The mayoral candidates, Jerry Beverland and Ed Manny, differ on how a proposed charter school should be set up.
By ED QUIOCO
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001
OLDSMAR -- If there is a defining issue in the race for mayor, it is how involved City Hall should become in pursuing a charter middle school for Oldsmar.
City Council member Ed Manny has spearheaded the city's effort for a municipal charter school. His opponent, Jerry Beverland, says he doesn't oppose a charter school, but does not think the city should run it.
After two uncontested mayoral elections that did not even give voters a choice for the city's top elective position, the Beverland-Manny race amounts to a heavyweight prize fight in Oldsmar politics.
Going into the March 13 city election, both men are longtime residents with plenty of supporters and name recognition. Both also have different styles.
Once described by a political opponent as a "roofer who thinks he is Abe Lincoln," Beverland, 65, is a gruff and emotional former mayor who does not shy away from drawing distinctions between himself and Manny.
"There is a lot of difference between Ed and myself," Beverland said. "Ed is a surface person and I'm a digger. I try to find out everything possible that can go wrong and try to work it together so that when I bring it up, I have all the answers. Ed likes to please everyone. When you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing nobody."
In contrast, Manny, 72, refrains from criticizing Beverland. Manny, who is serving his second term on the City Council, is active in his local church and an avid Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan.
"Jerry and I have been friends for a number of years," Manny said. "We are still going to be both living in Oldsmar, and I don't want to get to the point that I can't pass Jerry on the street and stop and shake hands with him. I don't want it to get to that point where I can't do that."
Manny said he is running for mayor in large part because he wants to continue the city's efforts to have its own charter middle school. Beverland said he is not against a charter school in Oldsmar, but he does oppose the city running a charter middle school.
"I'm not qualified to run a charter school and neither is anyone else in the city," Beverland said. "It's just plain stupid."
The city submitted a proposal for a charter middle school for 360 students. In December, the Pinellas County School Board denied the proposal for a host of reasons.
Oldsmar officials did get encouragement from several School Board members, who said they probably would approve the application if the city resubmitted it with the necessary corrections.
Charter schools typically are operated by private groups but are considered public schools because they receive state money for each student through agreements with school districts.
The city proposes to use Pinellas School District property -- the former Oldsmar Community School building on W St. Petersburg Drive -- to house the charter school. School Superintendent Howard Hinesley has said that if the School Board approves the city's application, Oldsmar could only use the building for three years, meaning the city eventually would have to find another home for the charter school.
Therein lies another difference between the two candidates.
Beverland said the city would have to build a middle school and buy the land where it will be built after moving out of the Oldsmar Community School building. He estimates the costs this way: The land would cost about $2-million and the building would cost $8-million to $10-million.
Even if the city gets grants to help cover the costs, the charter school would end up costing city taxpayers millions of dollars, he said.
Manny's "not even putting forth figures," Beverland said. "He is emphatic that it won't cost the taxpayers a dime. He's in a dream world."
Beverland said he would like to form a task force to look into getting a corporation to sponsor and pay for a charter school in Oldsmar.
Manny said there is a lot of "misinformation" going around about the charter school proposal. He said there are several ways the city could finance a charter school without tapping city coffers.
The proposed school's $1.4-million budget should have enough money to pay for the renovations to the Oldsmar Community School Building.
"We can find in our budget from the school enough money to do the rehab of the school on a minimal basis to last us for three years," Manny said. "We do not have any intention of using tax money."
One way of paying for a new building and the land is to use city funds as security for a bond that would be repaid with money the city got from the state. In 2004, the city could expand the charter school to 700 students, which would mean it would get more money from the state.
"Most charter schools are private organizations and expect to make profit," Manny said. "Obviously, we will not, so there is money that would normally be profit that we can work with for other things."
But Manny stresses that using tax money to back a bond is only one of many possibilities, and one that would need the City Council's blessing. For now, the city is concentrating on turning in an application that will be recommended for approval by the school district staff.
The next step, Manny said, is for him to win the election.
"If I don't get elected, we can just forget about it," Manny said.
Another difference between the two candidates is in their personalities.
Beverland stays away from big conventions and municipal organizations, saying that he is not a "social animal." Manny, a semiretired real estate broker, is active in a host of local and regional organizations.
Manny is on the board of directors of the Suncoast League of Municipalities and chairman of the county's Local Coordinating Board for the Transportation Disadvantaged. He also is or has been a member of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the Florida League of Cities and the Metropolitan Planning Organization.
He said that he learns things from his "regional involvement" that he can bring back to the city.
"Just to be able to have that networking with other elected officials around the state is very very beneficial," Manny said. "In addition to that, I think that we have a better opportunity to work with the county for grants. If we sit down at the table with someone who we know, it is certainly a lot easier to work and negotiate some of these things than if we sit down with perfect strangers and they don't know who we are and we don't know who they are."
Beverland is a retired owner of a roofing and landscaping business. He loves to buy and sell antiques and is the city's unofficial historian.
He ran for the Pinellas County Commission in September but lost to Susan Latvala in the primary. Beverland served two terms as a council member from 1990 to 1994 and two terms as mayor from 1995 to 1999.
"I try to make things happen," Beverland said. "He doesn't. He reacts to things. I'm a leader. Now, I may not lead you to the right place, but I'm a leader. I may lead you to a hole where you can't get out, but I led you there."
Manny has served two terms as a council member since 1997 and has been a level-headed presence on the council.
"I get angry, but I don't show it," Manny said. "My anger is a little bit different and I try to handle it differently. I expect to show respect and dignity to the citizens of Oldsmar. I vow that when they come up to make comments or bring comments to the city council, that's fine. We will listen to them and we will treat them with respect."
The last time Oldsmar residents had a choice for the mayoral post was in 1995, when Beverland beat Archie Anderson by 10 votes. Two years later, Beverland was unopposed for his second term as mayor.
In 1999, current Mayor Jeff Sandler also won unopposed. Sandler announced in September that he would not seek a second term.
- Staff writer Ed Quioco can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or firstname.lastname@example.org.