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    Oldsmar election deflates school idea

    But Jerry Beverland, elected mayor, says he will explore having a private company or the school district add a middle school.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 15, 2001

    OLDSMAR -- For months, Jerry Beverland campaigned against a proposal for a city-run charter middle school, claiming it could cost the city millions of dollars and promising to block the effort if elected.

    A day after defeating charter-school supporter Ed Manny for mayor, Beverland said he will keep his word.

    "This city government needs to concentrate on running the city of Oldsmar and not (be) in the charter school business," Beverland said.

    Still, Beverland said that the area needs a middle school, and he would like to lobby the Pinellas School Board to build one. He also did not rule out the possibility of getting a private company to sponsor a middle school effort.

    "I'm going to appoint a committee and I will ask . . . that committee to look into the possibility of forming a coalition of residents of East Lake and the city of Oldsmar to try to persuade the School Board that this area needs a middle school," Beverland said.

    Manny said his loss probably would be the deathblow of the proposal for a city-run charter school.

    "That school is probably a dead issue," said Manny, shortly after Tuesday's election results came in. "That is what Jerry promised all along. He made that his single issue."

    But other supporters of the plan said they would continue to look into getting a charter school in the city.

    "The issue certainly isn't dead, and I'll look into whatever way we can get a middle school considered in this area," said Rita Diehl, who is a member of the organizing board for the proposed municipal charter school. "In my opinion, Ed Manny hasn't informed me that he isn't interested in doing it anymore."

    The two incoming council members, Marcelo Caruso and Don Bohr, also expressed concern about the plan.

    Said Caruso: "I don't believe I'm capable . . . of running a school. I'm not educated enough and I don't think the other council members are, either."

    Said Bohr: "I definitely have concerns. I do not want to see the city's tax dollars at stake and I don't want the city to have to enter into long-term debt."

    The newly elected candidates were sworn in Wednesday.

    Beverland received 61 percent of the ballots cast during Tuesday's election, beating Manny's 39 percent. Caruso won 44 percent of the vote, enough to defeat Jean Jorgenson, who got 38 percent, and Deborah Chapman, who got 18 percent. Bohr beat Renbjor by about a 2-1 ratio.

    Caruso said he had so little confidence he would win that he purchased tickets to fly to England on Wednesday for a vacation with his wife, who did not attend the swearing-in ceremony.

    "My wife is already there (in England)," Caruso said. "I never thought I would win."

    Caruso, who was born in Brazil to parents who are famous actors, said his win has drawn the attention of the Brazilian media. He said he also received a call from the Brazilian president Wednesday to congratulate him. Caruso's parents are well-known television and movie stars in Brazil and own a line of theaters, he said.

    "I will make a fine councilman," Caruso told the crowd of about 50 at the ceremony. "Thank you for hiring me."

    Outgoing Mayor Jeff Sandler handed Beverland a pear-shaped Disney stuffed doll with an long top hat and an orange ribbon that read "Mayor" pinned to its chest. The doll's head, which could be turned, had two faces -- one that was grinning and another that was snarling.

    "Jerry, we all know that you can be a little emotional," Sandler said. "And maybe a little temperamental. Just a little bit."

    Beverland thanked the residents for electing him to his third mayoral term. Beverland served two terms as mayor from 1995 to 1999 before being forced out by term limits.

    "I didn't win," Beverland said. "It was the people . . . that let me win."

    -- Staff writer Ed Quioco can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or

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