The annual honorary mayor races are officially underway, and this year, for the first time, three candidates are running for two honorary mayor positions in the community. Jorgie Franks, sales and business development coach is running for Brandon’s honorary mayor and will be announced at the Fourth of July parade. Danielle Stevens, owner of Vine Vegan, and Tina Downing, founder of Small But Mighty Heroes, are running for honorary mayor of Eastern Hillsborough, the first race of its kind, sponsored by the Valrico FishHawk Chamber of Commerce.
Franks is raising funds for Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon, Women Centered 4 Success and Family Promise of Hillsborough County.
Franks has lived in Brandon since 11th grade, graduating from Bloomingdale High School before attending Hillsborough Community College in Brandon and transferring to the University of South Florida. She decided to fun run for honorary mayor while working at the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce in 2018.
“I have worked in Brandon in many capacities at many of the stores, schools and organizations we visit every day,” said Franks. “[At the chamber of commerce], I was in charge of adding members, which made me reach out to the business community and begin the diversity and inclusion council.”
For information and tickets to events, visit https://jorgieinc.com/jorgie-for-mayor/.
Stevens is raising funds for the Impact Program, Hope for Her and A Kid’s Place.
Stevens moved to Florida eight years ago, living with her family in Valrico. After working for over 20 years of corporate work experience, Stevens opened a plant-based restaurant in 2022, Vine Vegan, having identified a need for it in the Brandon community.
“I am passionate about my mission: bringing people together over food, capturing the culture of community and using ridiculously delicious vegan food to do it,” said Stevens.
“I choose these charities because they help causes that are very personal and near to my heart,” said Stevens.
Impact educates students, parents and teachers on how to have healthy relationships and avoid sexual risk; Hope for Her offers a safe place for women to find strength, skills and support after experiencing trauma; and A Kid’s Place provides foster care for children from abusive homes.
“My goal is to secure financial resources to my selected charities while creating interaction between our community and its environment, all while by increasing my involvement, and encouraging others to do so too,” said Stevens.
In order to raise the funds, Stevens has organized a number of events that have been taking place throughout June.
Ticket sales for her events have begun and can be purchased by visiting ‘Danielle Stevens for Honorary Mayor of East Hillsborough’ on Facebook.
Downing raising funds for Dancing for a Difference, Papou’s Mouse and the 1Voice Foundation.
Downing, the founder of the charity Small But Mighty Heroes, which supports families battling cancer, said, “I’m running because I have direct impacts and connections with many members of our community. Parents, children, teachers, PTA, high schools, elementary schools, businesses, chambers, networking groups, hospitals and more.”
She added, “My dedication to the community stems from my passion and commitment supporting children and their families who face the unimaginable: childhood cancer. I have seen things that many have not. I have walked the halls of hospitals hearing children cry for their parents, screams of children terrified and in pain. I have seen dads hold the entire world on their shoulders while tears escape their eyes and moms fall to their knees in agony of the words: ‘Your child has cancer.’ I have watched, through my own tear-filled eyes, parents telling their child goodbye; watching parents, siblings and families hug a casket one last time before it is lowered to their final resting place.”
She has had the pleasure of working with Sara Battaglia from Dancing for a Difference, as Battaglia brings dance to children of all ages, all abilities and any disability. She enjoys seeing the smiles of children as they are of one with all the others, and seeing foster children get a chance of normalcy and opportunity.
“I have looked through the window of Luby’s reality from Papou’s Mouse. The echoes of footsteps walking the halls of the oncology floor, haunted by the glimpse of a child lying in a hospital bed alone. Heart shatters as yearning eyes meet yours,” said Downing.
“I have had the opportunity of supporting the same oncology children as MaryAnn from 1Voice,” she continued. “I have been on the receiving end of hearing the excitement and happiness expressed from the parents and children who participate in the programs that they offer. The smiles and memories that are being made will last a lifetime.”
For information and tickets, visit https://smallbutmightyheroes.org/.