The baton has been passed and a new mayor sits in the seat for the city of Tampa effective May 1st, 2019 and now ex-Mayor Bob Buckhorn shifts into the shadows. Mayor Buckhorn served 8 years as the mayor of Tampa and before that, served on the City Council for 8 years. His consistency in kissing babies, visiting churches, shaking hands and taking photos landed him the prize position he had grown to desire, the city’s leader and the people’s choice!
Raised outside of Washington D.C., Buckhorn’s original dream was to fly jets off of aircraft carriers but unbeknownst to him, he had bad eyesight. Discharged from the Navy & broken hearted, he packed his bags and drove his 1966 Dodge Dart from Pensacola to Tampa where he met Sandy Freedman and became a part of her campaign. He also met Arthenia Joyner and became friends with her and some more powerful sisters. One can only imagine the impact these ladies had on Bob’s career path. When Buckhorn took office in 2011, the city was $30 million dollars in the hole and unemployment was at 12%. Bob had to balance the budget in 4 months. However he had a master plan, the plan to redevelop downtown and negotiating with 4 unions wasn’t going to be easy, but he got it done. With Bible Based Ehrlich Rd. member Sonya Little on his team handling the finances, he knew it was doable. He inspired the community to believe what it could be, “America’s Next Great City”, a slogan from the era of Mayor Sandy Freedman. During that era, Bob Buckhorn was the assistant to Mayor Freedman 1986-1995, a job that helped him to understand the inner workings of things. Freedman’s tenure was followed by Mayor Dick Greco - 1995-2003, and then by Pam Iorio - 2003-2011.
Bob’s plan as mayor to redevelop downtown was not happenstance. Bob recognized that our young adults were moving to cities like Charlotte, Atlanta and D.C. for jobs and a more progressive lifestyle. Bob said, “If we didn’t have an urban core bustling with young people, we were going to lose them.” In order to compete he had to change people’s attitudes. The redevelopment according to Mayor Buckhorn was to entice major corporations to relocate to this city.
In the planning for several years, the Buckhorn Administration decided to focus on the river. The RiverWalk created the downtown core and beauty that was needed for visitors. Bob Buckhorn had the foresight to keep the city lean and mean by not adding bodies to the government while keeping the efficiency of government at the forefront. Looking at the West Tampa and East Tampa neighborhoods, he believes everyone will benefit. He believes that the best is yet to come and the journey for Tampa is like the never-ending story, you never finish.
Although property taxes increase with development, the good news for existing residents is taxes can only go up a maximum of 3% a year. For senior citizens there are exemptions but the public housing in those areas were unacceptable and needed improvement. $35 million dollars helped to revitalize West Tampa and tens of millions of dollars are being used to access more growth. The demolishment of N. Boulevard Homes created opportunity for new neighborhoods to emerge on existing land.
Bob Buckhorn says he wants to be remembered as a citizen’s servant, a mayor that was approachable and that shepherded the city through the worst recession since the Great Depression and lastly, as a city builder. He said, the next step is to take a long-awaited vacation, prepare his oldest child for college and to decompress after 8 years of running the greatest city in America, Tampa!
Bob Buckhorn’s bad eyesight kept him from flying jets, but his remarkable vision for Tampa helped to make it “America’s Next Great City”!