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Westchase’s Natural Beauty

With the return of the long-awaited rainy season in June, Westchase exploded with color.

The grass along our community roads grew brighter and greener. And the oleanders down Linebaugh and Countryway burst into bloom.

Maintaining Westchase’s unique beauty takes a great deal of effort and expense. This month, while so many of us will be visiting our nearby beautiful beaches to celebrate our nation’s birthday, the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) finds itself in the midst of its budget season. (Check out page 28 for your 2018 assessment.) The CDD takes care of all of Westchase’s common areas outside the pools and tennis courts. Every Westchase park and every Westchase pond falls to them for care.

Often overlooked and taken for granted are Westchase’s ponds. They add great beauty to the community. In recent years, however, Westchase’s ponds have represented a significantly increasing expense to all homeowners. Many of our quarter-century old pond banks are falling victim to erosion. Some homeowners with water views have even seen portions of their backyards slip into the ponds.

Part of this is due to age and weathering. But part of this is very much due to how we, as homeowners, maintain our yards, especially those portions closest to the pond banks.

Many of us would prefer the ponds to have a clean surface with the appearance of sparkling pools. These plant-free views, as this month’s cover feature discusses, are actually part of the problem. They are even in violation of pond maintenance guidelines issued by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFMD). SWFMD’s guidelines, in turn, protect our local economy by protecting the health and safety of Tampa Bay and our surrounding beaches, which many of us will enjoy this month.

The plants and grass surrounding ponds also play key roles in stabilizing pond banks. Homeowners’ mistakes in maintaining pond banks can prove costly for us all. One recent district project to repair an eroding pond bank behind just five Westchase homes cost $35,000. That’s ten dollars per home.

This month we interviewed some local experts to identify best practices to help protect pond banks and the water quality in Westchase. On page 4 we offer an article that is sure to be educational.

Of course, Westchase is not quite as beautiful as it usually is with the construction along Linebaugh Avenue. Work there finally resumed on June 12 after a long interruption. Turn to page 40 for the latest on that project and how it will affect your commute.

Westchase isn’t the only place exploding with color, especially over the Fourth. To help you celebrate Independence Day with style, on page 44 we have compiled a list of Tampa Bay’s best fireworks displays and the vantage points from which to enjoy them.

We thank you for reading and supporting WOW. WOW receives no financial support outside of these generous advertisers, so please help keep WOW’s news coverage and charitable work strong by letting them know you’ve seen them on these pages.

Happy Independence Day!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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WOW on Social Media

In early May WOW took a new another step into the world social media.

Lest you mistake us for a dinosaur, WOW has, of course, long maintained a web site at There. we offers news updates between monthly editions. WOW has also maintained Facebook pages, where it has posted links to those news updates. Those pages, however, really did not permit Westchase and Northwest residents the opportunity to use them as effective community forums.

In May a Fawn Ridge resident who had established a Facebook group called Westchase Neighborhood News changed its name and then ultimately archived the group, making it non-functional. In an effort to preserve and create an effective community forum, WOW recreated a new Facebook group called Westchase Neighborhood News. The group is now administered by Westchase folks who closely follow local matters and can accurately and quickly answer most residents’ questions.

The Westchase Neighborhood News group also allows residents to post inquiries, questions and suggestions to their neighbors. On its second day, a local resident used the group to gauge interest among Westchase families for private bus service between Westchase and Walker IB Middle School. From carpools to queries, we hope the new Westchase Neighborhood News will become a site you frequently visit. 

Finding it is simple. Do a search for Westchase Neighborhood News on Facebook. If there is more than one group with the name, our Westchase Neighborhood News group (which already had over 500 members by mid-May) has WOW in the photo across the top of the group site.

While searching, please also keep in mind that there is a difference between a Facebook group and a Facebook page. Make sure you are looking for the group. To comment and post, simply request to join the group.

May 22 marked another change for WOW. Our longtime WOW Business Manager Tracy Urso bid us farewell. She’s moving to Nashville with her family but has promised to return to oversee The Great West Chase races in October. In Tracy’s place we welcome Westchase resident Chris Trautmann. Chris brings a creative business background in marketing to the table and had impressive success in cultivating and building Westchase Elementary’s relationship with its business partners. He’ll bring that same energy and creativity to WOW, offering new ways for our local businesses to reach out to Westchase and Northwest residents. We offer the warmest welcome to Chris!

In this edition, we offer our annual storm season tips and our local evacuation zone map, beginning on page 26. Last year’s busy tropical season was a reminder to Florida residents, new and seasoned, about the importance of heading into Florida’s tropical storm season prepared. Please act now so you’re not reacting later.

As I mention here frequently, WOW receives no outside financial support. We depend entirely on our ad revenues to bring WOW to you. Please therefore remember to tell our advertisers you’ve seen them in WOW. It helps us maintain the magazine and strengthens our charitable efforts in the community.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Pirates and Other Silly Fun

Is it too late to say, “April Fools?”

By now we hope you’ve figured out that April’s cover story was WOW’s traditional silly nod to April Fool’s Day. No, the Lean Green Machine program, which threatened to bring power-generating swings and and wind turbines to Westchase isn’t real. Nor was Northwest WOW’s April Fool’s cover story, which had the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners voting to end Daylight Saving Time because the extra hour of sunlight was drying out the landscaping.

While we closed both articles with a note acknowledging the stories weren’t true, we always hook some folks – like the poor Bay News 9 reporter who emailed the Westchase Community Association president on April 5 asking to interview him about the Lean Green Machine project. WCA President Ruben Collazo had a little fun when he called the reporter. “She wanted to come here and do an on camera interview,” he reported back. “I told her that she needed to try our ‘test track,’ as we call it, at our swim and tennis center, where she could walk, generate some power and read the gauges to see her output capacity.  She said, ‘Okay’.”

We thank everyone for their indulgence and hope everyone had a good laugh.

Now we turn to this month’s fun.

A local curiosity that newcomers discover soon after their arrival is that Tampa Bay loves pirates.

This pirate obsession started, of course, with the legendary and entirely fictional pirate Jose Gaspar, the inspiration for Gasparilla, Tampa Bay’s premier event held each year when the rest of the North is still shivering.

Each of the krewes that participates in the parade has its own unique history. And each focuses its energies when it isn’t partying and plundering on service to the community.

This month a krewe that has adopted the greater Westchase area as its home begins a significant transformation. In addition to doubling the size of its krewe through a membership drive, it is launching a season of significant fundraising to build itself a new parade float. We tell the krewe’s story in our cover feature on page 4.

Recent weeks have been filled with news that directly affects local families. Linebaugh Avenue has experienced some rather jarring construction and lane changes and rumors have flown about permitting for the Citrus Park Drive extension, still expected to begin construction in early 2018. Further, Westchase families have heard talk of a new program at Davidsen Middle School, aimed at convincing more Westchase families to send their sons and daughters there for middle school rather than opting for private or magnet options. This edition of WOW covers these stories and so much more.

Most significant, this month brings to a close WOW Business Manager Tracy Urso’s 15-year tenure with WOW. I could write several cover features about Tracy’s contributions to WOW and the Westchase community over the years and still not do her impact justice. Please turn to page 42 for a far briefer farewell and thank you.

Tracy, you will be greatly missed!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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The Importance of Critical Reading

The phrase “fake news” has frequently appeared in recent headlines

If we’re honest, fake news has been around a very long time. As a kid wandering through the supermarket checkout with my grandmother, I was intrigued by headlines about the latest UFO and the exploits of Bat Boy splashed across the tabloids above the candy display.

While a lot of consumers unthinkingly gobbled it up, my grandmother would toss me one of her looks and say, “You can’t believe every fool thing you read.”

WOW takes fake news very seriously. We will never let you down in this regard.

And year after year, we hear from residents who thank us for taking such great care in maintaining our strong traditions.

One of our April traditions is our Summer Camp Spectacular. Beginning on page 92, WOW writer Marcy Sanford offers tips on how to keep your more challenging tweens and teens happy with summer camps. She also has interviewed a number of local folks to pinpoint their kids’ favorite summer camps. Our Summer Camp Spectacular is filled with lots of great camp ideas and options – a great place to start when discussing summer camps with your kids. We thank the camps and camp directors who have helped bring you this special.

This month’s WOW also brings news of important developments. In March a significant meeting was held at Davidsen Middle School to discuss community perceptions of the school. It covered a lot of ground, which our article on page 22 details. At the meeting’s conclusion, district leaders were on the verge of announcing an exciting new Davidsen program to help convince Westchase families considering local magnets to attend their community middle school instead. Stay tuned for more details as this story continues to play out.

Nearby new developments have been a reoccurring recent theme and this month WOW reveals the latest one to spring up on Westchase’s borders. Cornergate, a new subdivision of nearly 150 homes, will be accessed off Sheldon Road just north of Wellspring United Methodist Church. At deadline, one of the developers suggested that groundbreaking for the new neighborhood was eminent.

March’s Voting Members meeting (Page 10) saw your association leaders hearing from Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis, who is trying to develop land at the southwest corner of the intersection of Race Track Road and Linebaugh Avenue. Among things he’s considering for the spot across from Tampa Bay Downs is a new baseball stadium for the Rays. Whatever ultimately is constructed there will impact Linebaugh Avenue. All plans for the land, which straddles the jurisdiction of two different counties, bears watching by all Westchasers.

In closing, I hope your April opens with great fun and happiness. And I wish those who observe this month’s holidays a happy and blessed Passover and Easter.

As I mention each month, please tell WOW’s valued advertisers you saw their ads here. And always read the editor’s notes at the ends of articles. We sometimes put important stuff in there.


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What’s It Worth?

Few possessions are as near and dear to us as our homes.

Over the years, they become extensions of our families’ values and personality, a reflection of our pride.

With the housing boom and bust, however, our homes also became reflections of our economic well-being. As the local housing market continues to heal, we can’t help but pause and wonder: “How much is it worth now?”

For many, the answer still represents a burden or lack of freedom. Nevertheless, as our annual look at real estate sales in Westchase will show, the number of homes representing a financial burden on their owners continues to drop.

Our Real Estate Special reflects a great deal of research and data sifting, all made possible through the dedication of Nancy Wood of the Wood Team of Coldwell Banker. Annually she generously helps provide the data, broken down by village, that makes our analysis possible. I want to take a moment to thank Nancy for her help – and thank the other Realtors who took time to answer questions about the local real estate market: Wendy Ross of Florida Executive Realty, Nena Cox of Town Chase Properties and Kimmie Cimino Fine of Palermo Real Estate Professionals. Of course, we also thank the multitude of professionals whose financial support made the Real Estate Special possible.

This month’s WOW is filled with other great features and news about local events, including new developments, road construction and road repaving. It tells of the accomplishments of residents who have accomplished something special. It also announces that WOW is hiring a new business manager/ad sales director. After a decade and a half, we are losing WOW Business Manager Tracy Urso, who has helped shape Westchase through both her professional and volunteer work. She broke the news that she will be moving with her family in June. She will be extraordinarily difficult to replace. If you are nonetheless up for a challenge, please see page 40 for more information.

WOW is also currently collecting new forms for residents and businesses interested in appearing in this spring’s annual Resident and Business Directory. With the virtual disappearance of phone books, this directory serves as a valuable community tool for residents to stay in contact with each other. If you’d like to be included, please see page 10 for more information.

Please remember to help support the Westchase Charitable Foundation by supporting its Seventh Annual Tampa Bay Woman of the Year fundraiser. As reported in February’s WOW, it will be held on Saturday, March 4, at the Tampa Jet Center from 6–11 p.m. For more details, visit to purchase tickets, donate or sponsor the event.

We thank you for reading and supporting WOW. WOW receives no financial support outside of these generous advertisers, so lease help keep WOW’s news coverage and charitable work strong by calling them to ask for more information whenever you are hiring professionals.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Home Improvements for Spring

What are your plans for your tax return?

If you’re considering home improvements, it might go further than you think.

This month WOW offers its annual look at home improvement. While traditionally we reach out to contractors to get an idea of current renovation trends, this year we took a different approach.

WOW’s cover feature offers the experiences of one Westchase couple who are do-it-yourselfers.

Yes, it takes time. More important, it takes a little courage. But YouTube hosts a wealth of DIY videos. And our local home improvement stores also stock helpful books that offer step-by-step tips on how to cut trim and tile as well as basic plumbing.

C’mon! You can do it!

At least after reading our home improvement story, you may feel encouraged to tackle a small DIY project. Our other articles focus on energy efficiency, an interesting new home loan opportunity through the county, and changes that are making solar equipment, paired with federal tax credits, more competitive than ever.

It’s been two years since our home improvement feature discussed solar energy, and prices have continued to drop over that time. If you have ever been tempted to reduce your reliance on the grid, you’ll want to read these articles, which may inspire you to make some phone calls.

This month’s WOW is filled other significant news.

WOW follows a number of new developments, both inside and potentially outside our boundaries, and a rundown of Westchase’s new rules.

As for Westchase’s 25th anniversary party in late January? Since it occurred after deadline, we’ll over photos and coverage next month.

Recently, however, some frustrated residents have requested WOW offer reminders about frequently ignored driving laws. We’ve all cut corners while driving. We go too fast. We forget to watch for pedestrians or cyclists. Out of convenience, we park where we know we shouldn’t. We  even reach for the phone when we know the dangers of distracted driving. Please take a moment to read our overlooked driving laws article on page 26. When you ignore these laws, it often impacts very real and very good people, including your own kids.

I close by highlighting WOW’s charitable efforts in 2016, something that makes us unique among news outlets. While we carry your association and CDD news, we don’t receive financial support of any kind. While WOW’s costs are all paid through our advertising, WOW isn’t for-profit. Each fall WOW helps organize one of Tampa Bay’s biggest community food drives and hosts a road race that raises money for a local poor school. But WOW’s charitable focus goes beyond that. Each year we donate all funds after expenses back to the community through scholarships, school grants and charitable donations. Last year (not including race proceeds) WOW’s charitable donations topped $70,000! We share WOW’s 2016 charitable giving on page 24.

Please help keep our charitable endeavors strong by telling our advertisers you saw them in WOW.


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WOW Begins a New Year

The year 2017 marks a major milestone for WOW.

In June of this year we’ll mark WOW’s 20th anniversary. And while we will be commemorating that anniversary in a number of ways, we begin 2017 with a January tradition.

Our Health and Wellness special focuses on topics of interest to many of our readers as they stop, take stock and set personal health goals for the new year. All too often many of the resolutions we set for ourselves don’t make it beyond Valentine’s Day. Instead of major changes that are frustratingly difficult to maintain, the Health and Wellness section offers more manageable tweaks to help you fashion a healthier, more fulfilling 2017.

Another January tradition is our look back on the previous year. WOW’s Year in Review summarizes the challenges and successes Westchase’s leaders have tackled in the previous year. It’s a great way to get up to speed on those government entities that tend to impact all of us the most.

This edition of WOW is also packed with great news, including the results of our historic Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive on Nov. 20. Our community’s generosity during the drive was amazing, a testament to the goodness and strong sense of community in Westchase. We thank everyone for making it an outstanding success.

This month also offers the culmination of Westchase’s 25th anniversary. The Westchase Community Association (WCA) and Westchase Community Development District (CDD) are combining forces to offer a celebration that also marks the grand reopening of Westchase’s refurbished parks. Be sure to join the fun at Glencliff Park on Jan. 21 from 2-4 p.m.

This month also marks a unique event. For the first time in its history, WOW will expand beyond Westchase this year. While the edition of WOW you have come to enjoy and trust will maintain its Westchase focus, our new WOW Northwest edition, delivered to neighborhoods north of the WCA, will offer news unique to those neighborhoods in its HOA and Community News sections. To make the Northwest edition possible, we’ve shuffled around WOW’s interior layout a bit. Everything you enjoy and love is still inside, however. What will be the biggest impact WOW’s Westchase readers will notice? Our school pages will expand to offer news of nearby schools in addition to those serving Westchase. And our contest features, like our Fake Ad Contest and WOW in the World feature, will also welcome our newest readers.

WOW’s expansion edition will help keep WOW financially strong, ensuring it continues many more years of serving Westchase and making valuable contributions to Westchase schools, WOW scholarships and other valued charities. As I mention here frequently, WOW receives no outside financial support. We depend entirely on our ad revenues to bring WOW to you. Please therefore remember to tell our advertisers you’ve seen them in WOW.

Happy new year!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Westchase’s Special December Traditions

If there is any month that illustrates how special Westchase is, it is December.

How many other neighborhoods – let alone towns – have such a wonderful tradition as Westchase’s Santa parade? We have Santa and his elves from the Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF) to thank for this great event, which returns Dec. 10.

WOW is particularly proud to be its presenting sponsor, underwriting all of its costs. It’s one of the important ways we direct our revenues to help build a stronger community in Westchase.

My children, now in middle and high school, still love the parade. Please join my family in saying a big “thank you” to the WCF by bringing Santa some unwrapped presents to help ensure less fortunate kids in Tampa Bay also have a happy holiday.

As I write this, I am just a few days from what will be another successful Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive. It occurred after this WOW went to print so we’ll have results and photos from the drive in January’s WOW. In recent weeks scores of enthusiastic residents and a significant number of Scout Troops have contacted me to volunteer. It makes me proud to call Westchase my home! If you made a donation on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, thank you.

At the end of October, WOW held another of its charitable endeavors: The Great West Chase. We saw over 1,300 runners, an all-time high! On page 26, we report the great news that it has made possible a $34,000 donation for math and literacy programs to Bellamy Elementary, a nearby elementary school with a high number of low income kids. This donation was made possible by dozens of hard working volunteers and dozens of other generous sponsors who helped ensure a top-notch event. I thank our volunteers and sponsors, all the residents who ran and all of Westchase for patiently accepting the delays and inconveniences of race morning. The Great West Chase is another special event that makes Westchase unique, setting it apart from other communities.

Late October saw an important county meeting, hosted by the Westchase Community Association (WCA). The meeting produced important news about funding for road repaving and the construction of the Citrus Park Drive Extension. This story is ongoing and much more will be known after a Jan. 5 meeting of the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners. Turn to page 24 for the most recent developments on these two Westchase priorities.

This month’s WOW is filled with fun events and traditions, from the Westchase Artists Society’s Holiday Market to WOW’s Holiday Decorating Contest. Kick back with a hot cup of cider or cocoa and enjoy!

I wish all of our readers a happy Hanukah, a wonderful Kwanzaa and a merry Christmas!

And remember, no matter how dark the world may seem, it is always made brighter when we remember to be the light.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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A Way to Give Thanks

It’s been a wild year, one that has spiraled downward into an even wilder finish.

It’s a finish that has culminated in accusations of a rigged national election and vague – and sometimes not so vague – threats of violence.

And on Nov. 9, the vast majority of Americans will likely wake up and collectively think, “Thank goodness that’s over.” We’ll at least have that much in common.

It’s been a difficult few months. It would be fair to call them ugly. In many ways, they have been quintessentially un-American. Many of us have had to cover our children’s ears as they have watched the news and political debates, which used to be safe for teachers to assign for social studies homework. These have not been our nation’s proudest moments.

It’s difficult, from the vantage point of mid-October (when I’m writing this), to know what the election’s aftermath will be. What is clear is that there will be a need to rebuild.

Some of us will have to rebuild relationships with family and friends. As a nation, we will have to work to rebuild faith in our political leaders and our political institutions, which are badly frayed.

Together we will have to build a new method of communicating, where we can share our differences without ugliness and where courtesy, respect and decency are the rules of the day. We will need to rebuild a greater sense of unity, where we put country before politician and political parties.

How wonderful it is, then, that the same month in which we will hold such a divisive election, we will collectively stop, as a nation, to count our blessings and give thanks.

Perhaps Thanksgiving can play a significant role in healing the nation, of replacing its language of division and a language of gratitude and generous charity that have become the hallmarks of this holiday:

Feed the poor. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless.

So I’m going to shamelessly twist your arm. Nov. 20 marks the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive, one of the most amazing traditions Westchase has. One-third of Westchase homes annually participate.

Think about what we could accomplish if we could raise that fraction to half of Westchase homes.

All we have to do is stand together as a community. How awesome is that?

If you’re willing to help as a way of saying “thank you,” please see page 4. (And I thank YOU for helping.)

Of course, please remember that WOW is self-sufficient. We receive no portion of your HOA or CDD fees and are entirely dependent on advertising to cover our production costs and charitable giving. If you enjoy WOW and would like to help keep the magazine and its charitable work strong, please let our generous advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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On Your Marks!

After a busy September that was filled with budget meetings and elections for the Westchase Community Association’s (WCA) Board, October kicks off Westchase’s most popular holiday traditions.

Marking the official start of Halloween, The Great West Chase will host its fifteenth running on Oct. 29! I say it every year: if you’ve never rolled out of bed early on the last Saturday in October, set your alarm clocks this month and join the fun.

Even if you’re not running or walking the race, come on out and watch more than a thousand runners fly down Linebaugh Avenue as the sun is rising. You’ll be inspired by the sight – and also enjoy a few laughs as our costumed runners pass in disguise.  It’s all for a great cause. You can still volunteer and register at Learn. more about what The Great West Chase offers on page 4.

October’s WOW also brings our Private School Special. Few decisions are as important to parents as where they send our kids to learn. Westchase is gifted with amazing public schools. Many families, however, like to explore all available options. Joey Johnston’s informative articles in our Private School Special – and the information provided by our advertisers in the special section – will help all parents with their school exploration process. It starts on page 92.

This edition of WOW also overflows with local news you can’t find elsewhere. WOW shares with you the results of Sept. 13’s elections to the WCA board as well as the budget hearings and workshops of your association and CDD.  Further, we bring you updates on new developments in the heart of West Park Village and at Westchase’s eastern entrance.

Westchase elections aren’t quite through, however. The end of October brings early voting and Westchasers’ ballots will include a race to fill a seat on the Westchase Community Development District (CDD). Three residents are vying for the position and WOW posed a series of questions that teases out policy differences among them. Check out their responses on page 20. We’re confident it will help you make a more informed decision during the general election.

While you’ll hear more about it in November’s WOW, each October we also begin our search for the scores of volunteers who make our annual Thanksgiving Food Drive here in Westchase one of the biggest and amazing community drives in Tampa Bay. If your kids and you would like to help out on the Sunday before Thanksgiving – and enjoy one of Westchase’s most inspiring traditions –  please see page 58 for more information.

Last, please remember that WOW is self-sufficient. We receive no portion of your HOA or CDD fees and are entirely dependent on advertising to cover our production costs and charitable giving. We’re unique. We return all revenues beyond costs every year to Westchase schools, scholarships and local charities.

If you enjoy WOW and would like to help keep the magazine and its charitable work strong, please let our generous advertisers know you saw them in WOW.


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School, Elections and Local Government

From my daughters’ perspective, someone broke summer break.

It was that short.

And so, ten days after this the edition of WOW appears, the kids will be heading back to their school. Please remember to send us your Back to School photos for our September edition. (See page 48 for details.)

September’s WOW will also feature our annual dining issue, which names the best restaurants in Tampa Bay. If you’ve disagreed with the results in the past, stop and log onto right now and set the record straight. It will take five minutes and you might even win dinner for two. (See page 68.)

While many of us are frustrated with national politics and are tempted to tune out, there is greater hope and an opportunity to shape your local government this fall.

November will see a contested CDD race, which actually is a source of hope. We have an experienced incumbent – one of the few on the CDD board discussing some of the shortfalls of the district’s existing landscaping contractor – being challenged by some impressive newcomers. One is an 11-year Westchase resident who currently supervises facility and grounds maintenance elsewhere. The other, an eight-year resident and civil engineer, can bring an informed eye to issues like infrastructure, development and storm-water flooding that the district regularly confronts. It speaks well of Westchase that the November ballot will challenge us all to choose from such quality candidates. See page 22 for details and look for the October WOW to present a candidate Q and A. And if there is a question you want us to ask, please share it with me at before Aug. 10.

This month the Westchase Community Association (WCA) is also asking residents to step forward to run for its board of directors. Some past WCA elections have simply put forward enough candidates to ensure warm bodies fill existing seats. And frequently the candidates are the same volunteers who have served as Voting Members or WCA directors for years. I realize it’s easy for some of us, who have been at the receiving end of deed restriction violation notices, to dismiss the association with frustration. But this represents your chance to shape the association and the community – as well as its facilities, programs and opportunities – for the better. And you may be surprised how open veteran volunteers are to new ideas. See the articles on pages 10 and 20 for ways to get involved.

Please get involved in your community. It will be one of the most valuable lessons you can teach your kids.

Last, please remember that WOW is self-sufficient. We receive no portion of your HOA or CDD fees and are entirely dependent on advertising to cover our production costs and charitable giving. We’re unique. We return all revenues beyond costs every year to Westchase schools, scholarships and local charities.

If you enjoy WOW and would like to help keep the magazine and its charitable work strong, please let our generous advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Our 2016 WOW Sylvester Scholars

Each June, as another school year draws to a close, WOW observes a great tradition.

We announce the latest class of our WOW Sylvester Scholars, a group of college-bound Westchase residents with impressive accomplishments in academics and community service. This month we introduce this year’s scholars. We’ll also be running more in-depth profiles of each, beginning in June’s WOW and running through the summer months.

We know you will be as impressed as we are.

This month I also want to offer a few reminders here due to lack of space further on.

May’s WOW brought news of a developer of a parcel on Thomas Ranch Lane, about 100 yards south of Linebaugh’s intersection with Sheldon Road.  Flournoy Companies a Georgia developer, wants to develop the 11 acres, currently holding 4 homes, with 218 apartments in six buildings. To do this, they have to significantly change the current permitted zoning, which only allows 66 units. Any resident concerned about traffic at that intersection or the current overcrowding of Alonso High School might consider joining the Westchase Community Association (WCA), which has contacted the county to oppose the requested zoning density. You may send written comments about the project to Hillsborough County Staff Planner Marshall Robinson at or call (813) 276-8406 before the zoning hearing. Be sure to mention the project’s case number, RZ 16-0636. The zoning hearing is scheduled for June 13 at 6 p.m. in the county building downtown.

In the April and May we ran an article letting Westchase residents know they can run for election as resident supervisor on Westchase’s Community Development District (CDD) this November.

Three of the CDD seats will be on the ballot. In the six supervisors’ elections held since 2004, only a single seat on the districts has undergone a contest; most incumbents are reelected when no one else files to run.

CDD supervisors meet monthly and are responsible for maintenance of Westchase commons areas, ponds and parks with the exception of the two swim and tennis centers. They’re paid $200 per meeting and oversee a budget that’s quite large.

The qualifying period for the election begins at noon on June 20, 2016, and ends at noon on June 24, 2016. Simply log onto (click on About Running for Office) for more information or contact Chelsea Campbell at the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office at or 272-5850.

Last, please remember that WOW is self-sufficient. We receive no portion of your HOA or CDD fees and are entirely dependent on advertising to cover our production costs and charitable giving. We’re unique. We return all revenues beyond costs every year to Westchase schools, scholarships and local charities.
If you enjoy WOW and would like to help keep the magazine and its charitable work strong, please let our generous advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Growing Pains

The temporary reprieve, which came in the form of a painful housing correction, is over.

Nearly a decade ago, with housing developments springing up all over, Northwest Hillsborough saw significant growing pains. They played out in underfunded infrastructure, debates over developers paying higher impact fees and schools bursting at the seams.

While housing values are rising and construction is booming again, last decade’s growing pains have returned. Linebaugh traffic passing through Sheldon Road regularly gets backed up to The Greens. Even after completion of a new wing of 12 classrooms, Westchase’s zoned high school, Alonso, it is projected to open at 104 percent of capacity next August.

Still the apartment complexes and townhome developments keep rising. Meanwhile, the county states it lacks the funds to build new roads or properly maintain those crumbling ones that exist.

Much of the news this past month – and in these pages – touches on these themes. On April 26 and 27 (after deadline for this WOW, so see WOW Online for their outcomes) the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners cast perhaps their two most significant votes of the year. On April 26, they considered whether to adopt new mobility fees on developers, compelling them to pay for the infrastructure their housing and commercial complexes demand. On April 27 commissioners, split on the matter at deadline, were to cast votes on whether to include a half cent sales tax referendum on the General Election ballot to fund things like the Citrus Park Drive extension and repaving Westchase roads.

Further, two developments – one in West Park Village and the other on Thomas Ranch Lane adjacent to Westchase on Sheldon Road – have prompted the Westchase Community Association (WCA) to weigh in. A Georgia developer wants to rezone the Thomas Ranch parcel, currently holding four homes, to build over 200 apartments there instead of the currently allowed 66. The WCA has come out in opposition to that rezoning. And David Weekley, whose representative had previously stated it would join its planned 36 townhome West Park Village development in West Park Village to the WCA, was showing no interest in doing so in April – even refusing to entertain the WCA’s concerns over the development’s inadequate parking. Those stories are on 104 and 26 respectively. Be sure to share your own opinion with the rezoning master and county staff currently working with those developers.

Also be sure to like World of Westchase’s Facebook page for posts announcing updates on stories like these.

Last, please remember that WOW is self-sufficient. We receive no portion of your HOA or CDD fees and are entirely dependent on advertising to cover our production costs and charitable giving. We’re unique. We return all revenues beyond costs every year to Westchase schools, scholarships and local charities.

If you enjoy WOW and would like to help keep the magazine and its charitable work strong, please let our generous advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Summer Camps: Picking the Great Ones

This month’s WOW is filled with our traditional April features and much more.

One of the most important is our annual Summer Camp Special, which introduces a host of great summer camps that serve Westchase families. In this feature beginning on page 18 WOW writer Karen Ring offers tips on picking the best summer camps for your kids – and offers a host of local options that are brimming with fun and that will fit your budget. Karen also offers a rundown of those camps closest to Westchase homes – the Westchase Community Association’s (WCA) popular summer offerings at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center and tips for registering for the hard-to-bag spots at the Westchase Recreation Center.

You don’t want to miss anything important in this feature or in any of our other main stories, so be sure to read to the end. We often include important items there.

This month’s WOW also introduces the seven Westchase seniors who were recently named National Merit Finalists for their impressive scores on the Preliminary SAT (PSAT). That test is taken their junior year in high school. While impressive by itself, this achievement also opens up opportunities for the students to win thousands of dollars in scholarships at colleges across the nation. Who are these talented kids? Check them out on page 40.

On page 38 we continue a new feature we introduced last month: Athlete of the Month. If you have a suggestion for an individual that we should consider for this feature, don’t hesitate to e-mail me at While we often know what is going on in our zoned public schools, if you have an athlete in a private school, we may not know he or she is a Westchase resident. Please drop us a note.

As we get closer to the summer months, we generally start running short of submissions for our WOW in the World feature. Be sure to take WOW on your trips and vacations outside of Florida. Take a photo holding the WOW in an interesting place, submit it for the feature with a sentence or two about your travels and we’ll send you a check for between $60 and $100. Kids love appearing in the magazine, so put them in charge! Simply e-mail your travel photos with WOW to me.

Of course, we’re also always interested in photos of your cute pets. You can also e-mail them to with a few sentences about what makes them so special.

Please remember that WOW is self-sufficient. We receive no portion of your HOA or CDD fees and are entirely dependent on advertising to cover our production costs and charitable giving. We’re unique. We return all revenues beyond costs every year to Westchase schools, scholarships and local charities.

If you enjoy WOW and would like to help keep the magazine and its charitable work strong, please let our generous advertisers know you saw them in WOW.


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Are You in Westchase’s Contacts Book?

As you begin reading this WOW, WOW staff is already compiling this year’s Resident and Business Directory, a compilation of Westchase contacts.

Every year WOW distributes the popular directory, which contains Westchase residents’ names, home and e-mail addresses and phone numbers – as well as the names and numbers of businesses who provide valuable services to Westchase residents. The directory is opt-in, however, so if you don’t fill out the form, your contact information will not be included. If want to be included, you must act this month.

WOW has posted an easy-to-use form here to allow residents who did not appear in last summer’s directory to submit their information for the new one. The deadline for completed forms is March 31. A form is also included in this month’s inserts.

The form is only for new listings or 2015 listings that need to be changed. If your entry already ran correctly in 2015 directory, you need to do nothing; your information will be automatically included again in the 2016 directory.

While some VMs may use residents’ e-mails to distribute village-specific news like neighborhood crime watch information or block party notifications, we have never sold, leased or shared the directory’s contact information with any commercial entity. The directory is simply for residents’ daily use. For more information, please see page 36.

March’s WOW also brings another popular Westchase tradition – our annual look at Westchase’s home values in our Real Estate Special. In 2015 national home prices, and even those across Tampa Bay, saw healthy increases. Did Westchase mirror this trend? While we have crunched the data for you, a few Westchase Realtors offer their insights on community sales trends. We thank all of our advertisers who helped bring you this Real Estate Special.

As part of our Real Estate Special, we also interviewed Westchasers who bought homes in 2015. To find out what prompted them to decide to call Westchase home, please see page 18.

How did Westchase schools fare in state grades, based on last year’s Florida Standards Assessments (FSA)? We offer you results and an explanation about the messy, controversial process behind them on page 34.

Last, one of Westchase’s fun traditions – the Amazing Race for Life – returns this spring. For information on how to register your team, see page 24.

Please remember that WOW is self-sufficient. We receive no portion of your HOA or CDD fees and are entirely dependent on advertising to cover our production costs and charitable giving. We’re unique. We return all revenues beyond costs every year to Westchase schools, scholarships and local charities.

If you enjoy WOW and would like to help keep the magazine and its charitable work strong, please let our generous advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

Happy spring!


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Home Sweet Home

Or for some of us, it’s Home Sweat Home.

Westchasers take great pride in – and put great effort into – maintaining their homes. You see it in the quality and time put into yards. And you see it in the investments Westchasers make to keep their homes current with the latest trends.

With all those dancing Statues of Liberty taking to street corners around Tampa Bay, we thought we’d offer you some ideas on how to spend your tax return on home improvement projects.

This month we offer our annual look at home improvement ideas. We interviewed a contractor who works in many Westchase homes to share with you the trends you neighbors are embracing when remodeling their kitchens and bathrooms.

Yet maintaining your home is much more – and often much less – than replacing countertops and refinishing the cabinets and shower enclosures. Proper home maintenance keeps the structure in good shape and the occupants safe. Our conversation with a local home inspector was eye opening. You too may be surprised by the home maintenance hiccups that inspectors spot and which often trip up sales.

We also offer a side article on the headache that polybutylene pipes can cause homeowners. In the early years of Westchase construction, PB pipes were often a go-to plumbing choice of Tampa Bay builders because of their cost and flexibility. Twenty years on, problems with PB pipes are causing some home insurance companies and lenders to throw up hurdles to homes purchases until PB pipes are replaced. Our home improvement section will help you determine if they lurk behind your walls – and what it may cost you to eventually fix them.

We thank all the home improvement businesses who helped bring you this special section.

This month’s WOW is filled with other significant news. Florida courts continue to shift Westchase’s representation in both Washington and Tallahassee. In December, a court ruling changed Westchase’s state senate district, making it all but certain we’ll have a new state senator after November’s elections. Westchase also received some bad news about the possibility of road repaving. It’s all inside.

Last, Westchase’s new Community Resource Officer, Deputy Hugh Alter, along with other leaders of the local district of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, invite you to meet them at Coffee With Cops. They’ll greet Westchasers to hear their concerns and ideas at the Westchase McDonald’s on Feb. 3 from 9-10:30 a.m. Please stop by.

Please remember that WOW is self-sufficient. We receive no portion of your HOA or CDD fees and are entirely dependent on advertising to cover our production costs and charitable giving. We’re unique. We return all revenues beyond costs every year to Westchase schools, scholarships and local charities.

If you enjoy WOW and would like to help keep the magazine and its charitable work strong, please let our generous advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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A Month of Beginnings

The Roman god Janus was a curious fellow.

Janus had two faces, one facing forward and one looking back. Appropriately, he was the god of beginnings and transitions – and doorways, gates and entrances. How appropriate that we name the doorway to a whole new year after him.

This month WOW also takes a look forward and a look back. We offer our Year in Review, beginning on page 16, in case you missed some last year’s news about the Westchase Community Association and Community Development District.

We also take a look forward, offering our Health and Wellness special. Our cover feature doesn’t tackle the usual diet and fitness tips that are so overcooked each January. Instead, we interviewed four doctors from PsychWell, a local consortium of independent psychologists, in an effort to peel back some of the mystery and stigma around mental illness. The psychologists even offer some mental health resolutions to help you build a happier, mentally healthier 2016.

In late November, Westchase had another impressive showing with its Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive. We offer results – including the neighborhood winners – on page 20.

December saw two other great Westchase traditions, the Westchase Charitable Foundation’s Pre-Flight Parade, which saw Santa collect over 1,000 presents for less privileged kids from generous Westchase families. Photos appear on pages 102-103. Meanwhile, Westchase homes impressed our holiday decorating contest judges again in December. Did your neighbors or you win? Check out the article on page 24.

What will 2016 bring to WOW? It’s our 20th anniversary! To commemorate our birthday, we’ll be bringing some new and fun things to you in the coming 12 months. And because we always strive to look forward (with a healthy sense of respect for the past), you’ll notice WOW has updated itself this month. Its new logo and look is meant to keep the magazine current. We will always strive to be a pleasure to read – and a positive reflection of our great community.

In this light, I ask you to consider a resolution to help keep WOW thriving for two more decades. Please remember that WOW is self-sufficient. We receive no portion of your HOA or CDD fees and are entirely dependent on advertising to cover our production costs and charitable giving. We’re unique. We return all revenues beyond costs every year to Westchase schools, scholarships and local charities. Survival of print publications today is a challenge with many readers moving to digital – yet digital simply doesn’t provide the advertising revenues to support it. One reason WOW continues to thrive is the loyalty of its readers.

If you enjoy WOW and would like to help keep the magazine and its charitable work strong, please let our generous advertisers know you saw them in WOW. And when you hire an advertiser who is not in WOW, please give them your copy and tell them they should be.

Happy New Year!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Be the Light

I write this in the aftermath of November’s terrible attacks on Paris and the memorial service for an Alonso student and beloved child of a long-time Westchase family.

Over the past few days, I have found myself needing to revisit to a theme that runs throughout this time of year – through many of the world’s major religions, from the Roman Solstice up through Hanukah and Christmas.

It is this: during even the longest, darkest moments, there is always light.

At times, it may take great effort to see it, but it is assuredly there.

There is the light that slowly and surely returns with the passing of the Winter Solstice. There is the light of the menorah candles, commemorating the miracle of the oil in the temple. There is the light of the Christmas star.

This truth drives us to decorate the outside of our homes with blazing, confident lights this time of year: to chase away the winter’s long, persistent darkness.

Always look for the light. For we know therein lies life’s joy.

In October I witnessed the joy and fun of the Great West Chase, which raised a significant amount of money for Davis Elementary, a school with a high number of students touched by poverty. The lights there? The dozens of volunteers who come out every year and dedicate many hours to ensure the event’s success. And the smiles and cheers of family members as their loved ones flashed crossed the finish lines.

On Nov. 22, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, hundreds of Westchase homes became the light by participating in the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive, whose photos and neighborhood results we will share in January’s WOW. One of my favorite moments each year is jumping on the back of the Metropolitan Ministries truck and looking out on the scores of volunteers who have gathered to collect, sort and load trucks with your donations, which allowed the less fortunate to give thanks.

This month the light becomes evident again with the return of Santa’s Pre-Flight Parade. With sirens and flashing lights, Santa will parade through the community, greeting Westchase’s children and families. How can you help be the light? Santa and his helpers will be collecting unwrapped gifts to distribute to less fortunate children who might not otherwise have a Christmas. Please see our cover story on page 4 for details.

I close by wishing everyone a wonderful holiday – and by encouraging everyone again to remember that in the darkest times, we must look for the light.

And if all else fails, to be that light.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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A Halloween Treat

In addition to the cutest Trick-or-Treaters in Tampa Bay, another fun tradition returns to Westchase on Halloween.

The Great West Chase 5K, 10K and Children’s Fun Run kicks off early on Oct. 31. We’ve had a stunning turnout of sponsors, which guarantees a fantastic post-race party. Be sure to roll out of bed early, don your Halloween costume (of course, it’s not mandatory) and join all the fun. What better way to burn off the calories you’ll be putting on that night? See http://www.TheGreatWestChase and page 20 for more details.

Even if you don’t want to run but still want to watch the fun, fill your coffee mug and come on out to Linebaugh, Countryway or Montague Street to cheer on our runners!

This year a big change for Westchase high schoolers rolls out: the revamped SAT. As part of our Private School Special (beginning on page 16), Karen Ring offers a look at the new college test. She also tackles tips for picking the best tutoring services for kids who need a little help, whether in high school or the elementary grades. We thank all the private schools who helped sponsor this special section.

If you haven’t yet attended one of GO Hillsborough’s meetings to help shape our county’s future transit plan, two of your final opportunities occur Oct. 5 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in Carrollwood at the Jimmie B. Keel Library on Bears Road and Oct. 13 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Town N Country Library on Paula Drive. Those who attend will help decide whether a half or full cent sales tax referendum will be placed on the November 2016 general election ballot. They will also pinpoint which projects will be funded in the first 10 years by any sales tax increase.

Your Westchase neighbors have helped produce some of the best attended GO Hillsborough meetings at the UTB Regional Library in the last two months. The resulting transit decisions – and how they shape our county transportation infrastructure over the next decade – will likely have greater impact on you than the person who is next elected U.S. president. Please take an hour, attend one of the meetings (there are no lectures or speakers) and let the county know your priorities.

Last, the Westchase Community Association also wants your suggestions for uses of a piece of land between the Westchase Swim and Tennis Tennis Courts and the fire station. Please log onto and take the Swim & Tennis Committee’s very quick, one-question poll so your ideas are heard.

Please remember that WOW is self-sufficient. We receive no portion of your HOA or CDD fees and are entirely dependent on advertising to cover our production costs and charitable giving. If you enjoy WOW and would like to help keep the magazine and its charitable work strong, please let our generous advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Bidding a Good Friend Farewell

In February 2002 I stepped into the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center and met Ernie Sylvester for the very first time.

Back then, dozens of Westchase volunteers gathered at the center on the first of the month to stuff inserts into the magazine, bag each magazine in a plastic sleeve and count them out in boxes for delivery to each village.

And standing at the insert table was Ernie Sylvester of The Greens.

A little deeper into these pages, I offer a woefully incomplete list of Ernie’s contributions to his country and community. Why would this specifically matter to our readers?

Because of his years of service on WOW’s Board of Directors, Ernie helped make WOW what it is today.

Yet Ernie was a rare man, one to whom no obituary, detailing a long life’s resume, can do justice.

Ernie wasn’t tall. He wasn’t imposing. He was a bald, bespectacled man you may have passed a dozen times in Publix when you were struggling to keep the kids in line.

Here is what Ernie’s obituary won’t tell you:

When Ernie spoke, you couldn’t help but fall silent. He exuded contentment and happiness, humility and a gentleness, graciousness and wisdom.

He was instinctually kind and generous.

When Ernie spoke, when he told a story with a laugh, when he respectfully and thoughtfully spoke at any community meeting, when his gentle, warbling voice caused you to stop a moment and lean in, you couldn’t help but think afterward: When I grow up, I want to be like Ernie Sylvester.

I could fill this space – and many more pages – with what made Ernie special to others and to me. And still something great would be sorely missed.

For Ernie has left us.

So I will sum up my insufficient words in this way: Ernie was profoundly good to me. He was fiercely loyal. And even more fiercely kind.

Westchase grew a bit smaller with Ernie Sylvester’s death.

And I miss him.

I felt this month that I needed to take this small space and simply state that.

Oh, and this:

Someday, when I grow up, I want to be like Ernie Sylvester.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Back to Busy

August annually marks the return of school.

But August also hosts some key community meetings that will directly impact your wallet.

On Aug. 4 the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) will hold what will likely be its most important meeting of the year. The meeting marks not only the district’s annual public hearing on its 2016 budget (see page 26 for your tentative assessment), it also marks an opportunity for you to shape the district’s $1 million parks plan. We ran details of the draft park plan in July’s WOW, but supervisors postponed its consideration to this month. So the article appears again on page 14.  Take a moment to review the parks plan – and e-mail supervisors your thoughts and feedback. They actually have requested it! Their contact information can be found on page 99.

On Aug. 11 during the Westchase Voting Members meeting, the Westchase Community Association (WCA) will hold its annual budget workshop. If you’ve ever wondered what your HOA assessment pays for, this meeting offers an opportunity to thoroughly understand the association’s spending. When particular budget lines spark discussion and debate at the workshop, each issue is generally decided by an informal straw poll of residents in attendance. Residents are always welcome to attend and weigh in on their priorities.

This month we continue our two-part series on Westchase veterans. July’s WOW shared the fascinating stores of four residents and this month we wrap up the series by presenting three more. The stories of these impressive men and women have triggered a lot of positive reaction in the community and we’re grateful to all of them for sharing their stories with us. Further, we are grateful to all Westchase veterans for their service.

Please remember, as school opens, to take a photo of your kids as they head out for their first day. Then forward it to us at for our Back to School Photo spread. The kids love to see themselves in WOW and it brings a smile to every Westchaser who ever loved the excitement of the first day. Jot a reminder on your calendar and see page 42 for details.

Last, if you’d like a chance for WOW to send you and a companion out to dinner, please take five minutes to let us know your favorite restaurants – from Best Pizza to Best Romantic Meal – in WOW’s annual dining survey. You can conveniently find the easy-to-complete survey online at


Please also remember that WOW is self-sufficient. We receive no portion of your HOA or CDD fees and are entirely dependent on advertising to cover our production costs and charitable giving. If you enjoy WOW and would like to help keep the magazine and its charitable work strong, please let our generous advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Our Nation’s Birthday – and Its Defenders

Two hundred and thirty nine years ago, a group of colonists, who had begun to call themselves  Americans, began a brave quest.

Concluding their interests were different than those of their king back in Great Britain, they proclaimed a new nation. Theirs was an experiment in representative government that most Europeans at the time believed was doomed to failure.

We recognize those brave American idealists on Independence Day this month.

Those men and women began a tradition of setting aside their own interests and lives to serve the interests of their nation. In tribute to them, we honor Westchase’s veterans this month. From those who served long ago in Japan and in Europe to those who have served more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will tell the stories of eight veterans in July’s and August’s WOWs.

Interviewing these amazing men and women proved enlightening, enjoyable and inspiring for me. Each had a unique story. Yet they also shared a commonality: their service indelibly affected their lives – and sparked their growth into the men and women – as well as the spouses, the parents and the grandparents – they are today.

We begin this month by telling the stories of five of them. We will continue by telling the stories of three others in Part II of the series, which will run in August.

We share another veteran’s story in this month’s profile on page 72 and directed this month’s Q and A feature on page 48 at a handful of other Westchase veterans.

Westchase is teeming with veterans who have served their country. At least one (and likely far more) lives on your street. If you have not done so, ask them to tell you the story of their service. It will prove a heartwarming, wonderful conversation that will leave you filled with hope and optimism about the future of our country.

I thank all of Westchase veterans for their service, and particularly those who took the time to share their stories and insights with us this month.

On July 7 an important meeting will take place. Supervisors of Westchase’s Community Development District (CDD) will review a proposed $1.1 million parks renovation project at their 4 p.m. meeting at the Westchase Community Association office building on Parley Drive. They specifically asked WOW to present the proposal in detail to enable you to offer your reactions before its approval. We do so beginning on page 14. Take a moment to review the parks plan – and e-mail supervisors your thoughts and feedback. Their contact information can be found on page 99.

Please remember that WOW is self-sufficient. We receive no portion of your HOA or CDD fees and are entirely dependent on advertising to cover our production costs and charitable giving. If you enjoy WOW and would like to help keep the magazine and its charitable work strong, please let our generous advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

Happy Independence Day!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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The 2015 WOW Scholars

Each spring parents of students applying for the WOW Scholars Program tell us how their sons and daughters have long had a goal of appearing on the cover of June’s WOW.

This month we hope our cover feature again inspires another talented group of Westchase middle and high school students to remain committed to scholarship and community service.

At the April 20 WOW Scholars Dinner I had the pleasure of meeting our seven 2015 WOW Scholars. We gathered inside the Westchase Golf Club for our cover photo this year because outside, for the first time in the dinner’s history, the skies did not cooperate. The weather, however, didn’t dampen the celebration.

At the dinner the WOW Scholars spoke not only of their successes but also their inspirations, telling everyone about the teacher and book that most inspired them during high school.

On page 4 we introduce these talented young men and women. Over the next few months, we’ll also run more in-depth profiles about each. If your child is headed into their senior high school year next August, have them keep an eye out for the 2016 WOW Scholars application, which will likely be posted on WOW Online ( in December. The application deadline shifts a bit each year, so don’t miss it.  

As you head out of state on your family vacation this summer, be sure to bring along WOW. We love seeing photos of residents holding the magazine in fun places. All you have to do is submit the photos and a few sentences identifying the sites you visited and you may appear in our WOW in the World feature. The kids love to see themselves in WOW! See page 86 for this fun feature.

June’s WOW also features a very important safety reminder. On pages 24-27 we run storm season preparation links as well as a large map of Westchase’s evacuation zones. While Westchase benefits from lying close to beautiful Tampa Bay, its geography also places every Westchase village in storm surge zones. In the event of a significant hurricane, some Westchase homes could see as much as 15 feet of water. Westchase residents who work for EMS teams and who have volunteered in hurricane-hit areas will attest to the truth in the adage: It’s not the wind that kills. It’s the water. Be sure you know your evacuation zone. If you are ordered to evacuate, do so. None of us is smarter or more powerful than fickle Mother Nature.

Further, as hurricane veterans in places like Miami will attest, every homeowner in our state needs to stock ample storm supplies to survive a week in their homes without power or running water. Even a lower category hurricane can wreak havoc on our local utilities.

Please remember that WOW is self-sufficient. We receive no portion of your HOA or CDD fees and are entirely dependent on advertising to cover our production costs and charitable giving. If your service provider is not currently advertising, please give them your copy and encourage them to support the Westchase community.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Traffic and Transportation

A running theme through recent WOWs has been traffic and transportation.

In March and April the Transportation for Economic Development Policy Leadership Group (PLG),  which includes all seven Hillsborough County Commissioners, local mayors and the chair of the HART board, have hosted a number of public meetings in an effort for develop a new Community Transportation Plan. Perhaps you’ve seen the signs for the effort: GO Hillsborough.

I’ve attended the March and April sessions and found them incredibly educational. They also allowed me to share my transportation priorities and ways I prefer to pay for them. The most recent occurred on April 7 at the UTB Regional Library. If you haven’t had the chance to attend a meeting, take a few minutes and visit where, you can learn about the county’s transportation challenges and offer your opinion.

The GO Hillsborough effort wraps up with a third set of meetings in May. The session for Westchase and the Northwest will be held on May 18 at Town 'n Country Regional Public Library from 6-8 p.m. If you can’t attend the meeting, you can still offer your opinion through the I-Neighborhood Project App (see the Web site for details) or a telephonic town hall meeting. You can also just leave your comments at 274-6922.

Given the county effort, we decided to do our own informal poll of Westchase residents. In April we heard from over 300 residents who told us about terrible drivers, their traffic gripes and their transportation priorities. Our cover feature shares what we learned from them. Some of it you see each day on

Westchase roads. Other results, however, may cause you to raise your eyebrows.

We’ll keep the poll on WOW Online at to allow you to weigh in if you haven’t yet. We’ll then share the results with the Westchase Community Association (WCA) and its Government Affairs Committee, who will likely be as impressed as we were by residents’ smart suggestions and insights.

May’s WOW also offers some other fun features. Last month’s story on Glencliff Park represented our annual April Fool’s gag and we sure hooked some residents. Rumor has it that a number of moms at the MOMS Club playgroup were quite worked up about one of their parks being converted to a cemetery. Read more reader reactions on page 20.

We also introduce a fun, new feature called Home of the Month on page 76. Each month we’ll present a home whose landscaping and yard have caught our eye. Please be sure to nominate your neighbors.

We also offer our Travel and Leisure Special on page 92 and thank the advertisers who have made it possible.

Please remember that WOW is self-sufficient. We receive no portion of your HOA or CDD fees and are entirely dependent on advertising to cover our printing and delivery costs as well as our charitable giving. Please help keep us strong by telling our advertisers you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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WOW Reader Survey Results: We’re Impressed!

Last month’s survey of our readers WOWed us! And it’s triggered some changes inside.

Exactly 370 residents voluntarily took the survey, representing more than 10 percent of Westchase homes and more than three times the previous survey in 2012. We thank all of you and congratulate our winners of three random drawings for $100 prizes, Wendy Baier of Harbor Links, Miriam Vattamattam of Chelmsford and Donna Gulnick of Brentford!

What did the survey tell us? An amazing 77 percent said they read WOW every month. Another 14 percent said they read it 75 percent of the time. Your trust in our news reporting was also impressive, with only 8 of 370 survey takers suggesting WOW’s coverage of Westchase’s governing entities was either biased or inaccurate – a level of trust few other media outlets can match.

Survey takers offered some great suggestions for story ideas that you’ll see in upcoming months. We’ve also changed some of our content. This month, in addition to our traditional Summer Camp Special, we introduce Brian O’Connor’s Funny Money, which offers financial advice with a sense of humor. Writer Kathryn Weber’s column, Living Space, will also offer practical advice not only on do-it-yourself home decorating but also organizing and de-cluttering.

Karen Ring’s new recipe column features Westchase cooks and their favorite recipes (Got a recipe you know everyone will love? Shoot her an e-mail!). Meanwhile, Marcy Sanford’s Westchase Q and A will allow a handful of Westchasers to offer their answers to a timely question. Beginning in May, we’ll also offer the Westchase Home of the Month, identifying a home with great curb appeal and including the homeowners’ tips on how they accomplished it. (If you know a home with a particularly beautiful yard, shoot us an e-mail so we can share it with Westchase.)

Our reader survey also made clear some small misconceptions. Some suggested we could use thinner paper or less color so we could save them money on their HOA assessment. Others stated, “You’re running more and more ads!”

I want to assure you that the percentage of our ad content to editorial content falls within a fixed percentage every month – and it hasn’t varied in 13 years. Second, due to industry changes and aggressive bidding, we print WOW in color today for less than it cost to print WOW in black and white seven years ago. Last, please know that WOW receives no portion of your WCA homeowners’ assessments. None of the above suggestions, if adopted, would lower your assessment at all.

WOW is entirely supported by its ad revenue. (You see? Ads are your friends!) We deliver this high quality publication for free to you every month – a claim no other HOA publication in the state can make!

As always, to keep WOW strong, I ask you to tell our valued advertisers you’ve seen them on these pages.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Readers’ Poll: What Are Your Favorites?

Spring cleaning is upon us here at WOW.

Every few years we pull together a readers’ poll to determine what in our pages is worth keeping and what we should consider changing. Whether you’re a dedicated or occasional reader, we would love to have your input this month. The poll, which takes about five minutes to complete, can be found at the top of the homepage of WOW Online and on World of Westchase’s Facebook page through March.

We’ll ask what your favorite columns are and how commonly you read various features. From your input, we’ll determine how we can freshen our content. We’ll even ask you to pitch your own ideas for columns and features you would like to see.

To help thank you for your participation, all poll takers will be entered into a random drawing for three $100 prizes. Your odds of winning are far better than most 50-50 raffles conducted at small charity events, so please share your thoughts at Your .participation will help keep WOW strong while delivering the fun, entertaining content you love.

March’s WOW also brings another popular Westchase tradition – our annual look at Westchase’s home values in our Real Estate Special. This year marks the third straight year of solid price increases across most Westchase neighborhoods. While we crunch the data for you, a few Westchase Realtors offer their insights on community sales trends. We thank all of our advertisers who helped bring you this Real Estate Special.

I offer my special thanks to Nancy and Doug Wood of Coldwell Banker, who generously pulled and compiled the 2014 Westchase sales data for WOW’s review.

While Easter is April 5, March 29 brings the bunny back to Westchase in the community’s annual Easter Egg Hunt (See page 40). April’s WOW, in turn, will feature a story on Westchase families’ traditions and celebrations surrounding Passover.

I conclude with an important request. When searching for local service providers, please always remember to let our advertisers know you saw them in WOW. With the rise of free Internet content, recent years have proven a great challenge for print publications. The two local newspapers, which used to provide widespread coverage of Westchase’s community meetings and local news, have eliminated it as their ad revenues have plummeted. WOW fills this important role now. To keep the magazine strong – and to enable us to continue making our generous donations to Westchase schools and charities – we really need our dedicated readers to support the magazine by thanking our advertisers. And if you’re using a local service provider that is not in WOW, please offer them your well-worn copy and tout it as the source of local news you read every month.

Happy spring!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Stand Up and Squeak

The saying goes: the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

This month the Westchase Community Association (WCA) needs five minutes of your time to help build a stronger, safer community.

On a number of WOW’s pages this month you’ll read about Westchase leaders organizing an online petition drive to convince Hillborough County’s Board of County Commissioners to find adequate funding to pave Westchase’s crumbling roads.

A December WOW article revealed that Hillsborough County has dramatically underfunded road resurfacing for the last half decade. For fiscal year 2015, which runs through Sept. 30, 2015, the county has budgeted $5.2 million for repaving roads, which will pave roughly 21.5 miles of two-lane roads.

If you don’t factor in Linebaugh Avenue and Countryway Boulevard – and also pull out the roads in Westchase neighborhoods behind gates (which are owned and repaved by the Community Development District and paid for by their own residents) – the remaining Westchase roads total about 19 miles. Repaving these roads alone would eat up 88 percent of the county’s repaving budget this year.

In other words, Westchase is going to have to do a whole lot of squeaking to get the grease.

Some believe that the county is allowing roads to deteriorate to build support for a transit referendum tentatively scheduled for November 2016.

Imagine the state of Westchase roads by that point. Now imagine what will happen if the transit referendum fails.

Is this a responsible way for the county to maintain its largest, most important asset?

Are you ready to squeak yet?

If so, check out the WCA’s article on page 10. Take five minutes, pull up your laptop, sign the Westchase Road Repaving petition and then hand the laptop to the other adults of voting age in your home. Standing together as a community, we may just get this done.

This month’s WOW also features our annual Home Improvement Special, which may have you looking at solar energy in a whole new light.

WOW writers Karen Ring and Marcy Sanford also offer new looks at some of our community’s most overlooked prizes. February is one of the best months to get out and enjoy our state. Did you also know that Florida is enormously popular with ornithologists – bird watchers – because so many of our birds live nowhere else? Check out Karen’s article to learn more about our local feathered friends. Then enjoy Marcy’s article, which offers some great opportunities in nearby parks to help you make the most out of February.

As always, we welcome your shout outs and letters and ask that you let our valued advertisers know that you’ve seen them in WOW. Doing so will help keep WOW strong – and enable us to continue giving back to Westchase.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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WOW Gives Back –  On Your Behalf

Each year I share with you some of the other work WOW does on your behalf.

As we begin 2015, I’m proud to share with you WOW’s 2014 charitable giving, much of which recently occurred.

It may sound like I’m just tooting our own horn. I hope, however, my real intent becomes clear. You, dear reader, played an integral role in making this happen. And we need your continued support to do the same in 2015.

WOW is quite unusual among homeowners’ association publications. The cost of most HOA publications is usually borne, in some way, by the association’s homeowners through their annual HOA assessments. WOW, however, is different. The Westchase Community Association (WCA) and Westchase homeowners don’t provide any funding at all for the magazine. Instead WOW is entirely supported by its advertising revenue.

Each time you pick up and read WOW – each time you call its valued advertisers and let them know you’ve seen them in WOW – you help keep WOW strong in a very challenging marketplace for print media.

And it is a very challenging marketplace.

WOW is a non-profit corporation whose mission states, “The Westchase community as a whole will profit from the magazine as revenues beyond expenses and reserves will be distributed to deserving community beneficiaries and projects.”

In December WOW marked another year in which it made significant donations to support schools that teach Westchase children – and poorer schools that feed into Davidsen Middle School, for which all of Westchase is zoned.

After requesting wish-lists from our schools, WOW made nearly $50,000 in technology grants, with $1,900 going to Robinson IB, $1,900 to Alonso, $9,800 to Davidsen, $6,200 to Walker IB Middle and $10,000 to Davis Elementary. Westchase Elementary received $7,000, Lowry received $6,500 and Lavoy Exceptional Center, serving special-needs children, received $5,000.

In addition, we were able to give Bellamy Elementary, a Title I school, $22,000 in proceeds from The Great West Chase.

WOW made an additional $35,000 in contributions. We invested $12,000 in our WOW Scholarship program, recognizing students for commitment to academics and community service. WOW also made a number of other contributions to worthwhile organizations such as Kaye Prox Food Bank ($2,000), the JCC Food Bank ($2,000), the Children’s Home ($2,500), the Hillsborough Education Foundation ($2,500 for school supplies for poor children) and The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation ($920).

WIW donated $2,500 to the Gulf Ridge Council to support disadvantaged Scout Troops and $500 to our local Boy Scout Troop 46. WOW also gave $500 contributions to homeless veterans, Jacob’s Touch, the American Cancer Society and Meals on Wheels. WOW’s $5,000 donation to the Westchase Charitable Foundation even helped cover costs associated with last month’s Santa parade through Westchase.

It is because of you, our dedicated readers, that we were able to assist these schools and organizations. And the donations were made in Westchase’s name.

Help us remain strong. Keep reading and keep telling our advertisers you’ve seen them on these pages.

Happy New Year!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher 


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A Season of Light and Hope

It’s no mistake that some of our greatest celebrations – Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukah – fall at the moment of the year when the nights are longest.

It’s also no mistake that light plays a deeply symbolic and decorative role in our celebrations. For soon after these holidays, the long, dark nights give way to longer days and greater light.

December’s WOW celebrates a great bringer of light and joy to Westchase streets. No person has graced WOW’s cover more frequently than the fellow who appears there again this month. I hope he triggers a warm smile and sparkle in your eye.

I had the chance to sit down in recent weeks with Santa and I posed a number of questions I collected from Westchase adults and kids, some specific to Santa’s Pre-Flight Parade through Westchase on Dec. 13. Perhaps you’ll enjoy sharing our conversation with an excited child. It begins on page 4.

Our cover feature is ultimately about the men and women of the Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF), who are again working hard to build a stronger sense of community while reminding us of the importance of lending a helping hand to neighbors in need. All they ask in return is this: If you come out to greet Santa and his parade, please bring an unwrapped gift to donate and present to a less fortunate child this holiday. It this way, you too can play Santa and bring greater light to the world.

WOW couldn’t be prouder to continue be the principle sponsor of this event this year. Come out, join the fun and help support the WCF’s fine cause.

No volunteer works harder each year to make the Santa parade a success than Fords resident Steve Darr. Steve has played a pivotal part since the parade’s second year. Yet, in many ways, he’s so immersed in working that day that many residents don’t realize the important and significant responsibilities he has. This year we introduce Steve to everyone in our Westchase Profile (page 72).

This month’s WOW is also filled with wonderful events to help children and adults build a strong holiday spirit. Be sure to check out our holiday fun, from light shows to holiday boat parades (pages 38-39).

Hundreds of runners and volunteers recently took time out of a sunny October weekend to participate in The Great West Chase, raising $22,000 to promote literacy among those disadvantaged children who attend Bellamy Elementary School. We offer the winners and some great race photos by James Broome Photography (pages 96-103).

We also share photos of some Westchasers’ favorite Halloweeners and their block parties – which are sure to leave you smiling (pages 92-93).

Remember we always welcome your shout outs, story ideas and letters. And please tell our advertisers you’ve seen them on these pages.

I wish you a holiday filled with light and hope!


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A Favorite Day of the Year

One of my favorite days of the year lands this month on Sunday, Nov. 23.

It’s not because it kicks off a week of no school, meaning I don’t have to roll out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to rouse my high schooler for the bus. (Although that’s kind of nice.)

Nov. 23 is the day of the Westchase’s Thanksgiving Food Drive, organized by WOW to benefit Metropolitan Ministries.

It’s one of a handful of days that annually remind me of how special my community is. It’s a day that makes me thankful to call Westchase home.

Many people think of Westchase as beautifully landscaped medians, well-kept homes and impressive schools.

For me, Westchase is best captured by events like the food drive. Its volunteers – and the residents who will generously participate in the event – represent the special community spirit that’s always been a hallmark of this great neighborhood. That spirit – our strong and proud sense of community – is, by far, Westchase’s greatest selling point.

The food drive volunteers’ enthusiasm and generosity are contagious. I invite you to come out and witness it. As others who participate will tell you, you cannot help but go away feeling moved.

Yet while WOW organizes the Thanksgiving Food Drive each year, it would be inaccurate to claim it as ours.

The drive is actually yours.

At 1 p.m. I will climb onto the back of a Metropolitan Ministries truck and greet some amazing adults and kids. Scores of moms and dads, grandparents, and a cornucopia of kids will gather in the parking lot of Westchase Elementary. Some teens will be seeking high school service hours. Other kids will represent the service ideals of their Scout Troops. Joining these residents will be business leaders offering generous matches to encourage residents to participate. Their participation promises to multiply your generosity.

And so I ask a personal favor of you, our reader, this month. If you’ve participated in the drive before, I thank you and ask you to participate generously again.

If you’ve not yet participated, please take a few minutes to look at the drive’s food list in our cover feature, beginning on page 4 (our feature will even tell you how you can support the drive if you’re leaving town before Nov. 23). Please stop by the grocery store, pick up a few of the items or an entire meal (whatever you can afford), and lend a helping hand so that less fortunate kids can also enjoy a happy Thanksgiving.

As always, we welcome your letters and shout outs and ask that you let our valued advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Fun Fall Traditions

Fall is here and the Florida furnace will officially go on vacation later this month.

For the last few weeks, despite temps still above 90 degrees, my fourth grader has insisted we drive around Westchase with the car windows down.

“It smells like Halloween,” she says excitedly.

Perhaps she has an amazing nose for candy corn. While I’m not quite detecting holiday aromas yet, I put the windows down at her request. I love that she’s excited. It’s contagiously joyful.

While they’re more subtle here than where I grew up, I too love Florida’s seasonal changes. I must have a little bit of a 9-year-old still in me because I also look forward to fall traditions with excitement.

For one, we kick off another Great West Chase race this month, only this year we’ve added a 10K to our 5K and Children’s Fun Run. If you want to experience a morning of contagious fun, join us on Oct. 25. See our cover story on page four for more details.

And I can’t wait for another Westchase Halloween, with its neighborhood gatherings, friendly folks and haunted driveways. Last October, my sister moved to Florida and experienced her first Westchase Halloween in awe.

“It’s like Times Square!” she said (right before tripping and falling when a mummy grabbed her ankle).

How lucky we are!

If you’re interested in stepping your own decorating up a notch – or visiting two of Westchase’s most impressive Halloween haunts, check out page 24.

October’s WOW holds another annual tradition, our Private School Special. This year’s school article, beginning on page 94, represents a valuable primer on schools, including key school differences, dates and deadlines. We even offer a rundown of Private School Open Houses to enable you to make the best choice for your kids. We thank all the private schools for helping to bring this special feature to our readers.

Last but not least, you’ll notice a significant amount of news from Westchase’s homeowners association and Community Development District (CDD) in this issue. Both held multiple meetings between the deadlines for September’s and October’s WOWs. Both concluded their budget processes and the WCA held its board elections. We’ve organized them chronologically to help you catch up.

Last, if you live on a Westchase pond, be sure to read the article on page 52. It offers helpful tips on protecting your back and side yards from eroding into the water. It was compiled with the help of CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart and we’re grateful for her guidance.

As always, we welcome your letters and shout outs and ask that you let our valued advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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What’s Your Preference?

September’s WOW is all about you.

After polling residents last month, WOW returns with its September tradition – its Dining Special. This special section in the back of this month’s WOW reveals our readers’ preferences, from Best Pizza to Best Chinese. We also offer a peek at the runners-up. Be sure to check out all your preferences beginning on page 102.

We also thank all the restaurants who have helped bring you this special section.

September, however, is about much more than mere dining surveys. This month the Westchase Community Association (WCA) holds its annual board elections on Sept. 9. Six candidates have already stepped forward for the four seats and residents are still welcome to nominate themselves or others at the meeting. While the Westchase Voting Members (VMs) make the selection, they are your elected representatives and always welcome your viewpoint. Feel free to reach out to them to express your preferences.

To introduce the candidates, their backgrounds and their issues, we invited them to submit 250 words about their candidacies (We annually set the limit to ensure fairness). Some were better than others on observing the limit. Rather than cut them down or decline to run them, we’ve left all of them intact to enable residents to draw their own conclusions. The candidates are introduced beginning on page 8.

Right after deadline for this WOW, budget season for both the WCA and CDD went into full force. We once again share the CDD’s draft (not approved as of this writing) of assessments on pages 100-101. We also share the WCA’s draft budget (also not approved as of this writing), which was the subject of review and debate at the Aug. 19 WCA Budget Workshop. Please be sure to check out WOW Online, at for c,overage of meetings and sessions that will finalize these budgets – and your assessments for 2015.

I’d also like to highlight one important change about which WOW staff is quite excited. One of Westchase’s great fall traditions is our annual Great West Chase 5K and Children’s Fun Run, held the last Saturday in October. This year, however, we’re taking the advice a number of participants have offered in recent years: “Expand the race!”

This year’s races, scheduled for Oct. 25, will therefore include our first 10K. We’re excited about  offering this challenge and the good that will result from it – support for math and literacy programs at Bellamy Elementary, a Davidsen Middle feeder school that has a high number of children living below the poverty line. Be sure to check out the race information on page 22.

And don’t forget to send your Back to School photos into us by Sept. 5.

As always, we welcome your letters and shout outs and ask that you let our valued advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Back to School, Westchase Budgets and Crazy Correcting Survey

August is a busy month in Westchase

For one school returns. In a nod to the school bell, on page 4 WOW writer Joey Johnston introduces a group of talented Alonso athletes that call Westchase home. Our Kids and Education section, beginning on page 28, also provides a peak at Westchase public schools’ open houses. And on page 30 we remind you to send us your great back-to-school photos.

Summer represents a challenging time for our neighborhood food banks, the JCC’s food bank on Gunn Highway and Kaye Prox Food Bank, located in the Lutheran Church of Our Savior on Hillsborough Avenue. Please support them during pre-holiday months that typically find scarcity stalking their shelves.

One way you can help needy kids is to help them return to school with the supplies needed for success. Westchase volunteers have again organized a school-supply drive for Kaye Prox Food Bank. Last year, with Westchasers’ help, it provided supplies for 250 needy kids. Please remember the drive, which runs through Aug. 10, as you shop this month for your own students. Drop boxes are available at both Westchase swim and tennis centers. Please see page 20 for details.

In August CDD and WCA budget seasons are in full swing. The Westchase Community Association’s (WCA) Budget Workshop is Aug. 19 and the budget it produces will likely see approval at the September’s board meeting. Meanwhile, the CDD continues to wrestle with their spending plan, which looks likely to result in assessment increases for Westchase homes. (See pages 10 and 102). While its budget workshop occurs after the September WOW’s deadline, the WCA has agreed to provide WOW the draft budget a bit early for printing in September’s WOW. To stay current on all Westchase news that occurs between WOW editions, sign up for WOW Online update notices by e-mailing with “subscribe” typed in the subject field.

If this isn’t enough, September’s WOW will bring our annual dining edition. In short, we need your input. Each year residents stop me after we publish the results of WOW’s Dining Survey to express absolute shock that their favorite restaurants didn’t win. When I ask if they filled out a survey, I usually encounter a sheepish grin. Right this moment – to ensure everyone knows your favorites – drop everything and fill out the Dining Survey on WOW Online, It wi.ll take less than five minutes to set your crazy neighbors straight. Best of all, you’ll have a chance to be sent to dinner at one of the winners!

As always, we welcome your shout outs and letters. Please also remember to tell our valued advertisers you saw them on these pages.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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The Challenges of Caring for Loved Ones

When Westchase’s original owners purchased homes 15-20 years ago, many were just beginning families.

In those early years, WOW was filled with play group news and announcements focused on the hundreds of toddlers that called Westchase home.

Many who saw their kids grow up in those early play groups are now watching them walking down the hallways of high schools and colleges. But the parents’ caretaking years aren’t over. As the children of these homeowners have grown up, their own parents have aged. Now many Westchasers have stepped into new roles – carrying for their parents.

A friend who lives nearby recently inquired about Westchase facilities focused on elder care. My inquiry with my own friends found many had the same questions and wondered how best to handle the situation. WOW writer Karen Ring recently sat down with two local experts in elder care. Her cover story strives to answer many of the questions her fellow residents are asking.

This past month has also seen the resolution of some of the year’s biggest news events. The Westchase Community Association (WCA) brought its work amending the community’s governing documents to a close and a rezoning hearing for a proposed Costco and other commercial parcels at Westchase’s eastern entrance was heard and seems likely to see approval by county commissioners this month. You’ll find our coverage of these events on pages 12 through 17.

This month’s WOW is also filled with great stories about your neighbors. We continue profiling the 2014 WOW Scholars. We introduce a new author from The Greens, who published her first book at the ripe, old age of 11. We tell the story of Robinson High School’s state championship-winning flag football team, whose impressive players included a number of Westchase residents. We bring you news of a Westchase kids’ summer kickball league and a new yoga class at the Westchase Rec. Center. We even offer a peek at a fascinating and new summer camp offering kids an opportunity to learn more about engineering in fun, captivating ways.

So be sure to pack up your WOW as you head out to the pool and beach. No other publication offers a more comprehensive look at your Westchase community.

Also remember to take us on vacation. Snap a photo with family members holding WOW and you can win $100. (See page 86.)

We hope you continue to enjoy your summer. If you’re doing some early shopping in anticipation of the next school year, please remember the Kaye Prox School Supply Drive that has become an annual tradition in the community. For more information about how to participate, please see page 26.

Please remember we welcome your shout outs and letters and remember to tell our valued advertisers you’ve seen them on these pages.

Happy summer!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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The 2014 WOW Scholars

At the end of May I had the opportunity to meet some impressive Westchase residents.

A group of five young college-bound men and women were invited to the Westchase Golf Club to be honored as this year’s WOW Scholars. This month we introduce this impressive of collection of brains and hearts, fiercely dedicated to both scholarship and community service. They were selected from among the largest, most competitive group of applicants ever. It wasn’t enough to have a 4.0 GPA or simply meet their schools’ required number of service hours. These students surpassed both in remarkable ways. Turn to page 4 to meet them.

This month also brings the most important opportunity in years for residents to weigh in on their local government. Your association has compiled a group of amendments to Westchase’s governing documents. These rules affect how your association operates; some also affect your homes and yards. On June 10 Westchase Voting Members will be casting their final votes. In late April the association mailed every homeowner a ballot to allow them to cast their own votes on the amendments to the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CCRs) and Bylaws. If you’ve misplaced your ballot, call the WCA’s office at 926-6404 to get a new one. The summary of these amendments that ran in the April and May WOW is still available on under HOA News.

VMs are also voting on changes to Residential Guidelines, another group of rules affecting your properties. Summaries of these proposed changes again appear on page 16. As there is no homeowner ballot related to these rule-changes, take a moment to communicate your preferences to your VMs so they can represent your view. Their contact information is in this WOW’s reference section.

June also kicks of the Florida tradition of watching the tropics. Hurricane season runs from June through November. If you’re new to Westchase and especially Florida, it’s time to make a storm plan and adequately supply your family in case of a severe storm. Storm veterans from 2004 will attest that waiting until two to three days out will simply ensure you’ll find empty store shelves. Further, all Westchase homes should familiarize themselves with their Hurricane Evacuation Zone (pages 102-103). Storm surge is the biggest killer in hurricanes and Westchase lies close enough to Tampa Bay that homes as far north as The Shires could still take up to ten feet of water. Turn to our coverage on page 22 and 101 to help you prepare.

Remember we always welcome your letters, shout outs and story ideas. We also ask you to let the businesses whose ads you see on these pages know you appreciate their support of WOW and Westchase.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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The Countdown Begins

As we distribute this edition of WOW, a mere five weeks of school are left.

I’d mention the exact number of hours and minutes, but don’t want to appear desperate.

In anticipation of our freedom, we offer a special look at travel and leisure. Our cover story by Karen Ring (page 4) offers some fascinating destinations your neighbors have visited while including their travel tips. We offer our special thanks to the advertisers who brought you the Travel and Leisure Special.

As you prepare your vacation, remember our WOW in the World contest (page 86). Bring along WOW for the trip, snap a photo (or several) holding it in an interesting place, send us a brief description, and we’ll send you between $60-100 while sharing the fun with the community.

This month Belanova Salon is offering a special contest, exclusive to WOW readers, to honor moms. The winning mom will receive special pampering. Get the kids involved and check out the details on page 46.

Westchase’s generous volunteers at the Westchase Charitable Foundation are holding their popular Westchase Cup golf tournament on May 17. You don’t have to be an accomplished golfer to join the fun. They tier their players, giving everyone an opportunity to win. Why not help some people in need by getting a team from your neighborhood together? You’ll have a great day and possibly bring the Westchase Cup back home to Westchase, where it belongs. See page 24 for details.

The big news this month involves rules governing your homes and yards. The Westchase Community Association (WCA) is proposing amendments to the association’s governing documents. While it may not be the most riveting reading you’ll do this month, your participation is key to building a community in which you want to live. Check out the articles on pages 20 and 22. If you haven’t filled out the poll the WCA sent you last month, the article on page 20 may be of help. Filling out the poll and returning it will bind your Voting Member to cast your votes as you prefer. Otherwise, they get to cast your vote at their own discretion. If you’ve lost your ballot, you can call the WCA office at 926-6404 to get a new one.

As always, we welcome your letters and shout outs and ask you to tell our valued advertisers you saw them in WOW.

Happy Mother’s Day!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Summer Camp, Commercial Development and Rules Amendments

This month’s WOW is filled with important stories you won’t want to miss.

Be sure to read everything so you don’t miss any of the fun.

WOW’s sixth annual Summer Camp Spectacular, starting on page 96, offers some great tips for finding camps for your kids. WOW writer Karen Ring has interviewed a number of Westchase kids to discover their favorite summer camps. Karen’s second camp article offers advice on asking the right questions to get the most out of your kids’ camp experiences. We thank all of our summer camp directors and organizers for helping to bring you this special section.

In March the developer of the proposed Costco commercial parcel at Linebaugh and Sheldon filed for rezoning of the property. The county’s documents offer the clearest look yet at what that development will look like – and the potential impact its traffic will have. Check it out on page 16 and share your opinion about it with Hillsborough County.

The Westchase Community Association is also gearing up to amend its governing documents, containing rules about the appearance and use of our homes and yards. On page 14 we offer a summary of the proposed changes, which were reviewed by Westchase Voting Members (VMs) on March 18 after WOW’s deadline. To learn if VMs made any substantive changes to the amendments or the timetable for having them mailed to residents for polling, be sure to check WOW Online at


This month we also invite residents who are not currently in the 2013 Westchase Resident and Business Directory to submit their information for inclusion in the 2014 directory, which will be distributed in June. The directory is strictly opt-in. If you want your contact information available for your Westchase friends and neighbors, be sure to fill out and submit the form in this month’s inserts or go online to and fill out the directory form there. For more information, see page 26. We never share this list with any other commercial entity.

As I mention each month, please tell WOW’s valued advertisers you saw their ads here. And always read the editor’s notes at the ends of articles. We sometimes put important stuff in there.

In closing, I hope your April opens with great fun and happiness. And I wish those who observe this month’s holidays a happy and blessed Passover and Easter.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Home: Its Price and Purpose

WOW’s annual look at Westchase real estate always proves exciting.

And this year proved no exception.

WOW interviewed a group of Realtors familiar with the Westchase market and poured over large amounts of 2013 sales data to help bring our cover feature. We thank all of them for their assistance, particularly Nancy and Doug Wood of Coldwell Banker, who provided the sales data for WOW’s review. We also thank all the real estate professionals and related businesses that helped bring you this special section.

The real estate sales data showed a solid upward surge in prices in 2013. We offer all the details beginning on page 4. The data, however, also piqued our interest in other ways. Combined with concerns residents of The Bridges and Keswick Forest have shared about the increasing number of single family homes that are now for rent – and the impact they are having on their neighborhoods’ appearances, WOW explored whether ways existed to estimate the number of investment homes currently in Westchase. While there’s no data that perfectly pinpoints a number, some data acquired from Hillsborough County may serve as a solid foundation for exploring the matter further.

WOW shared this data, which appears on page 8, with both the WCA Board and Westchase Voting Members in February. It triggered some rather strong reactions at the board level.

Some residents have pointed out that investor activity has helped home prices rebound and they want no further restrictions on their homes. Others have expressed concerns about the significant growth of for-profit investment properties in Westchase, some of which put owner profit before community appearance. Others worry that the phenomenon is fraying Westchase’s traditionally strong social fabric, producing a community with more transient residents less willing to join neighborhood watches or even block parties.

While the data may estimate the number of leased homes in some neighborhoods better than others, WOW hopes it will serve as a starting point for discussion.

Our nation and our community are changing. This issue of WOW – and the conversations it may spark – represent an opportunity to pause and think about our hopes and aspirations for our community and the future role of your association. If you feel strongly one way or the other, reach out and let your VM know. Westchase is your home and your community and you can help shape them both for the better.

As always, we welcome your letters, shout outs and story ideas. To help keep WOW strong, please remember to tell our valued advertisers who saw them here.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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House and Heart

Whether it’s your home or your heart, we have some fixer-upper advice for you this month.

A walk or jog through Westchase uncovers a hive of activity. On one side of the street a neighbor is constructing a new pool. A block away a driveway dumpster offers a hint at a kitchen renovation underway.

Westchase’s homes, like many of their youngest occupants, are now in their teens and early twenties. The widespread renovations reflect the great pride Westchase residents take in their homes. A familiar Florida sight is a suburban development in its third or fourth decade entering a period of noticeable decline.

Not Westchase.

Families here stay on top of things. The leaking water heater gets replaced. The curling shingles are stripped off and new ones nailed down. Original pools are rehabbed, their dingy pool decks replaced with upgraded tiles. Builder grade cabinets, countertops and light fixtures make way for stained wood, granite and brass.

In keeping with a February tradition, the Home Improvement Special (your tax return will soon be on its way!), WOW writer Karen Ring tackles two home projects that hundreds of homeowners are now contemplating: new roofs and windows. When submitting the informative piece, Karen commented on how much she learned while writing it.

No better symbol of Westchase’s growing mania for home improvement exists outside of the former Westchase Welcome Center. Purchased in foreclosure in late December, the building is in the midst of serious renovations. Its rescue came at the hands of West Park Village residents Brian and Wendy Ross. Check out their plans – and Karen Ring’s home improvement article – in our feature series beginning on page 4.

WOW writer Catherine Barnhill also offers some fixer-upper advice – but this time she’s uncovered tricks to keeping your marriage strong. If you’re looking for great and useful advice, you need only turn to some wise members of the Westchase Seniors Group, whom Catherine sought out for their tips on making marriage last.

If your home and relationships are in tip-top shape, we still have some tips for strengthening your heart. This month WOW welcomes back some veteran columnists who have not appeared here in a few years. Fitness expert Shannon Thigpen is looking forward to again offering her wisdom on health and fitness while Nutrition expert Christine Miller, whose column will appear bimonthly, will offer valuable insights on healthy eating. Welcome back, Shannon and Christine!

As always, we welcome your letters, shout outs and story ideas. To help keep WOW strong, please remember to tell our valued advertisers who saw them here.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Celebrating Thanksgivukkah and Santa’s Arrival

December is my favorite month in Westchase.

No matter how old this kid gets, when Santa’s Pre-Flight Parade rounds the corner and slowly rolls towards Baybridge Park, he can’t wipe the silly, sentimental grin off his face.

December, of course, is a month of many holidays. Hanukkah began a few days before WOW’s distribution and it began in a most unique way. Its first full day coincided with Thanksgiving for the first time in a century – a confluence that will not occur again anytime soon. WOW Writer Karen Ring spoke to a number of Westchase families who celebrated Hanukkah and Thanksgiving and explored the unique twists they gave the hybrid of holidays this year. Check them out on page 16.

December also brings Santa’s parade through Westchase – this year on Dec. 14. With a donation of $5,000 to bring the parade back to Westchase, WOW is proud to help support Santa and all of his helpers at the Westchase Charitable Foundation. Be sure to prepare your block party – or, better yet, prepare your neighborhood float and join the fun! All the information you need is on page 22.

Those generous WCF elves will again be collecting presents for needy kids during the parade. Let’s show our appreciation for this event – and the work of the foundation – by remembering to donate a gift to ensure other children have a Christmas full of smiles and joy. Parade organizers also always welcome checks made out to the WCF to help with their charitable assistance of families who are experiencing a crisis or significant medical needs.

Santa graciously gave away his traditional spot on December’s cover for another group of happy faces – belonging to future students at Davidsen Middle School. We thank all who, on their day off, braved a bright sun, fire ants and other Florida threats to life and limb (Did I mention the bright sun?) to make the cover shot possible. Westchase is blessed with great public schools filled with dedicated parent volunteers and talented teachers. Yet, Davidsen sometimes doesn’t get a fair shake. This month our cover feature explores all the talk about the school and presents the facts. We hope the story will present information that helps all parents make better informed decisions.

This month we say a sad farewell to two of our wonderful columnists, both of whom have graced WOW’s pages since 2009. Diversions and Excursions writer Marilyn Gyselinck offers her final look at fun destinations and WOW Kid Reporter – now Teen Reporter – Isabel Giovannetti offers her farewell column as well. Over the years, both have proven so incredibly reliable and remarkably creative. They’ve been true pleasures to work with and they will certainly be missed. Thank you, Marilyn and Isabel! You have certainly earned your WOW retirement!

Remember we always welcome your letters and shout outs. Please also let our dedicated advertisers know you’ve seen them on these pages.

Happy holidays!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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A Testament to Getting Involved

October’s WOW has two stories that can serve as important lessons to our children – and their parents.

Our cover story shares the dedication of a 10,000 square foot gymnasium that recreates the Westchase Recreation Center (located in The Bridges adjacent to Westchase Elementary). Its expansion also creates an array of new recreation opportunities for Westchase.

It’s a story of the power of a few. A couple of years ago when Hillsborough County was looking to lop millions off its budget at the height of the recession, the county’s rec. centers and their programs faced the chopping block. Enter Fords resident Renier Cruz and a handful of other Westchase residents. They became involved, contacting county commissioners, rallying the community and saving Westchase’s recreation center. Better still, they won commitments that it would one of a handful expanded with help from the Community Investment Tax.

The Westchase Recreation Center is one of the community’s lesser known gems. This month it begins hosting a slate of expanded programs for residents ranging from senior citizens to tiny tots. If you haven’t yet investigated what it has to offer you, check out the story beginning on page 4. You’ll be surprised at what you’ve been missing, tucked right under all of our noses.

Then there is the story on page 10. It tells of a handful of Cavendish Drive residents, led by West Park’s Richard Johnson. He believed a fountain placed on a Linebaugh Avenue pond could provide a beautiful focal point, not only for them but for the entire community. Through Richard’s activism, his neighbors rallied and the CDD agreed to install the $24,000 fountain. It’s an impressive sight.

Renier and Richard remind us that if we have a fine idea and we’re willing to work hard to pitch it, we can reshape our community for the better. Thanks to them both!

In addition to featuring our Private School Special (beginning on page 112), this month’s WOW has a host of stories about other great neighbors. It also kicks off WOW’s busiest season, when we host The Great West Chase 5K and Kids’ Fun Run and prepare for the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive.

This month, we’d love to have you come out and join the fun at the Oct. 26 race. Whether you walk or run, you’ll have a blast! Be sure to register soon at


As always, we welcome your shout outs and story ideas. We thank our private schools for supporting our education special and ask you to tell all our advertisers you saw them in these pages.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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WCA Hires Roberto Calla as New Tennis Pro

Following a weeks-long interview process that saw a handful of job candidates for Westchase Tennis Pro hitting on the courts with Westchase players, WCA President Joaquin Arrillaga announced the hiring of Roberto Calla on Sept. 9.

The decision caps a month that saw former Westchase Tennis Pro Mike Larscheid resign over Westchase Community Association’s (WCA) announcement that it would hire a second tennis professional. Larscheid’s departure triggered some strong criticism of the board from members of the Westchase tennis community.

In hiring Calla, WCA directors may have taken to heart Larscheid’s warnings that they would never find an experienced pro who would agree to work in a bifurcated program with two tennis professionals. Calla will be Westchase’s sole tennis pro. Explaining the decision to revert to the one-pro structure, Arrillaga, however, commented, "The board identified a couple of coaches willing to come and work side by side in a dual-pro staff structure including a company who offers this service. We decided that with the caliber of coach we have in Roberto and his expected program changes, having one head tennis pro is the best approach. I am happy with the way the board handled this from the start. We have not backpedalled but are moving forward and into the future."

The board’s search for the new pro took place over several weeks. Arrillaga stated that a number of residents who play tennis regularly were invited to play with and speak with the three candidates under consideration. Afterwards, Arrillaga suggested there was a clear preference for Calla. “We got many different calls and e-mails about him.”

Arrillaga remarked, “We’re extremely excited Roberto has accepted our offer to come to Westchase. The ideas and programs that he’s bringing are novel and exciting.”

Arrillaga pointed out that a number of Westchase tennis players who left Larscheid’s program to play under Calla will be returning to Westchase’s courts with him.

Calla stated, “I’m really excited and happy to be part of the Westchase team. I’m going to use my knowledge, experience – and most importantly – my passion for the sport to help improve tennis in Westchase.”

Calla, 49, comes from the Tennismith School at the Northdale Golf and Tennis Club. A native of Peru and former professional soccer player, Calla immigrated to the U.S. 20 years ago. For the last 15 years he has worked as a tennis pro. In his previous position Calla not only taught both children and adults the sport, he also trained significant numbers of coaches in the both the U.S. and Europe, guiding them in ways to build successful tennis programs.

“Yes, we’re going to make some changes,” he announced about Westchase’s tennis programs. Gone, for one, will be the names of the current junior tennis program. He also initially sees tournament preparation expanding as well as the creation of a tennis homeschool program. “For now, we’re just changing little things,” he stated. “I want to meet everyone. The juniors, the adults, all the players.”

After getting a better feel for the current programs, he said other changes will be in store. Current Tennis Assistant Dan Mielke, however, will remain on staff.

“Keep looking for updates to programs and activities,” Arrillaga stated.

Calla will begin in Westchase Sept. 30.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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A Commitment to Community Service

I’ll begin by admitting to some embarrassment this month.

Question: What self-respecting publisher decides to put a relative on the cover of a magazine for which he’s responsible?

Answer: It’s either a publisher with neither shame nor spine or a publisher with a very persuasive relative.

In my case, I hope it’s the latter.

In recent months three Westchase residents, including one of my daughters, have spent a great deal of time organizing a school supply drive for needy kids. The drive itself was largely founded and created by Westchase resident Carol Collins. Having seen its results firsthand, I can testify to the drive’s goodness and importance.

Thus, I was confronted with a personal conflict. As evidenced by its WOW Scholars program, the Great West Chase 5K and the magazine’s annual donations of nearly $100,000 to local public schools, WOW has a strong tradition of promoting community service, literacy and school success. The story and the drive thus seemed a natural match for WOW. For obvious reasons, however, I was pretty hesitant. If you’ll forgive me, I was ultimately convinced – with the help of some arm twisting – that the important of the drive and its impact outweighed any personal concerns.

I hope you too will support what I know is a great cause: the Kaye Prox Food Bank School Supply Drive. Please turn to page 4 to learn how you can help.

This month’s WOW is full of great stories. While back-to-school often means a turn to cooler temperatures up north, WOW writer Karen Ring offers some great ideas on page 16 about how we can keep our cool during the last two months the Florida oven is on.

With an eye on next month’s WOW, I have a favor to ask. After we release the results of our annual dining survey in September each year, I inevitably run into residents who are amazed at some of the winners and express regret they didn’t participate to ensure their favorite restaurants won. If this describes your past reaction, now is the time to drop what you’re doing and take a few minutes to log on to At th.e top of the page, you’ll find an article leading to this year’s dining survey. For your help in picking the best, we’ll enter you into a drawing for dinner for two. Three prizes will be given out. Your participation is greatly appreciated.

Remember that we always welcome your shout outs, your letters and your story ideas. Please also remember to let our valued advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Keeping Connected Between WOWs

July’s WOW is full of important and entertaining news, but how can you stay connected between issues?

In our feature story on page 4 Karen Ring offers great tips and ideas to help you make the most of your Independence Day celebrations. You’ll find friendly reminders that noise-making and airborne fireworks may not be used within Westchase. You’ll also find coverage of our community meetings, including that of the Community Development District. Its supervisors are in the midst of determining homeowner assessments during their budget season.

In our community news section, you’ll also find news of developments on Westchase’s outskirts, which could impact the lives of homeowners within The Bridges. Important meetings about one of these properties occurred just after WOW’s deadline. When such things occur, how can you keep connected?

If you haven’t yet visited WOW Online (, you’ll find that it is one important way you can stay abreast of important Westchase news between issues of WOW. If you’re not in the habit of checking the site daily, you can friend World of Westchase’s Facebook page, where we post links to all our news updates. You can also e-mail Simply place “subscribe” in the subject line of your e-mail and you will be added to our e-mail contact list. Subscribers are notified by e-mail each time an important news item is posted to WOW’s Web site.

No other media or Web site in Tampa Bay offers as comprehensive coverage of Westchase as WOW and WOW Online. Please remember to add the site to your favorites.

Another important way of staying connected involves your voting member (VM). In the past month, I’ve seen Westchase’s VMs circulate e-mails announcing lost pets, a helpful FAQs sheet about the new garbage collection system the county will roll out this fall and important announcements regarding the planned development for the property near The Bridges. If you have not asked your VM to add your e-mail to your neighborhood contact list, I’d encourage you to do so this month. While none of them use the lists for commercial reasons, their announcements can help keep you informed and protect the investment you have in your home.

Working together, we strive to keep all residents informed and build a stronger community in Westchase.

Remember we always welcome your letters, shout outs and story ideas. We also ask you to let the businesses whose ads you see on these pages know you appreciate their support of WOW and Westchase.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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The 2013 WOW Scholars

In this issue we introduce six impressive residents.

The group of young men and women on our cover represents a most impressive combination of brains and hearts. They were selected as the 2013 WOW Scholars from among the largest group of applicants the magazine has ever received.

Each June WOW announces the year’s WOW Scholars, selected each spring by the magazine’s board of directors. The challenge WOW faces in making the selection from among the dozens of Westchasers who have shown great commitment to both academics and community service is testament to the great families and kids who call Westchase home – as well as the teachers and schools that serve them.

Over the summer, we’ll introduce the WOW Scholars with individual scholar profiles. We’re confident you’ll be as impressed as we are.

This month we also bring to a close our three-issue home improvement special. On page 90 WOW writer Karen Ring offers ideas for less expensive makeovers of your kitchens, closets and garages. These projects promise a big bang for the buck. We thank all of our contractors and home improvement specialists who’ve helped bring this series to you.

Summer vacation officially begins the first week of June. As many of our community’s students prepare to say farewell to familiar schools to begin new adventures in the fall, we also say farewell to a number of fine folks. Our Westchase Profile, on page 72, announces the retirement of one of Westchase Elementary’s crossing guards, Rosa Davila, who has been ensuring the safety of our kids for eight years! We wish Ms. Davila a happy, prosperous retirement.

I also want to take a moment to thank two dedicated individuals, Dana Gerus and Tracey Dean. Both have served as reliable, talented corresponding secretaries for Davidsen’s PTSA and Westchase Elementary’s PTA for at least the past two years. Both, however, are passing on their keyboards. I’m grateful for the professionalism, care and dedication they have shown in their contributions of school news. Thank you so much, Dana and Tracey! 

While they assure me their shoes will be filled in the fall, WOW is looking for Lowry and Alonso parents willing to play the role of news correspondents for their children’s schools. If you are interested in volunteering, please just give me a call or send an e-mail.

Remember we always welcome your letters, shout outs and story ideas. We also ask you to let the businesses whose ads you see on these pages know you appreciate their support of WOW and Westchase.

By Chris Barrett, WOW Publisher


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Improving Your Lot in Life

You can let down your guard this month.

Our feature story is actually true.

One of WOW’s most popular annual traditions is our gag April Fool’s cover story. Last month’s feature story, about a large cell tower hidden inside a hill with some rather interesting amenities, took the silliness to an all new level – approximately 255 feet above the ground. While our April Fool’s tradition annually triggers one or two annoyed responses, we receive far more positive feedback from readers who bravely admit to being fooled. Armed with admirable senses of humor, these residents even share their funny stories of the interesting conversations that transpired in their living rooms and kitchens prior to their discovery they’d been hooked. We share some of our readers’ responses – both annoyed and humorous – on page 16.

This month WOW aims, for the second time this year, to help our readers improve their lots in life. We’re, of course, talking about your home. The second part of our three-part Home Improvement series begins on page 4. WOW writer Karen Ring spoke with a handful of Westchase residents who are turning their backyard pools and patios into slices of paradise. She offers great suggestions – ranging from the simple and inexpensive to the grand and pricey. We particularly thank the homeowners who spoke to us and all the home improvement businesses that helped sponsor this special feature. Please be sure to let them know you appreciate their support of the magazine.

Between issues, WOW staff keeps busy posting news updates on WOW Online at  To receive e-mail notifications of posted updates, simply send an e-mail to with the word “subscribe” in the subject line. When we post something new, we’ll let you know. We’ll never, however, share your e-mail with any commercial entity.

WOW also has a Facebook page, World of Westchase, where we place links to articles posted between issues. Simply friend us there and you’ll quickly learn of any updates to WOW Online.

Remember that we always welcome your letters, shout outs and feedback. And please don’t forget to tell all our advertisers you appreciate their support of WOW.

I wish all moms a warm and happy Mother’s Day filled with hugs!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Keeping Informed

I was once told by a journalist that 40 percent of readers fail to make a jump when an article continues to another page.

Another thing that has always surprised me is the number of people who show up at community meeting and profess complete surprise when they learn about projects that have been written about for months in WOW.

Change is the only constant in all of our lives. This past month, in a nod to the transformative power of the digital age, WOW removed its last drop box at the swim and tennis centers. In years past, these boxes played an important role for residents who were submitting articles and classified ads. Given the widespread use of e-mail, in the last year or so, when I’ve checked them, I’ve usually just found mulch and empty granola bar wrappers. We still, of course, welcome your submissions. Going forward, however, we’ll need them submitted via e-mail.

If you feel compelled, however, please feel free to still mail us your empty granola bar wrappers.

Given our busy lives, it can be challenging to keep abreast of constant changes. One way we can all protect the investment we’ve made in our homes, however, is to stay informed about constantly changing events and news in our community. If you don’t make the time to read WOW carefully and thoroughly each month, you risk being taken by surprise.

One thing that shouldn’t come as a surprise this month is our annual Summer Camp Spectacular, aimed at helping Westchase families make the most of the summer. This special section is brought to you by summer camp programs throughout Tampa Bay. Appearing at the back of WOW, this year’s summer camp special provides a wealth of tips for picking camps aimed at maintaining the academic gains your child has made this school year. We also offer some tips on picking the best camps − while watching your budget.

Remember that we always welcome your letters, shout outs and feedback. And please don’t forget to tell WOW’s advertisers you appreciate their support of the magazine.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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The Bearer of Good News

I’m a dedicated reader of good, old fashioned newspapers.

One way, however, we strive to make WOW different from the everyday newsprint is in the stories we tell. We try to operate from a belief that residents want to read the good news as much or more than the bad. At times, it appears Tampa Bay reporters overlook this in their daily struggle to fill both column inches and air space.

In recent years, it’s been difficult to put a positive spin on our March tradition: WOW’s annual Real Estate Special. Fortunately, I’m happy to report that this year’s articles offer much good news for the community. On page 6 WOW writer Karen Ring takes a look at what motivated different Westchasers to buy homes while our traditional analysis of last year’s sales statistics begins on page 14.

Many businesses have helped bring this special to you and I thank them for doing so. I would, however, like to single out Doug and Nancy Wood of Coldwell Banker for special thanks. Each year the Woods spend a good amount of time assisting WOW in compiling the data on which we base our annual report. Their extra, uncompensated effort is much appreciated!

Westchase is filled with good news. This month WOW’s pages hold a number of different stories about residents who are volunteering to make a difference – to raise funds to find a cure for cancer, to deliver hot meals to seniors, to collect items for abandoned Jamaican children, to help fourth and fifth graders develop an interest in science, technology and engineering – even to recycle sneakers into playing fields for kids rather than toss them in a landfill.

It’s important, as well, to remember that your neighbors serving as Westchase Community Association (WCA) directors and voting members are also all volunteers who are striving to make Westchase the best possible place. While you may not agree with everything they do, they are involved because they believe in building a better community.

As always, we welcome your letters and shout outs. And we ask you to tell our advertisers you saw them on pages of WOW and appreciate their support of Westchase.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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WOW Helps with Your Home Project

This month WOW kicks off a new, fun and informative series.

Beginning on page 4, we begin a three-month look at home improvement projects in Westchase.
As I’ve traveled throughout the community in the last year or so, I’ve been struck by the number of homeowners who have undertaken significant renovations of their homes. As any Realtor will tell you, Westchase homes are very popular. Rather than move, many existing Westchase homeowners are instead electing to stay, focusing on transforming or updating their homes to meet their current needs and desires.

To help our readers with their home makeovers, we begin by looking at different projects that have beautifully transformed some of your neighbors’ kitchens and bathrooms. We also offer some important tips on picking a contractor. While next month marks our popular Westchase Real Estate Special and April’s WOW is traditionally focused on summer camps, we’ll return to the home improvement theme in May and June. May’s WOW will focus on pool and patio ideas. June’s WOW will conclude with a look at home organization, decorating tips and other simple ideas.
We thank the businesses that have brought you this month’s special.

This month’s WOW also brings you news of important, upcoming changes to Westchase’s garbage collection (page 20) and construction at the intersection of Linebaugh Avenue and Sheldon Road (page 26). A public meeting to take your input on the road changes was scheduled after WOW’s deadline but will likely occur early in February. Please be sure to check WOW Online at for the time and location of this meeting.

As always, we welcome your letters, shout outs and story ideas. Simply e-mail them to me at

Last, to help WOW continue its service and generous support of Westchase schools, charities and the Westchase community, please remember to tell the businesses you see on these pages you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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WOW Expands; Looks to the Past and the Future

It has become a tradition of the January WOW to engage in some time travel.

But I begin this month with a warm welcome.

For the first time since West Park Village homes were added to its delivery routes back in 1999, WOW is expanding its circulation – and it’s jumping 15 percent! This month we welcome the residents of the West Park Village apartments as our new readers. WOW will run a page of their news in our Village Voices section; meanwhile, our expansion greatly benefits WOW’s advertisers, whose ads will be seen by 15 percent more readers with no increase to advertisers’ costs.

Now for the time travel: As we’ve done in years past, WOW takes its traditional look back at Westchase news in 2012 on page 16. If you’re accustomed to giving news articles about the Westchase Community Association (WCA) or Community Development District (CDD) a pass, this review of these two entities’ decisions and actions in 2012 will help get you up to speed.

In a nod to the future, WOW presents two features this month. This past year the WCA focused much of its work on developing a Two Year Master Plan, setting out its goals for the next year or so. Many of their proposals have been included in the 2013 budget. Our cover story takes a look at the committee’s recommendations and the association’s plans to make them reality in 2013. How will they benefit you? See page 4.

In addition, WOW helps you remake your future and your health with our annual Health and Wellness special, beginning on page 12. We thank all our advertisers for bringing this feature to you.

WOW is unusual. While it’s the official newsmagazine of our Westchase Community Association, it is not subsidized by any association homeowners’ dues or assessments from our CDD. WOW is financially independent, paying for all of its editorial, publishing and distribution costs solely with its advertising revenues. To help WOW continue its service and generous support of Westchase schools, charities and the Westchase community, please remember throughout the New Year to tell the businesses you see on these pages you saw them in WOW.

Happy New Year! 

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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My Thanks to You

The last three months of each year are busy ones for WOW staff.

And for a legion of generous Westchase volunteers.

December’s WOW annually recaps two of the magazine’s charitable efforts, The Great West Chase 5K, held Oct. 27, and the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive, which occurred on Nov. 11.

Both proved tremendously successful this year. While WOW staff helps organize these events, they are only made possible by scores of business sponsors and volunteers, ranging from the community’s youngest Scouts to a host of active senior citizens. We list these generous individuals on pages 20 and 96. Every year I am inspired by the number of generous souls, who help cement Westchase’s strong sense of community. Please thank them when you see them.

What’s more, I thank you for participating in the events. The race had the greatest number of runners in its history while the food drive was the most successful yet. Volunteers returned from neighborhoods beaming with delight, frozen turkeys perched across their dashboards because their vehicles were so full. One Greens driver had to drop her daughters back at home in order to fit all the donations.

So I thank you for your generosity! It is why I am always incredibly proud to call Westchase home.

I also want to take a moment to thank WOW’s Business Manager, Tracy Urso, and our graphic designer, Hillary Tucker for all the extra hours they put into these events. Tracy, in particular, is the true force behind the race’s success. Ask any runner. Few races are as well organized and popular as The Great West Chase. Tracy is the reason.

Turning to December’s events, I hope everyone enjoys Santa’s parade. Be sure to see our cover feature on page 4. It includes a letter to Westchase children, written by Santa Claus. In it Santa asks them to help him out on Dec. 8.

I’m confident their response will again illustrate Westchase’s inspiring generosity.

As always, send us your Shout Outs and letters. And be sure to tell our generous advertisers you saw them in WOW.

Happy holidays!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Giving Thanks

In keeping with a November tradition, this month’s WOW announces Westchase’s annual Thanksgiving Food Drive.

The drive will be held on Sunday, Nov. 11, at 1 p.m. Our feature story, beginning on page 4, offers all the details regarding how you can participate. It even offers a run-down of village participation to interject some fun competition into the event.

This year WOW will offer a prize to encourage Westchase’s neighborhoods to increase their participation levels. The individual neighborhood with the highest participation (based on the percent of total homes), will win $300 for a neighborhood block party. To make it fairer, we’ll be breaking some of larger neighborhoods like The Bridges, The Greens and The Fords down to their respective subdivisions (Wakesbridge, Greensprings, Abbotsford, for example).

Last year Stonebridge had 41 percent of its homeowners participate and Harbor Links/The Estates, saw 40 percent of homes contribute. Will they do it again? Or will Sturbridge (34 percent), Wycliff (33 percent) or another neighborhood turn out a few more participants and steal the party away? Either way, it’s for a great cause!

This month I also share news of some grants WOW recently made. As you know, WOW is entirely self-sufficient, relying solely on its advertising revenues to cover costs. We do, however, return revenues in excess of expenditures to worthwhile community projects, charities and schools. In September, WOW cut checks totaling nearly $60,000 to nearby schools to help them enhance their school technology: Westchase Elementary ($12,000), Lowry Elementary ($5,200) Davidsen Middle School ($9,200), Alonso High ($8,500), and Robinson High’s IB Program ($10,000). In addition, WOW made grants of $7,500 to Davis Elementary and Bellamy Elementary, both Title I schools that feed into Davidsen Middle. WOW additionally donated $10,000 to purchase school supplies for needy kids through the Hillsborough Education Foundation and donated $5,000 to help bring the Westchase Charitable Foundation’s Santa’s Pre-Flight Parade back to Westchase streets this December.

The dedication of our readers and advertisers ultimately made all this possible. Thank you!

Know that we always welcome your letters and shout outs. And please remember to tell our valued advertisers you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Schools, Deer and Service Opportunities

October marks the beginning of the busiest time of year for parents.

This month’s magazine offers its annual Private School Special, offering valuable information about pre-schools and private schools as parents gear up for this fall’s Open House opportunities. WOW writers Joey Johnston and Lisa Puster offer great coverage beginning on page 16. We thank all the schools and pre-schools that helped offer this feature.

WOW’s cover story looks at some of Westchase’s most popular residents – our neighborhood deer. In May I re-landscaped my front yard and quickly learned that as much as I like to admire it, deer loved eating it even more. Many Westchase residents are struggling with the same challenge – how to outsmart a persistent stomach on four legs. I share what I’ve learned beginning on page 4.

This month also begins WOW’s busiest time of year. On Oct. 27, WOW staff, along with dozens of generous volunteers and sponsors, will host the 11th annual running of The Great West Chase. If you’ve never run a 5K before, why not make this your first –  while helping a great cause? See page 22 for more information.

The race also provides opportunities for community service hours for Westchase’s middle and high schoolers. We need friendly faces to stuff race packets and assist at Race Packet Pick Up on Friday, Oct. 26, and the morning of the race on Saturday, Oct. 27. On Sunday, Nov. 11, we’ll need some strong arms and backs to help load and unload trucks during the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive. If your son or daughter needs service hours, simply reach out to me at or Tracy Urso at

As always, we welcome your shout outs and letters and ask you to tell our generous advertisers you saw them in WOW!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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WOW’s Dining Survey and Reader Survey

The results are in!

September’s WOW holds our popular annual restaurant special and dining survey results. Karen Ring’s fun cover feature on eating out begins on page 4 and your dining survey results are on page 95. I thank all the restaurants who helped bring you this special.

This month, I’d also like to highlight some of the changes prompted by a survey of readers we took over the summer. That survey helped us tweak our content in ways that have improved WOW.

We’ve already received positive feedback on our new events listing, which this month runs on pages 94-95. Each month WOW staff culls through Tampa Bay events to compile this list of free (or nearly free) events for your enjoyment. We strive to include events that will appeal to all cross-sections of Westchase. If you have suggestions, don’t hesitate to share them.

To address the time challenges of busy families, Bridges resident Alicia Dela Cruz has remodeled the former Healthy Gourmet space. While still dedicated to bringing you healthy food ideas, Dela Cruz aims to help you get out of your recipe rut. Each month, she’ll offer a handful of easy dishes that will help easily change the evening line-up and keep the family happy.

This month Kristin Swenson also debuts her new column, Beaucoup Boutique, on page 62. Kristin contributes to a popular Tampa blog on fashion, shopping and trends. We welcome her wit and insights and good fashion sense to WOW!

In addition to content changes, we’re also making a staff change. WOW is preparing to hire its first ad sales staff member. For more information about applying for this opportunity, please see page 25.

Remember that we always welcome your letters and shout outs. Also please remember to mention to our valued advertisers that you’ve seen them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Don’t Miss Out on WOW Online

Do you receive e-notices of WOW news updates and surveys?

If you didn’t visit WOW Online ( last month, you missed out on a great survey that is the basis for this month’s cover feature. Do you park on the street thinking your neighbors really don’t mind that much? Our feature story on page 4 –  and the results of WOW’s Bad Neighbor survey – may have you rethinking some common habits.

In July, WOW posted two surveys and a host of online news updates. To receive notice of news items and surveys, simply send an e-mail to with Subscribe in the subject line or like World of Westchase’s Facebook page at


The other survey posted in July was WOW’s Reader Survey. Scores of readers took the time to tell us what they enjoy and what they’d like to see changed. We promised that checks for $100 would be going to three randomly selected participants. We congratulate Stephanie Georgiades of The Greens, Jennifer Hoppe of Radcliffe and Mary Banks of Castleford for winning the random drawing and thank all who filled the survey out. This month – and in months to come – WOW’s content will reflect changes made because of our readers’ valued feedback.

This month you can participate in another great survey, our annual WOW Dining Survey. See page 65 for more information or log on to and fill the survey out there. Doing so can win you dinner for two at one of the winning restaurants.

This month we also want your back-to-school photos. Please see page 48 for the details.

Remember that we welcome your shout outs and letters. As always, please let WOW’s valued advertisers know that you’ve seen them here.


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What is WOW Missing?

It’s time for a light housecleaning and we’d like your help.

WOW’s staff really wants to produce the most enjoyable and informative newsmagazine serving any community. To this end, every few years we take a formal survey of readers and non-readers to gauge whether we’re hitting the mark – and to understand how we’re missing it. Last month we rolled out the online survey and we’ve already heard from scores of homeowners. We’re discovering which features and articles they enjoy and which cause them to turn the page.

To encourage your participation, we’ll do a random drawing of all completed online surveys to award three $100 prizes. If you haven’t yet filled out the brief survey, please click here.

One resident we heard from in June is Jacob Morello. A 2011 graduate of Alonso High School who just finished his freshman year at Harvard, Jacob was one of our 2011 WOW Scholars. He read with interest our June article on T.R. Robinson’s IB Program. It motivated him to contact us and offer to write a similar piece about what makes his alma mater, Alonso High School, a special place that also graduates impressive and talented young Westchasers. Turn to page 26 for Morello’s insights. WOW writer Lisa Stephens also continues her profiles of the 2012 WOW Scholars on pages 24 and 25.

In a nod to Independence Day, July’s WOW also features a story inspired by one of America’s great pastimes – baseball. This summer the familiar sound of Rays baseball has regularly filled my family’s living room. One of those voices belongs to broadcaster Todd Kalas, who calls West Park Village home when he isn’t traveling with the team. Todd, who has a great sense of humor, recently sat down with WOW reporter Joey Johnston to share what he loves about Westchase. Check it out on page 4.

Remember that we welcome your shout outs and letters. As always, please let WOW’s valued advertisers know that you’ve seen them here.

Happy Independence Day!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Wicked Smart With a Generous Heart

The spring meeting of the WOW Board of Directors brings the same annual challenge.

Faced with dozens of impressive applicants for the magazine’s WOW Scholars program, directors have to choose a handful to honor as the year’s WOW Scholars.

While I am merely an observer of their deliberations every year, their reactions make clear what a challenging task they face. Westchase has an abundance of talented, hardworking and profoundly generous high school kids who are wicked smart.

This month’s cover story features this year’s WOW Scholars, each of whom received a $2,000 scholarship from the magazine. We honored these young, college-bound men and women for their academic excellence and their commitment to community service. We introduce this impressive lot to the community in our cover story, beginning on page 4.

As part of our coverage, we also wanted to take a look at a particular program that impresses us each year with the caliber of students it produces: the International Baccalaureate program at T.R. Robinson High School. WOW writer Joey Johnston visited the school, talked to its Westchase students and on page 26 helps us understand what makes the place uniquely successful.

In the coming months WOW profile writer Lisa Stephens is also sitting down with each of the WOW Scholars in order to better share their stories with us. Her WOW Scholar profiles begin on pages 22 and 23 and will run throughout the summer.

June’s WOW also annually runs an important map we hope you never have to use. This month hurricane season begins in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico and it will run through November. In our storm guide on pages 100-103, we provide helpful storm resources and a detailed view of evacuation zones throughout Westchase. All of the community lies in storm surge areas, which will become inundated should a powerful hurricane strike Tampa Bay. As survivors of past storms will testify, it is water rather than wind that proves the biggest killer. As a precaution, know your Westchase evacuation zone, prepare an emergency plan and gather your storm supplies.

Remember that we welcome your shout outs and letters. As always, please let WOW’s valued advertisers know that you’ve seen them here.

I wish all of Westchase’s dads a happy Father’s Day.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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What Happened to the Basketball Hoops Poll?

Some WOW readers may have unsuccessfully searched WOW Online for a poll on portable basketball hoops in April.

I’d like to take this space this month to explain and apologize for any inconvenience.

Due to an error I made, I decided on Monday, April 9, to pull the existing poll from WOW’s Web site.

When I agreed to post the survey online, I did so believing it was a WCA-requested survey. In recent months, WCA Director Nancy Sells inquired whether WOW would be willing to run a survey on portable basketball hoops and I agreed to do so.

Sells poll offered multiple options and was unbiased. Nevertheless, because I misunderstood a conversation (I want to emphasize here that Director Sells in no way misrepresented this point), I incorrectly believed it had the WCA board’s informal imprimatur and that directors wanted homeowner input.

Of course, WOW operates with editorial independence from the WCA. Nevertheless, I viewed it as a valuable community service to run a board-requested homeowners poll. In posting it, I labeled it a WCA Poll on Basketball Hoops. My publisher’s notes in this space in April also described it that way.

While WCA President Joaquin Arrillaga was aware of the poll and correctly described it in his president’s column, it was incorrect for me to describe it as a WCA poll. Contrary to my incorrect belief, neither the WCA Board nor Westchase VMs had actually requested it. The poll really was Director Sells’ attempt to acquire more information about the matter for the Documents Committee’s consideration later this year.

In incorrectly describing the poll, I may have caused some homeowners to mistakenly conclude the WCA is considering rules changes. Rather than promote that misconception, I elected to remove the poll until I could clarify matters here.

Coming full circle, VMs, however, subsequently voted to request WOW run an actual WCA-requested portable basketball hoops survey on WOW Online and we’ve gladly agreed to do so. Even if you took last month’s poll, please visit to participate in this different poll. Your VMs do want your input.

In closing, I bid a fond farewell – and offer my profound thanks – to longtime Dishing It Out columnist Gail Gundersen. Gail and her carnivore husband Mick are moving to Atlanta. Gail has written for WOW for seven years and will be sorely missed. We wish Gail and Mick the absolute best as they move closer to their grandkids’ hugs.


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How Did Your Home Do in 2011?

This month our Real Estate Special shares what we’ve learned from combing through sales statistics for 2011.

Every year it’s a time-consuming process. In addition to sending questionnaires to a number of Westchase Realtors who know the local market, we study the sales data for trends. Comparing it to previous years’ performances, we set out to tell you what homes in your Westchase village are selling for.

It’s always a fascinating – and in recent years even frustrating – story.

I want to thank the Realtors who helped provide information and insight that brought this cover story to fruition. I also thank the advertisers who helped bring the Real Estate Special to you. Please remember that WOW and its work in the community are solely supported through its advertising revenue. Please therefore tell the businesses you see on these pages you saw them in WOW.

WOW is filled with other great features this month. Westchase resident Ben Weiner is bringing the first food truck rally to the community on March 9. It will be held in conjunction with the WCA’s Movie in the Park event. See pages 12 and 16 for more information.

The Westchase Community Foundation’s annual Westchase Cup Golf Tournament is coming up in April. Why not get a group of your neighbors together and try to wrest the cup back from the business teams that have won it in recent years? See page 22 for information on registering for this great event.

Many residents have followed news out of this year’s state legislative session. One of the biggest pieces of news is how new maps for legislative districts may affect our community. On page 20 we look at the new maps, currently under review and challenge. Should they stand, however, the proposed map for Westchase’s new House district may represent the best chance the community has ever had to send an actual Westchase resident to Tallahassee to represent us.

As always, the rest of WOW is filled with great stories about your association, your CDD and your neighbors.

I wish you happy reading and a happy spring break!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Be My Valentine?

In a few days children throughout our community will exchange dozens of little cards with their friends.

While these Valentines are now often accompanied by actual sweets, their sweet written messages and signatures annually bring back memories of my own childhood Valentine’s Days.

They also remind us of something more important. Each of us who shares – or who has shared – a life with another has a sweet story to tell. In meeting a new couple, my favorite question to ask is, “How did you two meet?”

No matter how silly, convoluted, funny or ordinary, the stories I hear are the most significant ones in the lives of those couples and their families. This month we interviewed a handful of residents and asked, “How did you two meet?” WOW reporter Karen Ring opens the door to their answers in our great cover feature on page 4.

While I often use this space to detail other fun articles that await you within the magazine, I’d like to take this month’s remaining space in a different direction.

I’d like to request a favor.

Yes, I’m asking a favor of you individually.

WOW is unique. The magazine is thrown each month in front of each Westchase home at absolutely no cost to homeowners. There is no subscription fee and we receive no portion of your HOA assessment to pay our bills. All of our costs are paid for by our generous advertisers. In recent years we’ve even been able to present over $100,000 annually to Westchase’s schools to enhance their technology and curricula.

For this to continue, we need your help. If you’ve noticed your vastly shrinking newspaper in recent years, you likely understand the challenges print publications face. Our struggling local economy has reduced the number of advertising businesses while the Internet poses further challenges.

If you value what WOW brings to you each month, I’d ask a simple favor in return. When you are making the decision to hire service providers, please consider our advertisers. Most important, when you do hire an advertiser in WOW, be sure to tell them, “I found you in WOW.”

By doing so, you show businesses that their WOW advertisements work.

Taking this simple step each month will be an important way you can help keep WOW strong. In turn, a strong WOW means a stronger community.

Thanks for being a dedicated reader!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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WOW’s January Traditions

Like the Roman god Janus, whose two faces gaze in opposite directions, January’s WOW again looks forward and backward.

January, his namesake, represents both beginnings and endings. In a nod to the past, WOW takes its traditional look back at Westchase news in 2011 on page 14. We also conclude our 20th anniversary History of Westchase series with a fascinating 20-year timeline of community events on page 20.

In a nod to the future, WOW’s cover story presents our annual Health and Wellness special. Joey Johnston’s feature helps everyone avoid the false, temporary hope of fad diets so prevalent each January. Instead, to help everyone with a new start, he’s interviewed two Westchase personal trainers to determine what really works for those who stick to their health resolutions each year.

Each January I observe another tradition in this space – one that gives me great happiness. I announce the donations WOW made to its local public schools the previous December.

WOW is unusual. While it’s the newsmagazine of our Westchase Community Association, it is not subsidized by any association homeowners’ dues or assessments from our CDD. WOW is financially independent, paying for all of its editorial, publishing and distribution costs solely with its advertising revenues. WOW’s mission, however, goes further. Each year its revenues in excess of expenditures are returned to the community in important, positive ways.

After a very successful year in 2011, I’m happy to report WOW was able to make gifts of $19,000 to Westchase Elementary, $7,500 to Lowry Elementary, $12,000 to Davidsen Middle School, $19,000 to Alonso High School and $10,000 to Robinson High School’s IB program, which serves over 100 Westchase teens. WOW donated these funds to enable the schools to purchase technology and curricular enhancements to strengthen our youngest residents’ educations. With this year’s donations, we’ve helped Alonso build a modern television studio and provide four mobile smart boards for its classrooms. Davidsen will purchase classroom projectors and install wireless access points in all classroom buildings. Lowry and Robinson are purchasing document cameras, projectors, smart boards and software. Westchase Elementary will purchase Mimio Teach Interactive Systems, mini laptops and DVD players.

WOW is able to do this because of the generous and dedicated support of its advertisers and its readers. I encourage all readers to thank WOW’s advertisers for their support and encourage their favorite businesses to advertise here. Doing so pays dividends to Westchase’s children.

Happy New Year!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Westchase’s Favorite Elf

Which person has graced the most WOW covers?

Yes, it’s old Kris Kringle, and this month he’s there again!
Santa and the Westchase Charitable Foundation’s Pre-Flight Parade take to Westchase streets on Saturday, Dec. 10. The bead and candy-tossing Santa parade is one of Westchase’s most cherished traditions. Each year the same group of merry elves pitch in to bring joy to Westchase kids and adults alike. Recently I sat down with the parade’s organizers – as well as Santa himself – to hear what motivates them to hold the parade each year. Their stories were both funny and moving. Don’t miss them on page 5.

Financially backed by WOW, the parade is organized by the Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF), which assists families who have sick children or who have experienced some tragedy. During the event, parade organizers will be collecting unwrapped gifts for Sincerely Santa, a toy drive for needy kids. If you find joy in the parade, make this the year to say thanks by offering an unwrapped gift and a donation to the WCF.

After a very successful Great West Chase 5K and a great Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive, I have many people to thank. Please see the race article on page 40 and the food drive article on page 20 for lists of these special folks. I also want to thank you, our participating readers, who made these traditions so wonderful.

I do, however, want to single out WOW Business Manager Tracy Urso. Every year Tracy is the primary drive behind the success of The Great West Chase. Anyone who has ever participated comes away impressed. Thanks, Tracy, for doing such a phenomenal, dedicated job!
As always, we welcome your shout outs and letters to the editor. Please also let our valued advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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Westchase’s Greatest Asset

Westchase has beautiful and well-maintained commons areas, facilities and parks. But none of these are the community’s greatest asset.

Our community’s greatest asset appears on this month’s cover – Westchase’s residents. Only people can give Westchase its true spirit of community. This month, we take a look at what the 2010 Census tells us about the people who make up Westchase. Beginning on page 6, our cover story may hold some surprises for you.

Of course, there’s no surprise that our neighbors are both generous and proud to call Westchase home. On Oct. 29 both traits were apparent in the tenth running of The Great West Chase and the 20th Anniversary Party WOW held in West Park Village to celebrate Westchase’s birthday. As both events occurred after November’s print deadline, we will have greater coverage of them in December’s WOW. I do, however, want to thank all who participated in and sponsored the events. They were successful because of you – and our generous volunteers.

This month one of Westchase’s great community traditions continues. On Sunday, Nov. 6, the community will hold its annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, benefitting Metropolitan Ministries. At 1 p.m. that day, dozens of your neighbors will travel through our neighborhoods collecting your contributions. For more information on donating or participating, please see page XX.

This month – a month of thanks – I want to single out five individuals who represent Westchase residents’ selflessness and dedication. An important and historical event occurred without a fuss on Sept. 20 and Oct. 4. While it occurred without great notice, the merger of Westchase’s Community Development Districts (CDDs) is a rare bird in Florida. Why? It actually required five of Westchase’s ten CDD supervisors – individuals who receive a stipend of $200 per meeting – to set aside their personal desires, goals and their financial self-interest for the greater good of the community. Without their willingness to step aside the merger would not have occurred.

I want to thank Bob Argus, Susan Edgerley, Keith Heinemann, Joseph Lechman and Lewis Patterson for their many years of service – and for being great neighbors. If you see them, be sure to offer your thanks as well. They represent what is great about Westchase.

As always, we welcome your Shout Outs and your letters to the editor and encourage you to tell our advertisers you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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You’re Invited to Westchase’s Birthday Bash

There’s no need to bring a gift. We just want you to join the fun! Those who read this space monthly already know that 2011 is a special year for Westchase. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the community’s founding. Residents have had great fun at the Movies in the Park, a concert in West Park Village, the opening of the West Park Village pool and the Westchase Gala, held in August.

While the fall series of Movies in the Park will begin again on Oct. 14, WOW also invites you to commemorate Westchase’s birthday in a special way. We invite all Westchase residents to a community birthday bash – a street festival on Saturday, Oct. 29, from 3-9 p.m. Held on Montague Street’s green in West Park Village, the party will feature great family entertainment and food and drink from local restaurants. It will end with a 6:45 p.m. showing of Rio on a giant movie screen. Except for any inexpensive food and drink you purchase, it’s all free! Come on out, grab dinner, let the kids have a ball, enjoy some birthday cake and catch the movie. It’s WOW’s way of saying, “Happy Birthday, Westchase!” Please see page 4 for more details.

The morning of Oct. 29 begins with another fall tradition, the tenth annual running of The Great West Chase 5K and Children’s Fun Run. If you haven’t yet seen this great event, roll out of bed early that Saturday and discover why it’s one of the most popular road races in all of Tampa Bay. With the help of many wonderful volunteers and sponsors, we throw the best race and post-party around! With runners’ and sponsors’ help last year, Just Elementary, which serves one of the poorest communities in Tampa, raised their FCAT school grade from F to C. Please see page 5 and the race site for more details.

This month we also bring you our great School Special, beginning on page 94, and thank the private schools and daycare centers that made it possible.

As always, we welcome your Shout Outs and your letters to the editor.

Don’t forget to send us your Halloween photos and please remember to thank our valued advertisers for supporting the community.

See you Oct. 29!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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WOW Rolls Out New Web Site

If you’ve ever wished you could leave comments after WOW articles, now you can.

This month WOW rolls out a new and improved version of its online self at The N.ew WOW Online features all the great news items and columns you’re accustomed to finding there. There is, however, much more. For the first time residents will be able to leave comments about all articles and columns. The new Web also features an expanded business directory of local service providers. On each of their pages, residents are able to offer reviews of their services. Offering a new look and feel, WOW Online also features an expanded classifieds section and calendar for residents to post events and gatherings. From it you can e-mail content, “Like” articles on Facebook or Tweet about one you’ve enjoyed. Be sure to log on to and register your resident profile to use its great new features.

September marks the beginning of WOW’s busiest part of the year. Staff is gearing up for the Oct. 29 tenth anniversary running of The Great Westchase 5K and Children’s Fun Run. We’re also currently preparing a fun 20th anniversary bash that afternoon to celebrate Westchase’s birthday. While they’re more than a month off, mark your calendars for these events so you can join the fun.

This month’s cover story announces another important October event. The Bauder family of Kingsford is holding their annual tailgating party to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The event and their story are the subject of this month’s cover feature on page 4. After reading it, you’ll feel compelled to land a hand.

This month on pages 96-103 we also offer our traditional September Dining Special, including the results from our 13th annual dining survey. We thank all the restaurants who helped make it possible. Be sure not to miss Shires resident Joey Johnston’s humorous take on Guys Tips for Healthy Eating Out, which appears on page 97. We also offer a new twist on our Restaurant Guide of menus. Instead of running with the inserts, it appears as a tear-out section between pages 96-97. Be sure to pull it out and tuck it in a kitchen drawer by the phone.

As always, send in your shout outs and letters and tell our valued advertisers you saw their ads in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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