By Abigail Payne
Photos by Paola Bruzual
Mayor Buckhorn explains one of the “Fight Doctor” Ferdie Pacheco paintings that depicts the history and diversity of Tampa, which was born out of diversity from immigrants.
Mayor Buckhorn, “I have a moral responsibility to our citizens.”
Whether you’re a millennial, a baby boomer or stuck in the middle as a generation x member Mayor Robert Buckhorn has been on a mission to revitalize the city of Tampa.
Friday morning found the jovial public servant having his first meeting with the Florida Association of Black Owned Media (FABOM). In attendance was President Bobby R. Henry, Sr., Vice President James Madison and Secretary Irene Pridgen.
“Your voices are important,” said Mayor Buckhorn.
Henry asked Buckhorn how statewide publications can gain more access to the mayor’s plans.
“In terms of what’s going on here … what you’re doing right now.”
Tampa has become a hot spot for many companies, bringing a lot of jobs and opportunity for growth in Florida. Mayor Buckhorn said that the area lost many of its young talent to other cities with more opportunities than Tampa could provide.
“We need to start building that talent pool that will allow us to become that mecca … a lot of companies are moving from the suburbs and into the city,” Buckhorn said.
“Part of it is me being more available to you and vice versa,” Buckhorn said.
Buckhorn explained that with the new push for construction in Tampa and the oversaturation of construction market in South Florida, many statewide contractors are flocking to the bay area.
“You want to put news in the paper that’s of value to the people who read it,” Buckhorn said. “Finding that commonality where it’s of benefit to you and your readers and me or any other mayor that wants to tell a statewide story. We just have to figure out how to craft it and package it so that someone in Lauderdale or Orlando is picking up the paper and they’re trying to figure out why that applies to me.”
Within the next 18-24 months Buckhorn has plans for 4,000 new residential units to be built in downtown Tampa.
According to the mayor, Jeffrey Vinik, the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Bill Gates will invest $3 billion in redeveloping the area by Amelie Arena in the next 5 to 10 years.
Another development will be The University of South Florida’s medical school moving downtown. The aim is to attract a young generation of potential consumers to the area and avoid the need for cars, promoting a healthier lifestyle with bicycle rentals and exclusive lanes for bicycles, for example.
Buckhorn also plans to encourage inclusivity in the city by bringing events that throwback to the Tampa Classics. Instead of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) vs Bethune Cookman College, for example, Buckhorn expressed his excitement when FAMU returned with a challenger in Tennessee State University.
“We are a city where everyone’s value is recognized,” he said.
Buckhorn explained that he believes the I-4 corridor will transform into a mega economic driver in the southeastern United States in the next 10-15 years. Orlando on one end, Tampa on the other and everything fills in between, he said.
“The I-4 corridor booms big all over,” Madison said. “I hope that the growth is inclusive and I see you setting precedence to make that happen.”
Buckhorn said he plans to provide moral leadership as the mayor of Tampa. He explained that he has the biggest pulpit in the biggest media market in the state of Florida. As the mayor, he can set the tone for the community and he can create the narrative of who the people of Tampa are, who they’re going to be, what they will tolerate and what they will not tolerate. In order to build an international city, that tone starts at the top.
Buckhorn aims to make sure that diversity is celebrated, that no matter where his people of Tampa come from, what language they speak or whatever they worship, that they will always be welcomed there and treated fairly.
He also said that he doesn’t plan to run for governor. Instead, he wishes to spend his future years raising his children. For the remaining 638 days on his countdown clock, he wants to do the most that he can do to ensure Tampa’s bright future.