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My first memories are of stepping on glass at a West Texas park near Pecos. My parents are from Vancouver and Toronto for the most part. After relocating to Iowa to run the second family motel, they soon relocated to Pecos, Texas, to start their third motel endeavor, The Pecos Inn. This small desert town in West Texas is where I have some of my first memories, aimlessly running around what at the time was a massive building.  


Many cities and motel experiences later, we made it to Colorado, but not before I could see many different city scenarios. Pecos, San Antonio, Portland, and on to Littleton, Colorado. While Texas offered family business and sunny days, Colorado offered cold winters and the forethought to yearn for brighter days. We only spent a few years in Denver before relocating to Tampa.


Initially, my mom, dad, and younger brother moved to Country Place, a suburb in North Tampa. Our first house allowed me to attend Claywell Elementary from 2nd to 5th grade. After moving to another home in the same community, I attended Dunbar Elementary and Young Middle School as part of Hillsborough County's integration programs. At the time, this was kind of a crazy thing to do, bus kids from where they lived to the other side of town. It worked both ways. Kids were bussed from South Tampa and East Tampa to our North Tampa schools. While it was overwhelming as a kid, I look back and understand why this would seem the best way to integrate a community quickly.

In Country Place, I started playing tennis and met the friends that would influence my skateboard career. At age 12, I picked up my dad's 70’s Minolta and fell in love with photography. I was shooting photos of everything, including my friends skateboarding. When skating in the streets of Northdale and Country Place wasn't exciting enough, we began venturing to The Skatepark of Tampa. It's now an institution, but, at that time, it was a derelict warehouse with a giant vert ramp in the middle and other scattered ramps. As a young kid, I was embarking on another overwhelming world.


At the skatepark, I learned how to communicate with kids from different walks of life living all around Tampa. After Dunbar and Young, I was schooled back in North Tampa at Ben Hill Middle School. It's an exciting dynamic to attend so many schools throughout life, and it taught me how other kids deal with life’s challenges.

After Ben Hill, I went to Gaither High School for 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. I played tennis for Gaither, and while I loved tennis, I couldn't get used to the idea of playing a sport for a living, nor did I have the ability. Photography was still in the front of my mind, and I looked forward to shooting photos professionally. At Gaither, I honed my skills in video editing and learned about literature I didn't know existed. Editing videos for the morning show was addictive, and I strived for nothing less than perfection.  


After Gaither, I went on to HCC Dale Mabry campus and began taking photography classes. While math and physics piqued my interest, nothing was as strong as the pull toward the darkroom. I spent hours in the Ybor campus darkroom and would have spent more if I could have afforded the paper. Quickly I realized that holding down a 9 to 5 would not suffice.


I took a break from HCC and decided to go full-time with my photography. By this time, I had made a name for myself around Florida and was invited on tours for major publications while holding photo expositions around Tampa. Shooting photos of professional skateboarders was a blast and allowed me to learn every crack in the Southeast, including all around Tampa. However, the starving artist life was not for me, and I decided to go into the family business. I should mention that I was gluing PVC together around the age of 15. Irrigation ran through my bones, and I was fascinated by the scope of the projects.

My dad owned a commercial landscape company called Mid Florida Landscape for most of my young life. Here, I started to get my chops in contracting and landscape management. Anyone who knows landscape management understands it's bigger than mowing yards. Some efficiencies and qualities set companies apart. Although perhaps it was something instilled into me at a young age that led to my perfectionism in the darkroom, I carried this expectation of perfection into my irrigation abilities.


I had outgrown my dad's company in a short time and set out on my own as a fully licensed Florida State Contractor at 24 years old. I started Proper Irrigation and began doing minor repairs, reclaimed water hookups, and monthly maintenance contracts. As the company and resources grew, I began taking on larger projects and bidding for state and city projects. I learned the ins and outs of city permitting and the level of accountability the city, county, and state hold for private contractors.

Years passed, and a small business I loved was not very lucrative. It was hard to grow with so many unlicensed contractors underbidding jobs. By 2008 contractors were required to put up more than half the capital to bid on a project. That's right! If you want to play the game, you have to gamble a lot of money to play. In 2008 multiple in-progress projects had out-of-state funding, and the hedge fund backers quickly pulled out mid-project, leaving small companies like mine and my dad’s in the lurch.


Fortunately, by this time, I had made some quality industry connections, my dad had retired, and I sold everything I owned to move to California. A large irrigation company called Hunter scooped me up. I started at the bottom, answering phones to help people across the country succeed in anything from programming their controllers to adjusting their sprinklers. In two years, I had responded to over 10,000 calls! There is no easier way to learn how to teach strangers than over the phone. During this time, I had great mentors who taught me patience, empathy, and corporate cooperation. In time I started to package my abilities as a writer, photographer, and irrigation contractor. With some of the most popular SEO pages on the web being support topics, I quickly started putting together popular support articles with imagery, and they became an internet hit. Industry leaders began to focus video production and internet content around support and less on product promotion. This started my career as a technical writer and staff photographer for Hunter Industries.

After years of traveling and shooting photos of anything from golf courses to soccer stadiums, we had a database of over 30,000 images. We built a full studio where I was able to build sets and create complete environments to showcase outdoor landscape lighting and irrigation products complete with running water. Where I had previously honed skills in the darkroom and the field, I could now polish off what every photographer yearns to perfect, studio photography.


As my abilities grew and my talents escaped management, I went on to another industry leader, ValleyCrest Landscape Management. At the time, the largest landscape management company in the country. My position was Regional Irrigation Advisor, and this role showed me there was an industry beyond manufacturing and maintenance. This is where I learned about Water Management! Managing our water resources resonated with me, not because I was still in California, where drought has been plaguing the region for decades. I thought back to iron stains and reclaimed water hookups that required cost residents money for the hookup. Jumping forward to today, this is where irony finds its way into our politics. Tampa has the challenge of displacing all reclaimed water by 2030, avoiding surface reservoir distribution.

After further traveling our great country and learning about all forms of water distribution and city agendas, I moved back into the manufacturing industry in hopes of developing products and processes that would lead to using water more efficiently. At this time, I landed at my current employer, JAIN Irrigation. JAIN is an excellent company that cares deeply about the water resources we have at a global level. Our domestic offices are out of Fresno, California. I work with a great marketing team to promote our Agriculture, Residential/Commercial Irrigation, and Smart Controllers accurately and effectively.


A couple of years ago, I relocated back to the city I love and the city that has made me into the fortunate resident I am today. I had always dreamed of owning a house in Historic Ybor City, and while it may have taken longer than expected, I have finally done so. Along with home ownership in the historic district, I had always wanted to give back to Tampa. I knew that one day I would be in a position to dedicate the time and experience needed to represent our community members.


While some may view my years away as time missed, I believe it was necessary to see what other good and bad resources are available to our great city. So, I've come back to Tampa with a new outlook on what our city can become and what is needed to provide quality living for existing and new residents. I hope this bio has shed some light on where I’ve come from and how I’ve become the community member I have. Please feel free to reach out and ask me any questions you may have.



Michael Derewenko

Candidate for Tampa City Council District 2

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