He's the "mayor" of a city within a city.
It's a place where the lives of 37,000 people intersect, from infants to retirees. More than $1 billion in salary is earned there annually. It's home to endangered and protected species.
The mayor's got a small Navy, air fleet and police force, responsibility for $2.8 billion of property, a $249 million annual budget and one heck of an airport.
He's the new commander of MacDill Air Force Base, Col. Scott "DeTom" DeThomas.
DeThomas, 47, a Rhode Island native who most recently served as commander of the 386th Air Expeditionary Group in Kuwait, took the MacDill helm Friday during a change-of-command ceremony in a base hangar.
He replaces Col. Lenny Richoux, who commanded the 6th Air Mobility Wing for two years.
Richoux now gets a coveted assignment in Belgium as special assistant to Adm. James Stavridis, chief of U.S. European Command.
In a ceremony as old as Rome, Richoux handed the wing's colors, or flag, to Lt. Gen. Mark Ramsay, commander of the 18th Air Force. Ramsay then handed the colors to DeThomas.
And with that simple act, he became commander before a crowd of a few hundred people, including Air Force personnel, family and a local politicians.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was in the crowd. Unlike politicians, DeThomas will never have to sweat out a tight election.
"Fortunately, I didn't get elected," DeThomas said. "That's a good thing. But I'm pretty sure I can be fired."
DeThomas, who has a wife, a 15-year-old son, and a 6-year-old daughter, earned a Bronze Star for his work with the 386th, which included helping transport American troops and equipment out of Iraq. DeThomas spent the last year in Kuwait and said he is looking forward to the local cuisine.
He declined to talk about specific plans, but said he understands he has a daunting job. MacDill is one of the military's most important bases, home to U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command.
"As the new guy, the last thing you want to do is break something that isn't broken," he said.
A pilot with more than 3,000 hours of flying time, DeThomas has flown a variety of planes, including large transport aircraft. But he hasn't piloted the KC-135, an air-refueling aircraft. MacDill is home to 16 of them.
"I've never given gas. I've always received," he said.
But DeThomas, a graduate of the Air Force Academy with more than 20 years of service, said he will soon undergo training so he can fly the KC-135s.
"I really couldn't ask for a better assignment," he said.
William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432.