Florida and Pinellas County
The first permanent white settlement on the Pinellas Peninsula was established in 1832 by Odet Philippe in the present-day Safety Harbor area of Pinellas County.
The settlement history of the county, however, dates back much farther, to about 200 A.D., when the Weeden Island culture took hold along the central Gulf Coast of Florida. In about 1000 A.D. the Tocobaga Indians were thriving in central Pinellas County.
In the 1500’s, the first Spanish exploration of the area occurred. In 1528 a Spaniard, Panfilo de Narvaez, is believed to have landed somewhere on the Pinellas Peninsula. Just eleven years later, in 1539, the more-famous Spanish Explorer, Hernando deSoto, is believed to have begun his first exploration of the Tampa Bay area.
The following early dates in the 1800’s are a few of the many “milestones” that residents of, and visitors to Pinellas County may find interesting:
|Milestone Year||Notable Event|
|1834||Hillsborough County established – Pinellas Peninsula included within the |
County’s jurisdiction and known as West Hillsborough
|1853||First white child born in Pinellas County – Odet “Keeter” Booth|
|1855||Area’s first public school established (on site of present-day Clearwater |
|1859||Clear Water Harbor is the first point on the Pinellas Peninsula to become a |
community; first Post Office established in Clear Water Harbor
|1884||Civil War Veteran Zephaniah Philipps is the first settler on the Pinellas |
Peninsula’s Gulf Coast Barrier Island (Long Key/Pass-a-Grille)
|1887||Tarpon Springs established as the first incorporated City on the Pinellas |
In 1912, because of a referendum, Pinellas County seceded from Hillsborough County and was established as a separate political subdivision. With secession, Pinellas County became Florida’s 48th County, with the City of Clearwater as its seat of county government.
The name Pinellas derives from the Spanish words Punta Pinal which translates to “point of pines” in English. In the days of the early Spanish explorers, the Pinellas Peninsula was a verdant layer of pine trees, hence the name and its derivation from the Spanish.
Pinellas County is the second smallest county in Florida (Union County is the smallest) with an area of 280 square miles. The county is 38 miles long and 15 miles wide at its broadest point. The area of Pinellas County includes a total of 588 miles of coastline stretching along the Gulf of Mexico to the west of the county’s land mass.
Despite its relatively small size, the county is the most densely populated in the State. As of 2010, there were 3,347 people per square mile – the next closest county with a highly concentrated population is Broward County with 1,445 people per square mile.
In terms of population unrelated to land mass, Pinellas County is Florida’s sixth most populous county – Pinellas accounts for 4.7% of the state’s overall population. The last national Census in 2010 showed that the population of Florida was 18,801,332, a 17.6% increase over the 2000 Census numbers. At the same time, the 2010 population of Pinellas County stood at 916,524, a number that was lower than in 2000 by 0.5% (five tenths of one percent).
The City of St. Petersburg, with 244,769 residents, is the most populace community in the county. Clearwater – still the County seat since the establishment of Pinellas County in 1912 – is the county’s second most populous incorporated community. The county is made up of two distinct geographical areas – the mainland communities and the Barrier Island communities.
On the “mainland” are found the following cities and towns: St. Petersburg, Clearwater. Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor, Dunedin, Gulfport, Largo, Pinellas Park, Seminole, Kenneth City, Bellair, Bellair Bluffs, Bellair Shore, and South Pasadena.
The Barrier Island communities are: Bellair Beach, Indian Shores, Indian Rocks Beach, Redington Shores, North Redington Beach, Redington Beach, Madeira Beach, Treasure Island, and St. Pete Beach.
As of the 2010 Census, the following demographics characterized Pinellas County’s population:
- Total # of households: 415,876… Total # of family households: 234,268
- Percentage of Residents under age 18 years: 17.8%… over age 65 years: 21.2%
- Percentage White: 82.1%… Black or African American: 10.3%… Hispanic: 8%
There are over 40,000 businesses in Pinellas County, employing over 400,000 people. The median household income is $45,891.00 per year. The primary key business sectors in the county are health services, tourism-related services, financial services, and light manufacturing.
The governing structure of Pinellas County consists of an elected Board of County Commissioners that, by power vested in the body by the Florida Constitution, has the power and right to adopt ordinances (local laws), approve the budget, set millage (tax) rates, and establish the requirements for all departments under the Board’s control. The membership of the Board is set at seven members elected by District in which an incumbent commissioner must reside.
The Board governs all unincorporated areas of the County directly; municipalities within the county may call upon the county for specialized services. The day-to-day administration of county operations is in the hands of the appointed Pinellas County Administrator. The County Administrator leads a team of county employees some 1,800 strong in a wide-range of departments.
The county government is also made up of several other elected officials, including five Constitutional Offices and Officers: Clerk of the Circuit Court, Sheriff, Property Appraiser, Tax Collector, and Supervisor of Elections. The Constitutional Officers are elected to administer a specific function of County government and are directly accountable to the public through periodic elections. The duties, powers, and responsibilities of constitutional officers are defined by the State’s constitution and laws.
Other county officials include members of the judiciary, the State’s Attorney, and the Public Defender – for matters of budgeting and budget presentation, these officials are included in the Court Support section of county government.
In 2005, the beach at Fort De Soto County Park was named #1 Beach in the Nation. In 2008, the same honor was accorded the beach at Caladesi State Park. Both beaches are part of county and state parks located in Pinellas County. The beaches in the county are just one of the many reasons that the county is a “destination area” for visitors from all over the nation and the world year-round. The fact that Pinellas County enjoys upwards of three hundred sixty-one days of sunshine during the year is another draw to the county.
In 2007, Pinellas County was named Florida’s first “Green County” by the Florida Green Building Coalition (“FGBC”). The FGBC is a Florida-based non-profit organization whose mission “… is to create a statewide green building program with environmental and economic benefits”. Regarding the FGBC’s Florida Green Local Government Standard for Green Cities and Green Counties, the organization established “a very comprehensive standard that seeks environmental stewardship from all the various activities that a local government does. It goes beyond green buildings to consider transportation, purchasing, education, marinas, utilities, emergency services, etc.…”.
There is a lot to see and do in Pinellas County, Florida. Outdoor activities – due to the excellent year-round weather, spectacular beaches, and ease of access across the county – are particularly popular with residents and visitors alike. Boating-related activities, hiking the many trails in the County, and visiting and utilizing some forty-plus parks are also irresistible draws for young and old alike. As it’s been said often – “Come for the weather, stay for the fun!”.
Image credit: Wikipedia