TARPON SPRINGS – The city of Tarpon Springs has been named the Best Historic Small Town in the country by USA Today.
Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jean Hungiville announced the final results of the public campaign at the May 22 City Commissioners meeting. She told city officials and the public about the selection of Tarpon Springs by readers of the national newspaper as the top town with a population under 25,000 that boasts a significant history.
“I just wanted to enter into the record that Tarpon Springs has been nominated and has won the best Historic Small Town in the United States for 2018, and I want to thank everyone here who helped with that,” Hungiville said during the public comment portion of the meeting.
She went on to explain how once the city was selected as a Top 20 finalist by a panel of judges, the public campaign to win the distinction kicked into high gear, with Tarpon Springs going back and forth in the voting with a community very familiar to Hungiville.
“Most of you know I moved here from the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and Karen Riordan, who is the Williamsburg (Virginia) chamber president and CEO, said, ‘Look out, because when I beat you I don’t want a bucket of sponges sent to me,’ ” she said.
The Virginia city, the home of the Colonial Williamsburg living history museum and the College of William and Mary, founded in 1693, came in fourth. “So, I’m really, really pleased with that,” Hungiville said.
Hungiville said she is negotiating with USA Today over the rights to use the title and logo in digital and print promotional materials, noting it would then be available for businesses and the city to use in all advertising.
Mayor Chris Alahouzos welcomed the news, stating he was “very, very honored and glad we have been chosen as the best city in the nation — but we already knew that.”
After the meeting, Hungiville spoke about the nationwide recognition the award could bring to Tarpon Springs.
“This is a huge deal because it takes us back to our roots and our history, from the Victorian era and the railroad coming through here as well as the arrival of the Greeks and the spongers,” Hungiville said.
“Now this award belongs to the city and everybody, every business, can use that fact. Once you get it, you cannot lose it!”
Alahouzos also weighed in on the award.
“The city of Tarpon Springs might be small in size, with a population of just over 17,000, but we have a lot of history, a lot of culture and a lot of character,” he said. “So, it’s no surprise to me that we won.”