Jackson said Thomas's gift gives the city a boost as it encounters opposition from those who think the library is too big, too expensive and should go to a public referendum.
"This should ease some of the apprehension," Jackson said.
Thomas said he has no instructions for how the money is to be used and does not want his gift interpreted as a political statement. His motivation was simply based on his opinion of libraries and geography.
"I felt it was a worthy thing," Thomas said. "Since our corporate headquarters are in Largo, it made sense to support them."
-- Michael Sandler can be reached at 445-4174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.