About Pinellas County
Pinellas County is situated along the Gulf of Mexico. Its 2012 population was 921,319. With a land mass of 3300 sq miles it the most densely populated county in Florida. Its county seat is Clearwater and its largest city is St. Petersburg. With almost 5.5 million visitors last year, Pinellas County is one of the top vacation destinations in the world. Pinellas County's coastal geography, with a long system of barrier islands on the Gulf of Mexico and small-to-large mangrove islands dotting the waters on all sides, provides for an extensive series of blueways that are enjoyed by kayakers of all ability levels. The county also maintains a series of artificial reefs in the Gulf which are popular spots for fishing and scuba diving.
Both the North Beach of Fort De Soto Park (2005) and Caladesi Island (2008) have been named by Dr. Beach as America's Top Beach. Downtowns in St. Petersburg and Dunedin, and many of the beaches, especially Clearwater Beach, all attract a vibrant nightlife.
On Clearwater Beach is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a non-profit dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of injured marine animals and public education. CMA's best-known permanent resident, is Winter, a bottlenose dolphin who was rescued in December 2005 after having her tail caught in a crab trap. Her injuries sadly caused the loss of her tail; CMA successfully fitted Winter with a prosthetic tail which brought worldwide attention to the facility. Winter was the subject of the 2011 film Dolphin Tale, shot partially on location at CMA.
The county is served by the Pinellas County School District. The district, the nation's 24th largest, comprises 143 schools, including 72 elementary schools, 17 middle schools, 2 K-8 schools, 17 high schools, and 35 additional facilities including ESE, adult ed, career/technical, and charters. The district also operates the K-12 Pinellas Virtual School. Two of the district's high schools are also ranked in Newsweek's 2012 list of America's Best High Schools.
The county is also home to several notable private schools, including Admiral Farragut Academy, Canterbury School of Florida, Clearwater Central Catholic High School, Keswick Christian School, Shorecrest Preparatory School, and St. Petersburg Catholic High School, among others.
Pinellas County is home several institutions of higher learning, including Eckerd College, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, the multi-campus St. Petersburg College, the Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, and Clearwater Christian College. The main campus of Schiller International University is in Largo, after previously being located in Dunedin.
Schools in Pinellas County
Pinellas County History
Prior to European exploration and settlement the Pinellas peninsula was inhabited by the Tocobaga, who built a town and large temple mound overlooking the bay in what is now Safety Harbor. The modern site is protected by the county and can be visited as a part of Philippe Park.
During the 16th century Spanish explorers discovered and slowly began venturing into Florida. In 1528 Panfilo de Narvaez landed in Pinellas. Later Spanish explorers named the area Punta Piñal, Spanish for "Point of Pines" or "Piney Point". After trading hands multiple times between the English and the Spanish, Spain finally ceded Florida to the United States in 1821, and in 1823 the U.S. Army established Fort Brooke, later known as Tampa.
In 1834 much of west central Florida, including the Pinellas peninsula was organized as Hillsborough County. The very next year Odet Philippe became the first permanent, non-native resident of the peninsula when he established a homestead near the site of the Tocobaga village in Safety Harbor. It was Philippe who first introduced both citrus culture and cigar-making to Florida.
Agriculture was the single most important industry in Pinellas until the early 20th century, with much of the best land devoted to citrus production. Cattle Ranching was another major industry. In 1885 the American Medical Society declared the Pinellas peninsula the "healthiest spot on earth", which helped spur the growth of the tourist industry.
Tourism today remains a major industry, with Tampa Bay's climate, white sand beaches, and many cultural attractions drawing over 5.4 million visitors to Pinellas County alone in 2012.
Service industries such as healthcare, business services and education account for more than 200,000 jobs in the county, generating almost $19 billion in revenue. Other major sectors include retail, with close to 100,000 employees in jobs such as food service, bars, and retail sales generating $12 billion for the local economy in 2010, and industries related to finance, insurance and real estate with approximately 44,000 workers generating $8.5 billion in sales.
The Board of County Commissioners governs all unincorporated areas of the county under the state's constitution, with the power to adopt ordinances, approve the county budget, set millages, and provide services. The county's municipalities, while governing their own affairs, may call upon the county for specialized services. The county administrator, appointed by and reporting to the Board, oversees most of the day-to-day operations of the county.