Tampa City Council member Mike Suarez filed paperwork Tuesday in hopes of becoming mayor of the area's largest city.
Suarez, 53, a two-term council member with a citywide seat, said his campaign would focus on continuing the downtown resurgence, but balancing that boom with more attention paid to neighborhoods.
"We have done a lot as a council, in conjunction with the administration, to build the economic backbone of the city. I want to continue that," Suarez told the Tampa Bay Times shortly after formalizing his campaign at the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office. "But we're at a precipitous point in our history where if we do not continue the kind of growth we've seen over the last seven years, we could move backwards."
The centerpiece of Suarez's mayoral bid will be "neighborhood enhancement," which he said covers everything from streetscaping to utility improvements.
"We have to spend more on neighborhood enhancement," Suarez said. "What happens when we do a bigger project often is we lose sight of what we do in the neighborhoods."
Suarez said he's met with every recognized neighborhood association in the city at least once, often meeting with leadership and the general membership to keep tabs on their specific needs.
Another priority will be improving transportation, he said, citing extending the city's streetcar line and pursuing other transit improvements without waiting passively for federal, state and county direction or dollars while gridlock worsens.
"Right now, we're waiting for Godot," Suarez quipped.
Suarez enters an already crowded field for the March 2019 election. Former police chief Jane Castor, former county commissioner Ed Turanchik, council member Harry Cohen and businessman Topher Morrison have already announced. Philanthropist David Straz is expected to announce soon.
Suarez also weighed in on the Tampa Bay Rays plan for a new ballpark in Ybor City — the first mayoral candidate to do so publicly — pledging that he didn't support any city dollars for a stadium.
The Rays, he said, would be welcome to apply for Community Redevelopment Area funds like any other developer for infrastructure improvements related to a ballpark.
But Suarez said he was confident the team would stay in the 11th-largest media market, a key for Major League Baseball.
"The market is important to them. I have a feeling they'll find a way to resolve it," Suarez said.