Jerry Beverland autographs a copy of his newest book, Oldsmar: Past, Present and Future, on Saturday, Oct. 10.
A living legend is typically defined as someone who becomes a legend during their own lifetime, as opposed to those who become famous or renowned after their death, like van Gogh or Bach or Stieg Larsson.
But by any definition of the phrase, former Oldsmar mayor Jerry Beverland certainly fits the bill.
Beverland, who retired following his most recent City Council term in March after a political career that began in 1970, is the type of person who when you hear a seemingly outrageous story about them, more often or not, the tale is true.
Like the time he fired a city clerk on the spot during a council meeting.
Or when he sued the city for taking a piece of his land, ran for office due to the perceived slight, and came away victorious both times.
The outspoken 80-year-old recently published his fourth book on Oldsmar’s history, “Oldsmar: Past, Present and Future,” with his beloved wife, Wanda, and during a recent talk to promote the book, Beverland often flashed the no-holds-barred persona that made him a beloved yet polarizing figure in the city, often simultaneously.
Former Oldsmar mayor Jerry Beverland.
“I was spurred to run for office when the city took part of my land,” Beverland said as a guest speaker for the Oldsmar Historical Society on Saturday, October 10.
“So I sued the City and ran for council.”
“I won the election and I won the lawsuit,” he added, noting he told people at the time, “I’m suing the City, the City’s not running over me.”
That kind of chutzpah led to Beverland garnering 64 percent of the vote en route to his first city council term in 1970, and it was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to him using his brash personality in order to get things done in the city.
Over the course of his 25-year political career, Beverland was the driving force behind a number of projects that were critical in making Oldsmar into the city it is today, including: getting the city’s wastewater treatment plant built, which he calls “the lifeblood of the city”; paving many of the previously unpaved roads in town; and acquiring land from the county that would become home to many of Oldsmar’s industrial areas, parks and preservation spaces.
Jerry Beverland’s fourth book on Oldsmar’s history, “Oldsmar: Past, Present and Future.”
During his one-hour talk that, true to form, ran a little long, Beverland, who has lived in Oldsmar for 47 years, spoke about his various run-ins with City officials and residents, the love and respect he has for Wanda, his wife of 60 years, and why he believes Oldsmar is such a unique community.
“Very few people liked me when I first got elected, because I am who I am,” he said.
“But I realized the most important part of a city, what makes up a city, is its residents. And Oldsmar has some terrific residents.”
After the author talk wrapped up, Beverland signed copies of his book and reminisced with those who showed up for the event.
One attendee explained why Beverland means so much to her and to the city.
Jerry Beverland looks at some old photos with Pat Lamphear and Jeri Antozzi.
Pat Lamphear, who once owned an insurance agency in town and still owns the property, recalled how welcoming Jerry was to her when she first opened her business.
“I think he is a brilliant man, very sincere and for the people,” Lamphear said after she happily shelled out $45 for Beverland’s latest book. “When I first came to Oldsmar, he welcomed me and took me under his wing, and I thought, wow, this is really nice.”
“I lived in Clearwater and I never saw that kind of treatment,” she added. “People here in Oldsmar went out of their way to make me feel welcome, and that comes from the leadership, and especially from Jerry.”
When asked about his future plans, Beverland said there won’t be any more history books, but he is working on his first novel.
Then the man known for surprising people dropped this little bombshell.
Former Oldsmar Mayor Jerry Beverland.
“I plan on running for council again next year,” Beverland told Oldsmar Connect.
“I was done, but two meetings brought me back,” he added, referring to those on the failed Market Square project.
“I don’t believe in talking, I believe in making decisions. So I decided to run for Linda’s (Foley Norris) seat in March. We’ll see what happens.”
Seems like Oldsmar’s living legend is ready to make history again.
Jerry Beverland’s latest book, “Oldsmar: Past, Present and Future,” is available for purchase at the Oldsmar Historical Society Museum or the Oldsmar Public Library. Beverland’s previous books are available at both locations, also.