Saturday, June 16, 2018
News Roundup

Helen Chavez, former Tampa council member who fought shirtless Bucs fans, dies at 89

Helen Chavez, a restaurateur of fine-dining landmarks who as a former Tampa City Council member famously campaigned against drunken, shirtless football fans at the old Tampa Stadium in the 1980s, died Saturday.

The cause was organ failure, a daughter said. She was 89.

Mrs. Chavez got her start in the food business as a caterer, making asparagus sandwiches as a way of supplementing the family income.

"Mother thought, 'Well, we can make a business expanding this,' " said her daughter Denise Chavez.

From there, she went on to open a catering business, own several popular Tampa restaurants and serve on the Tampa City Council from 1979 to 1987, where she championed historic preservation, the revival of Hyde Park and toning down debauchery at Tampa Bay Buccaneers games.

"She was one of the most entrepreneurial women I've ever met," said former Florida governor and Tampa mayor Bob Martinez.

Her restaurants catered to Tampa's civil upper crust and included Chavez at the Royal, Chavez Windows on the Park and the Tea Room in Old Hyde Park.

"She was one of the hardest-working women I've ever known," said former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco. "She was always doing something."

Mrs. Chavez was born in 1924 in Kansas City, Mo., where she grew up with a father who owned a diner-style restaurant and a family interested in politics. Those two interests would follow her to Tampa, where she moved with her husband, George, in 1960.

After starting the catering business, Mrs. Chavez opened the Tea Room and Chavez at the Royal on Bayshore.

"It looked like it was out of New York," Denise said. "She and Bern's were the only ones at that time that were producing fine dining."

When she won the seat on the nonpartisan Tampa City Council in 1979, she did so as an open Republican when that wasn't the norm for politicians in Florida.

Her denunciation of shirtless Bucs fans at the old Tampa Stadium, and her idea of creating a family section, or in the alternate a "primitive section" for drunken louts, arguably garnered her the most attention.

But she also fought to preserve Tampa's brick streets, pushed for an ordinance prohibiting the transport of toxic waste through the city and helped get trash bins on Bayshore Boulevard. She supported the redevelopment of Hyde Park, where she herself invested.

"I'll probably go to my grave and it'll be on my tombstone, the shirtless thing," Mrs. Chavez once said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.

However, Denise said she was able to keep a sense of humor about the situation.

"She has a framed photo of her in a 1920s bathing suit and these shirtless men surrounding her," she said.

In 1987, Mrs. Chavez left the Tampa City Council and ran for mayor, where she competed against her former City Council colleague Sandy Freedman, who won.

"She definitely was outspoken, and she wouldn't let things go if she was passionate about them," Freedman said.

Even though they didn't always agree, she said, she appreciated her tenacity, particularly on issues they did agree about such as historic preservation and fostering more women in government and business.

"She was one of the few Republicans who really went out of the way to support women," Freedman said.

Mrs. Chavez's loss in the mayoral race didn't deter her from politics. She made an unsuccessful bid in 1988 for the Hillsborough County Commission, and another run for Tampa City Council in 1995, when she lost to current Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

She also continued to work in the restaurant business. In 2001, she took over the restaurant of the Don Vicente de Ybor Inn. And she served as a partner when Denise Chavez opened her own restaurant, Chavez at Home.

Denise, who sold Chavez at Home a year ago and now caters, said her mother was an influence in ways beside her choice of career. She ran herself for Tampa City Council in 2007, which delighted her mother, she said.

And although arthritis had slowed her down in the last years of her life, her mother would do any job she could for Denise sitting down.

"If you would've asked her, she never retired," Denise said.

Comments
Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow pleads not guilty to kidnapping, rape charges

Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow pleads not guilty to kidnapping, rape charges

Times wiresVISTA, Calif. – Former Bucs and Hurricanes tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was jailed without bail Friday after pleading not guilty to nine counts of kidnapping, rape and other charges.If convicted on all counts, Winslow, 34, could face...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg frustrated, but optimistic

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg frustrated, but optimistic

NEW YORK — So what does the boss — lowercase, of course, around here — think of this up-and-down, hot-and-cold Rays season so far? Appropriately, a variety of things.In a 30-minute chat with the Tampa Bay Times before Friday's 5-0 l...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays journal: Nathan Eovaldi pitches well against his ex-team but gets no help

Rays journal: Nathan Eovaldi pitches well against his ex-team but gets no help

NEW YORK — RHP Nathan Eovaldi made an impressive return to Yankee Stadium on Friday to face his high-powered former teammates.It's too bad he didn't get any help from his current mates, in what ended up a 5-0 Rays loss.Eovaldi was in command an...
Updated: 5 hours ago
St. Petersburg police make arrest 31 years after sexual assault

St. Petersburg police make arrest 31 years after sexual assault

ST. PETERSBURG ó Police arrested a man Friday in connection with a 31-year-old sexual assault case and believe heís connected to other unsolved cases from decades ago.Anthony Stokes, 56, faces a charge of armed sexual battery, according to St. Peters...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Interviews detail the downward spiral of the Seminole Heights killing suspect

Interviews detail the downward spiral of the Seminole Heights killing suspect

TAMPA ó One day last September, Howell Emanuel Donaldson III sat in his red Ford Mustang outside a Clearwater coffee shop."Iím just not in a good spot," he told a friend who sat beside him. "Iím going through a rough time."Matt Threadgill, his old hi...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Records detail Wrigley heirís $480,000 betrayal by trusted employees

Records detail Wrigley heirís $480,000 betrayal by trusted employees

ODESSA ó One day in the summer of 2014, Helen Rich spotted a Facebook post about an aging black Labrador in Kansas named Lady who badly needed a new home. The author and heir to the Wrigley gum fortune had recently lost her own Black lab. Rich decide...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Florida’s unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent

Florida’s unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent

Just when it seemed like Florida’s unemployment rate couldn’t get lower, it did. According to the state figures out Friday, Florida’s jobless rate dipped to a near 18-year low of 3.8 percent in May after holding steady at 3.9 percen...
Updated: 7 hours ago
St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

ST. PETERSBURG ó A house in St. Petersburgís Old Northeast is a finalist in HGTVís Ultimate House Hunt contest. Built in 2007 in the Mission Revival style, the 4,000-square-foot home a block from Coffee Pot Bayou is among 12 nationwide in the "curb a...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Services set for former USF, Storm lineman Kenyatta Jones

Services set for former USF, Storm lineman Kenyatta Jones

A pair of visitations and a celebration-of-life service for former Bulls OL Kenyatta "Bear" Jones have been scheduled for next week.Jones, the first USF player ever taken in the NFL draft, passed away June 9 in Colorado of cardiac arrest, according t...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Updated: 7 hours ago