To fill two key jobs, Bob Buckhorn looks inside and outside Tampa City Hall
In just a week’s time, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has accepted the resignations of his chief of staff and city attorney, so now he has two key jobs to fill.
• Act sooner rather than later: “they’re both important positions and I don’t want anything to fall through the cracks.”
• He’s looking at both inside and outside candidates for each job.
• No, he won’t talk about who he’s considering.
Buckhorn has had a few months to think, because neither departure was a surprise.
The Tampa Bay Times first reported in late November that chief of staff Santiago Corrada, who is leaving to become the CEO at Tampa Bay & Co., had emerged as the leading choice of some of the tourism agency’s board members.
And in February, Buckhorn hinted in an interview he expected there might be some more turnover among his senior staff as he reached the halfway point of his four-year term. Wednesday, he confirmed he was referring to City Attorney Jim Shimberg.
Shimberg said the opportunity for his new job — as executive vice president and general counsel for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s parent company — emerged “over the last few months” and said “the mayor's known for a little while” about his plans to leave.
In fact, Buckhorn knew from the start that Shimberg probably would stay at City Hall for no more than two years. When he accepted the city’s $175,000-per-year job, he was taking a pay cut from what he made at the law firm of Holland & Knight. Asked this week if he was getting more money from the Lightning, Shimberg said he didn’t want to comment, “but it's a good assumption.”
“I knew Jimmy wasn’t going to stay for the duration,” Buckhorn said. “He came with me at great personal expense to him because he and I had been friends for so long.”
That didn’t mean that everyone knew knew — at least, not officially. Senior assistant city attorney Julia Mandell said she called in sick Wednesday, but was told, no, you really need to come in for a staff meeting. At 10 a.m., attorneys and support staff squeezed into the conference room next to Shimberg’s office on the top floor of Old City Hall. After he spoke, they applauded.
“He is really universally appreciated and liked in the office,” Mandell said. “It’s such an extraordinary opportunity that it's hard not to feel pride that he's getting the opportunity to do something amazing, and, at the same time, so sad.”
Buckhorn said it will be good to have Shimberg on the other side of the table when Lightning owner Jeff Vinik moves to develop land he’s been assembling in the southern part of downtown. Last year, partnerships linked to Vinik bought 12 acres across from the Tampa Bay Times Forum for $16.3 million.
But Buckhorn said he and Shimberg have not talked about what Vinik projects might emerge on that land — including a possible Tampa Bay Rays baseball stadium.
“He’s been very circumspect about not getting engaged in their business while he’s still on the payroll here,” Buckhorn said. “That’s just typical of Jim.”
Buckhorn said he hopes to name a new chief of staff before Corrada’s last day, May 3, partly because the demands of the job are unique, so he would like the new chief to shadow Corrada for a few days.
“With the city attorney’s job, we have some folks (on staff) that could easily serve as an interim city attorney for a short period of time,” Buckhorn said.
Both Tampa Bay & Co. and the Lightning have indicated to Buckhorn that it will be okay to call on Corrada and Shimberg to help with their replacements’ transition.
“Fortunately in both cases they are literally a phone call away,” Buckhorn said. “Santiago, I just have to yell out the window practically, because he’s going to be right across the street.”
So is Buckhorn expecting more departures from his senior staff?
“I don’t think so,” he said. “The group, I think, is a stable group.”