Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Meet the HCC grad whose Tampa contacts aid him as mayor in Haiti

Nicolas Victorin came away with more than a degree from his years of study at Hillsborough Community College.

A scholarship student from Haiti with a can-do attitude, Victorin made key connections during his time in Tampa that are helping him rebuild his home town.

Last year, Victorin was elected mayor of Pignon, an agricultural city in northern Haiti with a population of 42,000. At 31, he is the youngest mayor serving in the impoverished island nation.

"I am fortunate because I have friends in the states and received an education here," he said. "I can use that to bring change."

His list of changes already is long.

Investment adviser Brent Wertz in Tampa donated $3,000 to start Pignon's first-ever community radio station.

Former Bell Shoals Baptist Church evangelist Kelly Green paid for holiday meals in Pignon last winter.

Real estate company DeBartolo Development led a food drive that sent 290,000 meals to Pignon after Hurricane Matthew last summer. The company later purchased 10 goats for farmers.

And the Tampa-based mission Three Strand Cord is picking up half the $12,000 cost of a school under construction in rural Pignon.

Victorin was building and strengthening more connections as he wrapped up a two-week visit to Tampa last Monday.

DeBartolo Development promised to help expand an existing microloan program that helps women in Pignon start small businesses such as raising livestock.

Radiant Church and a number of local missions told him they're interested in helping build a new church.

And Victorin had a meeting with Dick Greco, who was 34 when he first was elected mayor of Tampa in 1967.

"I told him stay who you are," said Greco, now 83, who has worked with DeBartolo. "Can't go wrong like that."

Victorin credits his perseverance as an adult to his upbringing in Pignon, a city with unreliable electricity, no running water and fewer than 20 cars.

"We had to look out for each other," he said. "My father would come home from the farm and give neighbors his fruit as he walked."

Through a scholarship from the United States Agency for International Development, Victorin attended Hillsborough Community College from 2006-2008 and received an associate's degree in electronics engineering technology.

In 2010, he was back in Pignon working in a hospital information technology department when a 7.0 earthquake hit near Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince. An estimated 300,000 people died and 1.5 million were displaced.

Located nearly 100 miles from the heart of the disaster, Pignon was mostly spared the destruction of the quake but not the economic aftershocks.

Victorin came to Florida as a refugee, one of more than 13,000 Haitians who fled here seeking help, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families. He chose Tampa because of friends he had made at HCC.

He planned to stay just long enough to find ways of helping Haiti.

His networking started when he met evangelist Green at Bell Shoals in Brandon.

"He is hard to say no to," said Green, who now lives in Michigan. "And he has the character and work ethic to back it up."

Green introduced Victorin to Three Strand Cord, investment adviser Wertz and Edward Kobel, chief operating officer with DeBartolo Development.

"Here was this young man with $10 in his pocket," Kobel said. "And he says he thinks if he could further his education he could do more for Haiti."

Kobel, then on the board of trustees at St. Leo University, helped Victorin secure a full scholarship to the private school in Pasco County. But when Victorin returned home after nine months in Tampa to apply for a student visa, he was denied. He still doesn't know why.

"I was stuck," he said. "So, I made the best of it."

Out of a room in his parents' home, he started a community radio station that broadcasts evangelical messages, prayers, sports, education for kids, updates on health issues, disaster relief strategies and news.

"We have no TV," he said. "But most have a small radio receiver."

With $4,000 in funding secured through friends in Atlanta, he created the microloan program for women.

The program provides $600 interest-free. If they pay back in full within six months, recipients can get another loan. Not a single customer has missed a payment.

Nearly 150 women have received loans and with donations from other friends, including some in Tampa, the pot is now $20,000.

With success like this, people pushed Victorin to run for office. In a field of 25, he won by more than 2,000 votes.

His monthly city budget is just $5,000 and infrastructure money and international aid can come with a kickback attached.

Victorin says he turns down such crooked deals.

"I am trying to change the culture of my country."

His Tampa support base is helping make it happen.

"We'll do all we can," said Kobel, with DeBartolo Development. "Who knows where this could lead him. Congress? Maybe president. I know he can do it."

Contact Paul Guzzo at [email protected] Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

Comments
Memorials, crisis counselors at Lakewood, day after student dies in crash

Memorials, crisis counselors at Lakewood, day after student dies in crash

ST. PETERSBURG — Memorials are building and crisis counselors were at Lakewood High School on Wednesday morning, a day after a student was killed and two others seriously injured in a crash Tuesday afternoon.The fatal crash occurred just before 2 p.m...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Who will the Bucs take with the No. 7 pick?

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Who will the Bucs take with the No. 7 pick?

Rick Stroud answers your NFL draft questions in this mailbag segment, including who the Bucs might take with the seventh overall pick, which running backs they might be looking at, whether Taven Bryan could slip to them in the second r...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pasco SRO under investigation after video shows takedown of student

Pasco SRO under investigation after video shows takedown of student

LAND O’LAKES — An investigation continues after a video surfaced on Tuesday that shows a Sunlake High School school resource officer wrestling a female student to the ground while taking her into custody, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Offic...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: Competency hearing for Seminole Heights slaying suspect; Is TIA a dining destination?; Clearwater looks to relocate City Hall; ‘Most Interesting Man’ in Tampa

The Daystarter: Competency hearing for Seminole Heights slaying suspect; Is TIA a dining destination?; Clearwater looks to relocate City Hall; ‘Most Interesting Man’ in Tampa

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Today’s high temperature tops out about 80 degrees, according to 10Weather WTSP. Our next rain chance is Friday when a weak front moves through. And next week brings the heat. Expect ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Forecast: Clear skies, pleasant conditions take hold over Tampa Bay

Forecast: Clear skies, pleasant conditions take hold over Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — Now that a cold front — which spawned a weak tornado in Ruskin — has departed, it leaves behind pleasant conditions across Tampa Bay.Relatively cool temperatures, clearing skies and low humidity will take hold until Friday, according...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Competency hearing today for Seminole Heights slaying suspect

Competency hearing today for Seminole Heights slaying suspect

TAMPA — A judge could determine today whether the man accused in four Seminole Heights slayings is competent to stand trial.Attorneys for Howell Emanuel Donaldson III filed a formal request on Monday to ask that Circuit Judge Mark Wolfe appoint a psy...
Updated: 2 hours ago
ESPN’s Rece Davis on hosting College GameDay from the NFL draft

ESPN’s Rece Davis on hosting College GameDay from the NFL draft

When ESPN's Rece Davis heard about the idea for boosting the college football insight into the NFL draft, he didn't need any convincing."My immediate reaction was, this is a no-brainer," Davis said.Davis will spearhead the network's overdue look at t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

When Tampa International Airport debuted in 1971, each terminal had a newsstand and a snack bar, called something kicky like Snack Bar.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Carlton: The zoo is changing, but don’t worry. The meerkats are on it.

Carlton: The zoo is changing, but don’t worry. The meerkats are on it.

The other day I stopped to check on some progress. And got to see a meerkat, too. Progress in Tampa these days usually refers to the development of Vinikville — excuse me, Water Street Tampa — along the south edge of downtown. Or what w...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Updated: 3 hours ago