Sunday, February 18, 2018
News Roundup

Sue Carlton: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn basks in a bright year

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been out and about for holiday festivities, though disappointingly, not in his most shocking pants.

The mayor tends to dress solidly Brooks Brothers, preppy as preppy gets, sometimes sporting a jaunty pocket hanky folded with razor precision.

But I always found those pants he occasionally wore to be telling, pants I once described as "so plaid that had a chameleon run across his cuff, it might have died trying to blend in," or very, very green, with shamrocks. These particular pants refused to be ignored, much like Buckhorn himself back when he was a scrappy candidate.

Soon after taking office, he told me the chances to wear those bold trousers decrease significantly with the job.

Sigh.

Back then he also talked about the things that kept him up nights as a new mayor, first and foremost the prospect of his city getting smacked by a hurricane. And miracle of miracles, not a whisper of one this year. "We must be living a good life," the mayor says now.

His biggest challenge this year: moving forward plans for a downtown residential tower by the river, which took more time and got more push back than he expected. "But the end result is we had a better project," the mayor says.

On the whole, he enjoyed little controversy and a fair amount of buzz about his town, particularly about hosting the Republican National Convention. There's currently bricks and mortar moving, the Riverwalk almost done, and he just jetted off on Copa Airlines' first Tampa flight to Panama. His city is primed to host next year's Bollywood Oscars, and later some serious hockey and a college football championship. It's good to be mayor.

"It's been a hell of a year," he says. "A lot more coming."

Recently I spotted him at a Christmas party in seemingly (and disappointingly) monochromatic trousers. Turns out, they were actually a dark and muted plaid. And when he discreetly lifted a cuff, I could see socks that were a bright and brash red.

Speaking of that big film awards event coming to town from India next spring, promising somewhere around 50,000 visitors and a whole lot of international glitz, are we ready for Bollywood Boot Camp?

Local organizers are working closely with the Indian community and plan a training program for frontline staff at hotels, venues and attractions early next year. The idea: know their culture and also show them what we've got.

"You balance the cultural respect, but you also want to expose them to us," says Santiago Corrada, CEO and president of Visit Tampa Bay.

Corrada himself has developed a penchant for spicy Indian food and Bollywood films, which he calls "very wholesome, kind of a throwback to what musicals used to be — love stories, adventure and excitement, without a lot of the gory details."

If you're wondering what the four-day Bollywood Oscars will bring, Corrada has some scoop, having attended this year's event in Macau, a gaming and tourist resort that is a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China.

Movie stars. Paparazzi. A carpet that's green instead of red. And of course, after-parties.

"Lots of glitz and glamor and really exuberant fans that really worship some of these actors and actresses," he says. "It'll be fun."

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