ST. PETERSBURG — It was a surprising offer: a free sprucing up of historic City Hall.
As former mayoral candidate Scott Wagman tells it, he had grown tired of driving past the building and seeing its faded paint and mildewed north wall.
"When I ran for mayor in 2009, the building looked pretty crummy," he said, and the years since had not been kind. "It slowly just grated on my nerves."
Wagman, a real estate businessman and former owner of Scott Paint, decided to take action. Why not offer to take care of the problem himself? For free. His wife, Beth Houghton, executive director of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, and their son, Eric Wagman, were skeptical of his chances of cutting through the inevitable red tape sure to accompany such gift-giving. But city officials eagerly accepted his proposal.
"I thought it was a very generous offer. … You don't get calls like that every day," Mayor Bill Foster said, going on to praise his former political rival.
"I consider Scott a personal friend and a friend of the city and a philanthropist who doesn't like a lot of recognition."
Thursday, though, the City Council will acknowledge Wagman's generosity, along with that of others whom he approached to help make the project a reality. Tom White of Tom White Painting and Restoration, volunteered his company's work. Also, Doug Ramer, owner of Scott Paint, supported the donation of much of the mildew- and algae-resistant custom paint that came in El Paso Peach for the body of the structure and pale coral for the trim.
White said his company does a lot of charity work, some through his church, Calvary Chapel in Pinellas Park.
"I believe in giving back and I am a lifelong resident of St. Petersburg," he said.
Rick Mussett, the city's development administrator, said normally such a project would have had to go through the bidding process.
"Because it was a gift, it wasn't necessary. That allowed them to expedite it," he said of the job that was done over the holidays.
Mussett said the pressure washing and painting saved the city an estimated $35,000 to $40,000.
Wagman, who has donated to causes such as Great Explorations Children's Museum, where he is board chairman, the St. Petersburg Free Clinic and American Stage Theatre Company, said his gift was inspired by a recent donation from businessman Bill Edwards. Edwards paid $600,000 to build the towering St. Petersburg welcome sign on Interstate 275.
"I want the City Hall project to be a beacon of opportunity of what can be done when people that care get it going," Wagman said.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283.