Local News

From quirky to cute: Vanity plates as varied as the drivers

SEBRING - Teresa Lovelette's vanity plate reads "JOY BUGG." Her husband John's license plate is "JOHN VET." When you see the cars they drive, the car tags fall into place. John has a bright red Corvette and Teresa drives a bright red Volkswagen Beetle. As for the "JOY," there's an explanation, too.
"At Unity Church, we use the word 'joy' a great deal," Teresa Lovelette said. "And, thus, I attempt to always be joy-filled." The two have always been into vanity plates. Nearly 25 years ago, they had a license plate that read "TRU LUV," a play on their last name, Lovelette. "One of our favorite pastimes,"Lovelette said, "is reading people's license plates, and trying to decipher them. That old saying about a joke, 'If you have to explain it, it isn't funny" is similar to license plates. If it is too hard to figure out for someone when they glance over and look at your license plate, then it isn't worth it." The Lovelettes are two of many drivers who sport personalized license plates. For many of the drivers, the vanity plates reflect their personalities, their passions and often times - their names. Lauren Henry-Drouin's vanity plate has been sporting "IPLAY88" since she was 16. She has been playing the piano since she was 3, and pianos have 88 keys. Mark Nave bought a 1990 Nissan 300ZX for his daughter Madison (Mad) when she turned 16 so that she had transportation and could get a job. He had a personalized tag made for the car that read "MAD ZX." "She has the only one at her school and the tags add to her appeal of the car," he said. Those who want to order a personalized license plate in Florida have to request it through their local county tax collector's office, and have to first get it approved. Obscene or objectionable choices are not processed and personalized plates cost $15 more every year in addition to the regular tag fees. It also costs $60 to apply for a personalized license plate Highlands County Tax Collector's Customer Service Director Laketra Hills said those who are interested can come into any of the county tax collector's offices to process their application, or mail one in. County tax collector officials screen the personalized tag for its language and then it is screened again by Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle officials, who can reject or approve the request. Those who want a vanity plate can first go online on the DMV web site to see if what they have in mind is not taken before applying for one. There are also a maximum number of letters allowed. License plates with a center logo design, such as the basic Florida license plate or the Save the Manatee license plate, may have up to seven characters plus either a space or a hyphen. License plates with a left-side logo design, such as collegiate and sports license plates, may have up to five characters with no additional space or hyphen. While vanity plates remain popular with some, Hills has seen the number of requests go down since 2009 because of the extra charges associated with having them. Some drivers combine their personalized plate with more than 120 speciality tags available - from the University of Florida tag to the Boy Scouts of America one. James F. Klingensmith, for instance, has combined his 20-year service with the United States Air Force with some intriguing personal trivia. He has an Air Force speciality plate, and the "JK-B29" on his tag has a dual meaning. His initials are JK, and for more than four years and about 3,000 air hours, he was a flight engineer on the "super fortresses," the B-29. "Also, there was one plane designated as a JK-B29. Its function was to spray water on other airplanes in flight to check out their de-icing equipment. (J indicated the plane carried water; K indicated a tanker; B indicated a bomber, and the 29 was the model of the aircraft," he said. Klingensmith has had this USAF plate/personalization for nine years since the Air Force plate became available and plans to keep it. Prior to the Air Force plate he had a "veteran's" plate that read JFK-B29, not for the airport but his full initials -- JFK.