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  • Last modified 139 days ago (March 6, 2019)

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Advocate named 'Citizen of the Year'

Staff writer

When longtime Tampa mayor Jim Clemmer died in November 2009 townspeople were wondering how they could ever replace him. Clemmer, who had been mayor since 1991, was aggressive in promoting and improving the town.

Fortunately, two years later, along came David Mueller, a Tampa farmer who cared about the town and didn’t want to see its downtown buildings deteriorate to nothing.

He recently was recognized as 2018 “Citizen of the Year” by Tri-County Chamber of Commerce at Herington, after he spear-headed an effort to establish a Tampa Community Foundation. He enlisted the help of Chris Costello and Mickey Lundy of Tampa State Bank, who were active in establishing Marion’s community foundation, Marion Advancement Campaign.

TCF operates under MAC’s umbrella. This partnership saved TCF significant legal and financial hurdles and allows for tax-deductible donations.

“It happened fairly quickly and was easier than I thought it would be,” Mueller said.

Mueller, Costello, Carla Hajek, Francis and Mary Jirak, and Julie Kerbs serve as board members.

The foundation was in place by December 2017, and almost $70,000 was raised its first year. About $40,000 of that was used to build a new downtown library. It was dedicated in October.

“The building replaced a terrible eyesore,” Mueller said.

Community members donated books, and now the library is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.

Because the original building had been home to Gooding Produce and Shoe Shop, the new building is named Paul Gooding Memorial Library.

Volunteers at the library include head librarian Kathy Davis, Phyllis Branson, Linda Ihde, Courtney Cole, and Betty Mueller.

Some of the money raised by TCF was used to provide scholarships to seniors from the Tampa Community. Five scholarships were given last year to Centre graduates. Each senior was asked to write an essay on how to attract young people to their community. The winner received $1,000. Others received $500.

Mueller said anyone within the community who is graduating from high school, whether from Centre, any other school, or home school are eligible to receive a scholarship.

For the past seven years, Mueller has devoted himself to an effort to restoring downtown. The entire west side of Main Street has been restored to usable space, and storefronts have been preserved. Almost all of the spaces are in use.

Mueller has been busy cleaning out the former Tampa Café. He is painting walls and replacing flooring. The building is almost ready for occupancy.

Tampa may have a population of only 100 people, but the whole community works together to keep the town attractive and alive.

Mueller noted that the Tampa PRIDE organization continues to give life to the town. The leadership has transitioned from older adults to young people.

“We have so many young people here,” he said.

They have been responsible for numerous improvements including establishing a new park near the ball diamond. They provide regular social events at the senior center, organize the annual Trailfest, and conduct fundraisers.

Mueller said the foundation’s purpose is to provide opportunities for young families to put down roots in Tampa and keep the young families already there.

“It’s something the community has wanted to do for decades,” he said.

Last modified March 6, 2019

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