TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Friday named Dennis Rogero as his new chief of staff, one of City Hall's most wide-ranging and influential jobs.
Rogero, currently the city's budget and neighborhood empowerment director, will replace Santiago Corrada, who is leaving May 3 to become president of the local tourism development agency, Tampa Bay & Co.
Rogero is "uniquely prepared" for the job, Buckhorn said.
"I thought about a lot of different things I was looking for, but as I did, it always got back to Dennis," he said. "There's no one in the city that knows the budget as well as Dennis does, nobody who knows the departments as well as Dennis does and nobody who has sort of a global perspective on the state of the city like Dennis does."
Also important, Buckhorn said, is that Rogero gets along well with people, "which is important in that role.
"That job is chief hand-holder, chief complaint-gatherer," he said. "You end up doing a lot of different things, and you've got to be flexible and open."
Rogero, 44, was the budget director for Brevard County before starting with the city in 2009 as budget operations manager. He was promoted to budget officer that same year and moved to his current position in February 2012.
Rogero will start his new job May 5 at a salary of $153,004, though he will continue to oversee efforts to put together next year's budget.
"We're already neck-deep in it, and I don't want to lose any of the progress we've been making, so he will wear two hats for about four months," Buckhorn said. In the long run, Rogero will be replaced as budget officer.
Buckhorn still has another big job to fill — that of City Attorney Jim Shimberg, who is leaving at the end of the month to become executive vice president and general counsel of the Tampa Bay Lightning's parent company.
While Corrada and Shimberg resigned within a week of each other, neither departure was a surprise.
Corrada had emerged as a leading candidate to take over Tampa Bay & Co. in late November. And in February, Buckhorn hinted in an interview he expected there might be some more turnover among his senior staff as he reached the halfway point of his four-year term. Wednesday, he confirmed he was referring to Shimberg.
Shimberg said the opportunity for his new job emerged "over the last few months" and said "the mayor's known for a little while" about his plans to leave.
In fact, Buckhorn knew from the start that Shimberg probably would stay at City Hall for no more than two years. When he accepted the city's $175,000-per-year job, he was taking a pay cut from what he made at the law firm of Holland & Knight. Asked this week if he was getting more money from the Lightning, Shimberg said he didn't want to comment, "but it's a good assumption."
"I knew Jimmy wasn't going to stay for the duration," Buckhorn said. "He came with me at great personal expense to him because he and I had been friends for so long."
That didn't mean that everyone knew — at least, not officially. Senior assistant city attorney Julia Mandell said she called in sick Wednesday, but was told, no, you really need to come in for a staff meeting. At 10 a.m., attorneys and support staff squeezed into the conference room next to Shimberg's office on the top floor of Old City Hall. After he spoke, they applauded.
"He is really universally appreciated and liked in the office," Mandell said. "It's such an extraordinary opportunity that it's hard not to feel pride that he's getting the opportunity to do something amazing, and, at the same time, so sad."
Buckhorn said it will be good to have Shimberg on the other side of the table when Lightning owner Jeff Vinik moves to develop land he has been assembling in the southern part of downtown. In the last two years, partnerships linked to Vinik have spent $16.3 million assembling 12 acres across from the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
But Buckhorn said he and Shimberg have not talked about what Vinik projects might emerge on that land — including a possible Tampa Bay Rays baseball stadium.
"He's been very circumspect about not getting engaged in their business while he's still on the payroll here," Buckhorn said. "That's just typical of Jim."
The mayor said this week he is looking both inside and outside City Hall for a new top attorney, but filling the job is not as urgent as the chief of staff's position.
"We have some folks (on staff) that could easily serve as an interim city attorney for a short period of time," he said.
Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403.