TAMPA — The first rule in talking to Paula Broadwell is not uttering the name Jill Kelley.
Paula Broadwell is in Tampa this week for the first time since the military scandal that made her name fodder for late-night comedians. She is attending a conference on modern warfare at the University of South Florida and moderated a panel discussion Wednesday on counterinsurgency.
Broadwell's affair with former U.S. Central Command chief and CIA director David Petraeus ended his career after anonymous emails she sent to Kelley and her husband in 2012 were reported to the FBI because the couple thought them menacing.
Kelley socialized with Petraeus and other military leaders from MacDill Air Force Base, hosting events at her Bayshore Boulevard home.
The Charlotte, N.C., resident made it clear that she was focused on the conference and did not want to discuss Kelley or related topics.
"I'm not going to comment on that," Broadwell said in response to a reporter's question during a break in the conference. "I'm just interested in moving forward."
Broadwell, whom the Kelleys say described herself in the emails as "Tampa Angel," told reporters the conference was only the second trip to Tampa in her lifetime. She did not say anything about the first visit.
If Broadwell refused to talk about Kelley, she offered a few observations about getting her life back on track after a controversy that resulted in reporters and camera crews camping in front of her home.
"My focus from the beginning has been on my family, children and husband," Broadwell said, "and just making sure my family unit is good to go."
Broadwell said her career recovery was "going well." She is a writer and academic who specializes in military issues.
"I've had a wonderful sort of support community in Charlotte … in a great group of professionals … and a lot of colleagues and friends who know what my background is and what I had accomplished and pursued," she said.
After her panel discussion ended, Broadwell agreed to speak to a small group of reporters who had hovered on the fringes of the conference waiting for a word from her.
She said she is still "passionate" about national security issues and contributing to the national debate on the topic.
"So I guess moving forward has gone well," Broadwell said. "I think it's important to focus forward and rebuild and leave the past behind."
Then Broadwell borrowed a phrase from the Beatles: "I get by with a little help from my friends."
William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected]