The master-planned community has been kind to Summerfield's Kirsten Schmitt.
Known as the first Lakewood Ranch baby born, Kirsten Schmitt paused at her home in Summerfield as she tried to think of ways her master-planned community might have put a stamp on her personality.
She was told to think about laid-back California kids, or aggressive New Yorkers, or cowboys from Wyoming.
Schmitt struggled. What impact did Lakewood Ranch have on her?
Hovering just behind her, Charlene Schmitt volunteered some information.
“She just went to a Cubs game,” Charlene said, looking down at her smiling daughter. “It took longer to drive across town than the entire flight to get to Chicago. She doesn’t like that hustle-bustle. Her life is pretty convenient.”
Kirsten, now 22, let out a steady laugh and nodded.
“We have the interstate, Main Street, all the restaurants by UTC,” Kirsten said. “Everything is a 15- to 20-minute drive.”
But while most of her life has been attached to the master-plan of Lakewood Ranch, things are about to get a little messier.
Wonderful, but messy.
Kirsten and her fiance, Hillsborough County firefighter Trevor Lovett, will be married Aug. 10 at Bayside Community Church. That coincides with Kirsten’s graduation in a week from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee with a degree in general business administration.
All of a sudden, Kirsten isn’t sure what the future will hold. Since Lovett’s job would be quite the commute to Hillsborough County, they plan to move as soon as possible to Riverview to be closer to his work. Kirsten’s hope is to move back to Lakewood Ranch in the not-too-distant future.
She also admits she has no real plans when it comes to a job. So what does she want to be?
“Happy,” she said.
Lovett isn’t worried.
“I would say she is the most reasonable person I have met,” he said of his future wife. “She is the most responsible person I have met. She is self-motivated.
“And she has a sense of humor, not like any other.”
Lovett explained they both like making puns.
“One day we were shopping in Target,” he said. “We saw a sign that said ‘Applaud-worthy prices.’ Both of us started clapping.”
In the background, Bob and Charlene Schmitt soaked up every story, even though they had heard them a thousand times. Life has worked out quite well in Lakewood Ranch for the Schmitts.
It was in 1994 that Bob, a land planner for Manatee County, drove to the future Lakewood Ranch to take a tour with Schroeder-Manatee Ranch executives.
“There were no roads out there in 1994,” he said. “We stood on a bluff on the southside of Lake Uihlein. They said to try to imagine a downtown here.”
Bob and Charlene, who were living in west Bradenton, didn’t have any trouble imagining it, and purchased a home in 1995 in Summerfield. By August, they were among Lakewood Ranch’s first residents.
“I knew the future plans of this place,” Bob said. “I saw the grand scheme, and I had confidence it was going to happen.”
When the Schmitts arrived in Lakewood Ranch, Charlene was pregnant with Kirsten. They also had 3-year-old Derek.
“I wanted to move for the good school for Derek (who is 26 now),” Charlene said. “He went to Braden River Elementary.”
The community park at Summerfield had its draw for the family as well, and when the park opened, the Schmitts put items in a time capsule, underneath a plaque, that has yet to be opened.
“I don’t even remember what’s in there,” Bob said. “I know we put a letter to our unborn daughter in there. We put things that meant something to us. A Power Ranger, a baseball card.”
Charlene was the only pregnant woman on her street, which comprised most of Lakewood Ranch at the time. On Nov. 20, 1995, Kirsten was born.
The happy parents didn’t think about it then, but over the years, Bob said Kirsten being the first baby “started to mean something.”
Kirsten doesn’t seem to mind the distinction, but she doesn’t embrace it, either. She noted no one ever comes up to her and asks if she was the first baby.
Over the years, though, Kirsten has had the conversations.
“Where are you from?”
“No, I mean before that.”
There is no before for Kirsten. She was the first to be able to say she was from Lakewood Ranch, and nowhere else.
Growing up, a fun day often meant a movie at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch, or perhaps a trip with friends to a rope swing at Greenbrook Park. Quiet times might mean a stop at Starbucks.
“I got to see everything grow and expand,” said the 2015 Lakewood Ranch High graduate.
Kirsten worked at Michelangelo Pizza, Sea Star Cafe and the YMCA as she grew older.
Now she isn’t quite sure what the future holds. She was asked how tough it will be to move away from Lakewood Ranch.
“It grabbed me the other day,” she said. “I had to step out and cry. We were making plans, ordering things for the wedding. I definitely am excited.”
She suddenly stopped talking, and waved her hand back-and-forth like a fan in front of her face. She was trying her best to hold back the tears. Her love of Lakewood Ranch was evident.
It made sense, too. She is the first baby from her master-planned community.
“I am not good with change,” she said. “It’s home. It’s all I’ve known.”