So why did Kelly Miller step down from Tampa's top tourism promotions job? Some clarity, please
Wake up and good morning. Now that a few weeks have gone by since Kelly Miller said he was stepping down after 11 months as CEO of Tampa Bay & Co. -- promoter of Tampa's visitors and convention business and an organization trying to create a business identity for this area -- we are no wiser in knowing why Miller left so abruptly.
Most of the initial coverage of Miller's departing says the same thing. He's leaving. He's citing unidentified personal reasons. And Jim Dean, a honcho at Busch Gardens and a board member of Tampa Bay & Co., can't seem to toss enough departing gifts of goodwill as Miller exits the door. Here's the Tampa Bay Times story, the Tampa Tribune story and the Tampa Bay Business Journal story on that news event. And here's the actual press release from Tampa Bay & Co. announcing Miller's departure.
At the time, Miller said he was at a time in his life when he had to make some "tough personal choices" for his own well being and that of his family, which lead to his decision to step down. And that was that.
Well, with due respect, that's not really good enough. Given the importance to the regional economy of having a strong leader at the head of Tampa Bay & Co., a statement like "I came to play but now I've decided to take my toys and go home early" isn't very satisfying. Miller wasn't here long enough to really get to know the area he was supposed to represent. And now Tampa Bay & Co. must essentially tread water until someone else can be found to run the organization, and the entire process may start over with a new person getting familiar with this market and asserting his or her approach. That's a lot of time wasted -- precisely at the time that Tampa Bay & Co. should be taking the momentum presumably gained by Tampa's hosting the Republican National Convention and running with it.
Here's what little we do know about Miller's exit. He and his wife bought an expensive home in Tampa just months before Miller resigned, suggesting the tourism executive was committing to his Tampa work. But this is not the first time Miller has had to announce a change a career change because of personal reasons.
In 2008, Miller -- then tourism promotions chief for the Asheville chamber of commerce -- was appointed to the Asheville City Council as a replacement for another council member who had won a county commission seat. But in 2009, he made a public announcement in this video report that he would not seek re-election for his council seat but simply serve out his remaining term. Why? Because his wife, Kate, was fighting cancer and, at the time of this video report four years ago, had just battled through days of chemotherapy. She stands beside him in this video, obviously fatigued.
Is this a factor for Miller's departing for personal reasons? We do not know. We wish the family well. But this area deserves more clarity on why such a senior figure in economic development stepped down after 11 months.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times