Where to Retire Really Likes Dade City

Bowen: Don’t pigeonhole Dade City as a retirement mecca
C.T. Bowen C.T. Bowen, Pasco Times Columnist
Tuesday, October 20, 2015 11:05pm

Where to Retire magazine really likes Dade City.

Really, really, really likes it.

The Houston-based publication put Dade City on the cover of its November/December issue, featuring a picture of garden glove-wearing Stephanie Shriver-Engdahl leaning against a red pickup bed stuffed with sunflowers, gardening tools and other landscaping accouterments.

Shriver-Engdahl, it must be pointed out, is not retirement age. She’s 53 and still working.

She moved to Wesley Chapel from Virginia in 2007, relocated to Dade City two years ago and then, four months ago, bought a 22-acre farm north of the city limits where her family has horses, cows and chickens.

She doesn’t dispute the quality of life here, noting Dade City’s authentic feel, downtown shops and restaurants, access to health care and proximity to Tampa International Airport.

It also must be pointed out that Shriver-Engdahl is far from the first Dade City-area resident to be quoted in the magazine. The publication, founded in 1992, has a national distribution of 200,000 copies and publishes six times a year. It has written profiles of the Pasco County seat at least three times over the past 19 years, while also including the city in its 2001 list of top 100 places to retire. In addition, the magazine returned to the region to tout nearby Lake Jovita as a top planned community for retirement. That’s a lot of ink for a city of 6,750 residents.

Magazine editor Annette Fuller, said in a statement, “Dade City defies the stereotypical Florida scene of sandy beaches and swaying palm trees. Instead, residents enjoy rolling hills, citrus groves and wide-open spaces — more rural than urban.”

The prepared comments will have to suffice. Nobody from the magazine returned telephone calls before deadline. A trip over to the Barnes & Noble store at the Shops at Wiregrass mall also proved fruitless. The store had sold out of Where to Retire just a week after it hit the newsstand.

All three copies were gone.

Oh, well. Besides, retirement rankings are subjective.

AARP listed 10 low-cost towns in which to live and retire in 2013, and the only Florida location to make the cut was Daytona Beach/Ormond Beach.

Forbes magazine compiled its top 25 retirement destinations for 2015 and included two Florida locations: Cape Coral and Port Charlotte. In previous years, the magazine has cited St. Lucie, Venice, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando and Clearwater as top places to retire.

Meanwhile, just two months ago, a study by WalletHub tabbed Tampa as the best place in the United States to retire.


Come on. Dade City’s Scream-A-Geddon rivals Busch Gardens’ Halloween Horror Nights, and certainly, until the past few weeks, the caliber of football played on Friday nights at W.F. Edwards Stadium is more fun to watch than the Sunday displays at Raymond James Stadium.

Okay, so Dade City is just now getting its first Publix grocery store, but how many Kumquat Festivals are there in Ybor City?

Halloween fright nights, high school football and a fruit festival might seem like odd things to tout as civic attributes. But it also illustrates the subjectivity of filling “best of” lists. Each composer has their own criteria.

Dade City, for instance, doesn’t particularly conjure up images of retirees.

The city’s population is younger than both Zephyrhills and New Port Richey. Its desirable qualities include: a thriving business incubator; Saint Leo University and Pasco-Hernando State College offering higher education; a growing network of bicycle trails; the new TreeHoppers zip line and adventure course on Saint Joe Road; its handsome downtown district; and a cool mix of restaurants beyond senior-friendly buffets and early bird specials.

No wonder, as Times staff writer Arleen Spenceley reported last week, a camera crew is shooting a short film to show Dade City is pretty hip.

It’s one of the challenges of appealing to more than a single demographic.

“It’s important we have an eclectic sort of mix of things to attract retirees and the young families who want to bring up their kids in an authentic small town,” said John Moors, executive director of the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce.

That diversity can be seen at City Hall.

The city’s newest commissioner is Charlene Austin, a retiree who moved to Dade City from Texas in 2010. She is 71.

The city manager, Billy Poe, grew up in Zephyrhills and is nearing his eighth anniversary steering the city administration. He still hasn’t hit 40.

If Where to Retire is consistent in its outlook, I will be, too. This is from a 2001 opinion column after the magazine included Dade City in its list of 100 best place to retire.

“Considering this locale’s charm and extensive amenities, Where to Retire is mistaken. Well, maybe half-right is more accurate.

“Don’t label Dade City a quality place to retire. Please.

“Consider it a quality place to live.”

That sentiment is just as appropriate today as it was 14 years ago.

Bowen: Don’t pigeonhole Dade City as a retirement mecca 10/20/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 21, 2015 3:46pm]