On Sept. 24, 1996, state Sen. Jack Latvala – a 240-pound, self-described “fat guy”— took control of his health by resolving to walk the length of then-Senate District 19.
As part of the Clearwater Republican’s first re-election effort, the weeklong walk would become the “perfect way to meet many of his constituents,” wrote the former St. Petersburg Times. Back then, Latvala wore a dress shirt, tie and long pants, with the only concession to comfort being a pair of new white Reeboks.
Latvala, joined by Pasco’s property appraiser-elect Mike Wells, began what became a 44-mile journey from the district’s northern boundary of Aripeka to the south edge of Belleair in Pinellas County.
Now, to celebrate the 18th anniversary of Latvala’s ambitious district walk, his son — Republican House Candidate Chris Latvala – will literally follow in his father’s footsteps by walking the entire length of House District 67.
On Saturday, Sept. 27 – the day Jack Latvala completed his journey — the younger Latvala will hold his own “Walk Across the District” throughout HD 67, part of north Pinellas County covering roughly 60 square miles from Union Blvd. in Clearwater to past Ulmerton Blvd. in the south, and Missouri St. east to the edge of Tampa Bay. The region includes parts of Clearwater, Largo and Pinellas Park.
At its longest points, HD 67 runs approximately 8 miles each way – just the right length for a day’s walk.
In 1996, for the first four miles of his jaunt along Old Dixie Highway in Hudson, Jack Latvala did not meet a soul. But that did not deter him from pressing on.
“To walk the district shows I care,” the freshman lawmaker later told the Times, adding that he “could stand to lose a few pounds.”
Latvala then spent the next two decades proudly serving the people of Pinellas County; Chris Latvala is hoping for the same — all beginning with a nice little stroll.