Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater mayoral candidate George Cretekos touts his experience

CLEARWATER — In 1970, on Christmas Eve, a young George Cretekos received the call that would change his life.

A Florida senator just elected to the U.S. Congress named C.W. Bill Young was looking for an assistant legislative aide. On his list was Cretekos, a Tarpon Springs native fresh out of graduate school.

Did Cretekos, Young asked, want to uproot his life and work in Washington? He started work on Capitol Hill 10 days later.

"I was the low man on the totem pole," Cretekos said, "but I was so happy."

That offer would begin a 36-year career at the side of the powerhouse legislator in Florida and D.C. When Cretekos retired, during Young's 18th term, he had accrued more Capitol Hill experience than most members of Congress — and all of it behind the scenes.

Now, five years after retirement, Vice Mayor Cretekos is seeking the spotlight as mayor. A Clearwater resident since 1976, he joined the City Council in 2007 and was re-elected in 2008.

The Jan. 31 election marks his first opposed election, and his opponent, newcomer Christine Marketos-Cuomo, calls her lack of "politician" experience a point of pride.

But fighting back against an anti-incumbent fervor, Cretekos has learned, means speaking out, especially for someone who made his career assisting.

"Sometimes I have to remind myself I should be in the front row," Cretekos said, "instead of the back."

Cretekos, 64, grew up in Tarpon Springs as an altar boy for the St. Nicholas Cathedral. A devoted Greek Orthodox, he wanted to be a priest, though he never dove for the Epiphany cross. "Too cold," he said.

His childhood had close ties to the Greek enclave, where he hocked sponges from his grandmother's curio shop on Dodecanese Boulevard. His name — or, rather, that of his sponge-merchant grandfather — christens a sponge-diving ship that sailed the gulf in the early 20th century.

After graduating from Tarpon Springs High, he enrolled at Davidson College, the North Carolina liberal-arts school, where he landed a political internship in D.C. In 1968, his intern work — mostly driving a congressman's wife between dinner parties — brought him to the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach. He was hooked.

Upon graduation, he enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned his master's degree in public administration. He wanted to become a city manager, but his expertise in politics spooked employers for the nonpartisan job. Then he heard Young's call.

Now retired and a consultant for All Children's Hospital, he has turned his focus to the council, where he is known as a champion of formality. He still calls Young "the Congressman," and his council colleague Paul Gibson jokes that he sleeps in his suit and tie.

But Cretekos, dubbed the "oldest altar boy" at Clearwater's Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, sometimes also showcases a sharp tongue. He has at times sparred with speakers and his colleagues in the chambers of City Hall, and this week, at a candidate forum, he went after Marketos-Cuomo's lack of expertise.

"Some of you might resent that I am a quote-unquote politician," Cretekos said. But "I am the only candidate with the experience. ... There is no question about that."

• • •

Cretekos' top priority is shifting the city's economic focus from tourism, a sector proven vulnerable to disasters like the Gulf oil spill.

Promoting ventures like medical businesses on the Morton Plant campus and technology startups in the offices downtown could encourage employers to move in or stay put.

Cretekos, who lives with his wife, Carolyn, in Sand Key, has been endorsed by the local Chamber of Commerce and the police and city employees' unions, as well as a number of city and civic leaders.

"Government," he said, "isn't supposed to be something you're afraid of."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or [email protected] Send letters to the editor at

Clearwater mayoral candidate George Cretekos touts his experience 01/14/12 [Last modified: Saturday, January 14, 2012 2:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Drug czar nominee Marino withdraws name amid report he weakened DEA


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says the Pennsylvania congressman he chose to be the nation's drug czar is withdrawing from consideration for the job.

    U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., left, sponsored the law that weakened the DEA's enforcement abilities. Seen with Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., in 2015, Marino is nominated to be the nation's drug czar. [Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg]
  2. Photo of the Day for October 17, 2017 - Urban possums

    Human Interest

    Today's Photo of the Day comes from Roger Kimble of Tampa, FL.

  3. Exposé 'Champions Way' uses FSU to illustrate bad behavior in college programs


    While the entire college football universe was focused on a sexual assault allegation against quarterback Jameis Winston during Florida State's 2013 national title run, another off-field scandal was playing out quietly.

     Jameis Winston (5) warms up before the game between Florida State Seminoles and the University of Miami Hurricanes at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013.
  4. How a group of Florida tomato growers could help derail NAFTA


    Tony DiMare, a third-generation Florida tomato grower, has spent two decades contending with cheap Mexican imports, watching his neighbors abandon crops in their fields and sell off their farms when they couldn't match the price of incoming produce.

    Workers fill a trailer with tomatoes as they harvest them in the fields of DiMare Farms in Florida City. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images(2013)]
  5. Pinellas deputies go door-to-door at dawn to arrest unlicensed contractors


    Pinellas deputies began pounding on doors at 5 a.m. Tuesday, part of a widespread roundup of contractors accused of working without licences and workers compensation.

    Pinellas Sheriff deputies J. Short, left, and T. Festa, right, arrest suspect Randy Ronchi, center, in Largo early Tuesday, as part of a joint roundup of unlicensed contractors. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]