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    City marks milestone: 30th birthday

    Seminole became a municipality on this date in 1970 during a meeting at Seminole Mall. The city will throw itself a birthday party this weekend.

    By MAUREEN BYRNE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 15, 2000


    SEMINOLE -- Have you sung Happy Birthday yet?

    If you live in Seminole, today is your city's birthday.

    Thirty years ago today, the city was born during a meeting at Seminole Mall. A crowd of 995 gathered there on Nov. 15, 1970, to decide whether Pinellas County should have a 24th municipality.

    The vote was 823 in favor, 72 opposed. Russell Stewart was sworn in as the city's first mayor.

    Fast-forward three decades.

    The city's population has swelled to 14,000, and its land mass has doubled through a series of annexations, especially three last summer.

    In June, residents of three unincorporated areas of Pinellas County overwhelmingly voted to join Seminole, greatly increasing the city's tax base and adding thousands to its population.

    The annexation was the largest in Seminole's history and among the biggest ever in Pinellas County.

    This year the city embarked on its largest municipal building project, a $6.1-million renovation and expansion of the recreation complex. Other major projects included landscaping the medians on Park Boulevard and renovating Tennis Club Park and Blossom Lake Park.

    The city also entered into a partnership with St. Petersburg Junior College this year to build a $6.8-million joint library on the school's Seminole campus.

    All in all, officials say, this year has been something to sing about.

    "The year 2000 is really a significant one for our city," said Mayor Dottie Reeder, who has lived in Seminole since 1963, seven years before the community, a sprawling collection of housing tracts, orange groves and a volunteer fire department, incorporated.

    "I think in the entire 30 years of the city's existence, this past year has created more outside interest in our city than ever before," she said.

    Much of that interest is coming from residents living in unincorporated areas who want to be annexed into Seminole's borders.

    "They see the changes going on in our city," Reeder said. "It's a community that is very desirable."

    City administrators and residents will celebrate the city's milestones at a 30th birthday bash Sunday at City Hall Park.

    The free event, titled "30 Years and Growing," will feature music by three bluegrass bands, hamburgers and pizza served by members of the Seminole Junior Woman's League and tents filled with city memorabilia and pictures.

    Those who attend will receive a chocolate medallion pressed with the city's seal and an oak tree or sabal palm seedling.

    "That goes along with the theme of keeping Seminole growing, not just in square miles, but also in progress," said City Clerk Lynne Keane, who is organizing the $7,000 event.

    A look back

    Nov. 15, 1970: City incorporates at a meeting at Seminole Mall by a vote of 823-72.

    1973: City builds first recreation facility: eight horseshoe courts.

    1974: City buys land at 7464 Ridge Road for $200,000 for city park, lake and new City Hall.

    April 1, 1984: Seminole tops 5,000 residents.

    April 1985: Seminole buys 9.6 acres on 113th Street for $520,000. Land later becomes site of post office and city library.

    June 1985: City annexes Seminole Gardens apartments, adding 1,000 residents.

    Dec. 12, 1989: Seminole attempts to annex 4,000 people. It only gets a fraction of that number. The city does not hold another referendum on annexation until 1999.

    Oct. 9, 1991: City agrees to buy former church on 113th Street as a future recreational complex. Cost is $1.5-million. City later spends an additional $1-million to increase the size of the property to a total of 15 acres.

    Aug. 16, 1992: Seminole opens a $1.5-million library.

    Sept. 8, 1994: Seminole voters decide to change from a strong-mayor form of government to a city manager form.

    May 1995: City hires Frank Edmunds of Newmarket, N.H., as its first city manager. He begins work in July.

    Oct. 1, 1995: City absorbs the independent Seminole Fire Rescue, tripling its budget from about $3.5-million to $11-million and increasing its number of employees from 40 to 140.

    January 1996: Seminole hires new fire chief, Vicki L. Murphy, the first female fire chief in Pinellas County and only the seventh woman in the country to be a paid fire chief. She resigns July 1, 2000.

    Sept. 14, 1999: Voters approve spending $5.8-million to expand and renovate the recreation center at 9100 113th St. N. It is the largest capital project in the city's history. The cost later increases to $6.1-million.

    June 13, 2000: Voters in three unincorporated neighborhoods overwhelmingly approve joining the city, nearly doubling its size and substantially adding to its tax base. The city's population jumps from 9,000 to 14,000.

    September 2000: City enters into an agreement with St. Petersburg Junior College to build a $6.8-million joint-use library, scheduled for completion in 2003, on the school's Seminole campus.

    Nov. 15, 2000: City celebrates its 30th anniversary.

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