Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Iorio: Tampa's relationship with military is more than one couple's parties

TAMPA — Look at Tampa's relationship with MacDill Air Force Base only through the experience of Dr. Scott and Jill Kelley, and it's easy to get the wrong idea about the city, former Mayor Pam Iorio says.

"The relationship with the military is being seen through the eyes of this particular story," Iorio said Wednesday. But "our relationship with the military is very deep and sincere and represents thousands of people. This one couple and their parties are not really representative of what we do for the military."

To the contrary, she said, Tampa's larger engagement with MacDill, Central Command and Special Operations Command manifests itself in Thanksgiving dinners for CentCom's coalition partners, in local families hosting international officers, in the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce's Military Affairs Council (and the base's $6.7 billion impact on the Tampa Bay area's economy), in residents supporting the spouses of those serving abroad and through the flag-waving of the Bayshore Patriots.

Iorio has done a range of interviews with national media this week — the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press and Reuters — partly to make that point, she said.

Still, like other leading citizens in Tampa, Iorio knows the Kelleys and their cause.

"Jill is high-energy — very social and a tireless hostess," she said. "She has focused on the military since I first met her."

That introduction goes back to 2003, after Iorio was first elected mayor. The Kelleys called her office and invited her to a military-oriented reception they were hosting — Gen. Tommy Franks, then the commander of CentCom was among the guests — in the private room of a local restaurant.

Later Jill Kelley told Iorio she wanted to become more involved in the community, so Iorio began looking for things Kelley could "pour her energy into." In 2009, Iorio appointed her to the board of the Henry B. Plant Museum, and, after a three-year term, Mayor Bob Buckhorn re-appointed Kelley this year at the museum's request.

Another perspective on community relations with MacDill comes from John Stross, co-owner of Leverock's seafood restaraunt in Pasadena.

Stross said he has met Jill Kelley at several functions at MacDill, but doesn't know her personally and has never been to her home for an event.

But he has been invited to and attended many functions with dignitaries at MacDill, presumably because he helped raise money for various local charities. After getting his first invitations, "I didn't ask why. I assumed they wanted community voices. I didn't ask how I got the invite. I can't speak for the vetting."

Yet even with invitations to the functions, he says it is difficult to gain access to military officials when not at events. He says he could not pick up the phone and get a top general to meet him for breakfast or attend a party at his house.

The base has a protocol office that vets people who attend the functions and gain access to officials, he said. The profile: "All community leaders. They are upstanding citizens."

Times staff writers Richard Danielson and Mark Puente contributed to this report.

Iorio: Tampa's relationship with military is more than one couple's parties 11/14/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 5:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Once 'angry' about Obamacare, Republican David Jolly came to see it as 'safety net'


    Former Congressman David Jolly, who ran against Obamacare in 2013, said in an interview Monday night that he now considers it a "safety net."

  2. Five children hospitalized after chlorine release at Tampa pool store


    Five children were sickened at a pool store north of Tampa on Monday after a cloud of chlorine was released, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

  3. Deputies find unidentified decomposing body in Dunedin canal

    Public Safety

    DUNEDIN — Pinellas County sheriff's deputies found an unidentified male body floating in a Dunedin canal Monday afternoon, the Sheriff's Office said.

  4. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  5. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108