NEW TAMPA — Local leaders are reeling from the sudden death last week of Frank Margarella, considered one of the area's founders who helped coin the name "New Tampa."
Friends said Mr. Margarella, 59, died Saturday of complications from food poisoning. Further details were unavailable by press time.
Mr. Margarella, who made a failed bid for Tampa City Council in 2007, lived and breathed New Tampa.
"He was in love with his community," said longtime friend Mary Ann Yaney. "He ran for City Council to try to make a bigger difference."
Mr. Margarella, a restaurateur and commercial real estate agent, moved to New Tampa in 1991, before this suburb had a name.
"People wanted to call it Tampa Palms, all the way up to the Pasco County line," Yaney recalled.
As the story goes, Mr. Margarella was sitting around with other local leaders and the name New Tampa was born.
He helped start the New Tampa Community Council, which brought community leaders together to improve the area. He spent many years as the chairman and took a leadership role in the success of the Taste of New Tampa, the area's biggest annual food festival. It draws thousands.
Last year, the New Tampa Community Council became the New Tampa Chamber of Commerce — a move that celebrated the area's growth and cohesion.
Mr. Margarella also served on the board of the New North Transportation Alliance, a public-private partnership he helped found in order to solve traffic congestion problems.
Some of Mr. Margarella's most noted victories for New Tampa include his exhaustive lobbying for the widening of Cross Creek Boulevard and the acquisition of land for the New Tampa Library.
"It's a big loss for the New Tampa area because Frank was dedicated to improving the community," said Tampa City Council member Joseph Caetano, whom Mr. Margarella ran against in 2007. "Frank will be missed."
Mr. Margarella had recently sold his Hunter's Green home and moved to Redington Shores in Pinellas County. His ex-wife, Diane Rollings, and 13-year-old daughter, Maria Elena, still live in New Tampa. Rollings could not be reached earlier this week.
Mr. Margarella is also survived by his mother, two brothers, a sister and two adult children, Franco Margarella, 29, and Carolina Margarella, 26.
Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813) 909-4613 or firstname.lastname@example.org.