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Mayor Pam Iorio's book: Leading, not gossiping, and maybe hinting at the future

I met former Mayor Pam Iorio that day not at one of Tampa's everyone-who-is-anyone lunch spots, but at a quieter kind of place she seemed to prefer after handing off the job of running America's 54th largest city.

Around here, though, hot spots change as fast as an "elected official" can become an "indicted defendant." Before we got to the table, the mayor who left office with an 87 percent approval rating was stopped by one muckety-muck, then another. They chatted, and each one asked her the same thing: Am I in it?

Now that I've read Iorio's new book, Straightforward: Ways to Live & Lead, I can answer that question. If you are not Benjamin Franklin, David Petraeus, Tony Dungy, Rudyard Kipling, Tampa police Chief Jane Castor or Margaret Thatcher, then, no, you probably are not in it.

In Straightforward, you also will not find the sort of mayor who gets an omen from God after spotting the green flash at sunset the day he is sworn in to office, as former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker wrote in his book. Nor is hers a spy thriller, as was written by former U.S. Sen. and Florida Gov. Bob Graham. But then, Iorio hasn't run for those offices. Yet, anyway.

On the cover she is smiling and serious in one of her Practical Pam suits. Much of the book reads like a how-to for business and political types, pulling from her years as a county commissioner first elected at age 26, as elections supervisor and as two-term, term-limited mayor. It's a textbook on things like building credibility, picking good mentors, embracing technology, balancing work and family and living a "centered life." She writes of a polarized America with a serious leadership problem, in which "the middle ground, where so many answers can be found, is a casualty."

And darn it, she does not dish the dirt.

She tells a funny story of lights dimmed at what must have been a scintillating workshop on wastewater sludge, and how she inquired if they really had a quorum since a majority of commissioners were asleep. But does she name names? No — not even the cranky congressman she interned for who convinced her that yelling at people who work for you is not the best way to inspire them. She doesn't name the person she respected who called to say she shouldn't run for mayor because it was locked for someone else — which helped her decide to run.

Four police officers died on her watch as mayor. It clearly changed her. She wrote, in a raw way, about Juan Serrano, the police bodyguard whose presence she initially bristled at but who became a friend she could talk to and know it would stay between them. One weekend he watched her run the Gasparilla 5K, dropped her off afterward and on his way home was killed by a drunk driver. She feels a responsibility still.

She talks success (the art museum, progress in east Tampa, the Republican National Convention) and also mistakes. At one of her first commission meetings, she chatted and laughed with another official during the time the public got to speak. Afterward, an older woman told her how disappointed she was in her. "I never did it again," Iorio wrote.

Iorio-like, she prudently says little about political plans in print or in person. But her book reads to me like the teachings of a seasoned pol headed for higher office — like, say, governor in 2014. But hey, maybe I'm reading into it.

Mayor Pam Iorio's book: Leading, not gossiping, and maybe hinting at the future 11/08/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 9:04pm]
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