Wednesday, June 20, 2018
News Roundup

Steve LaBour, first Tampa City Hall neighborhood liaison, dies at 60

TAMPA — Steve LaBour, who helped organize and empower dozens of civic associations as Tampa's first-ever neighborhood liaison, died Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. He was 60.

Mr. LaBour died in Charlotte, N.C., where he had moved in 2013 to be close to family. The cause of death was complications from diabetes, said his sister, Phyllis Scutt of Indian Land, S.C.

When then-Mayor Sandy Freedman hired Mr. LaBour after her election in 1987, the city had just a handful of organized neighborhood associations. By the time she left office in 1995, there were more than 50, thanks largely to his efforts.

"I knew that neighborhoods that were most successful were the most organized," Freedman said Monday. Other administrators at City Hall were leery, even fearful of the idea, she said, but "Steve understood this. He intuitively understood what I was trying to accomplish and why."

Along with current Mayor Bob Buckhorn, then a special assistant to Freedman, and John Dunn, Freedman's spokesman, Mr. LaBour formed a brash young trio known around City Hall as "Los Tres Bobos" — literally, "the three idiots," though Buckhorn recalls the nickname more in the spirit of The Three Stooges.

"We were the outsiders," Dunn said. "We had not been working in government. We came in all full of vim and vigor, as they say, ready to do great things, and not really completely grasping the way government worked."

During Freedman's administration, City Hall started holding an annual neighborhood convention and periodically visited neighborhoods with what Freedman called a "traveling road show," consisting of the mayor, her top administrators and department directors who would take questions and notes on neighborhood concerns. Officials also began telling neighborhoods about pending projects and giving civic groups a say in, for example, which sidewalks got paved.

"Steve realized it was important to keep the neighborhoods aware," said Margaret Vizzi, a longtime Beach Park resident who co-founded the civic umbrella group known as THAN — Tampa Homeowners, An Association of Neighborhoods. Before Mr. LaBour came along, neighborhoods were on their own when it came to finding out what City Hall intended to do. "When the mayor appointed Steve, he would come to our meetings and bring us information from the city and take our concerns back to the city."

But it was not easy to change the culture at City Hall.

"On the bureaucracy side of the equation, the less they had to do with neighborhoods, the better for them," Buckhorn recalled. "The administrators back then really took a long time to get accustomed to the fact that we were going to interact with neighborhoods and tell them what was going on."

As a result, Freedman said, LaBour "wasn't universally loved" by some of his more entrenched colleagues.

"Steve could be acerbic."

But he earned respect.

"He found his real passion in working with neighborhoods, which wasn't always an easy job — a lot of different personalities, a lot of times decisions were made not everyone agreed with," said Dunn, now spokesman at Tampa General Hospital. "He had a personality that could handle all that."

Mr. LaBour was born in Seneca Falls, N.Y., and grew up in the Romulus, N.Y., area. He attended the University of Tampa for two years, then graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York with a bachelor's degree in social work. He initially returned to Tampa to work in construction with his father, but ended up at City Hall after volunteering on several political campaigns.

In addition to his job at City Hall, Mr. LaBour went on to manage Freedman's campaign for Congress in 1996, worked as a spokesman for the late State Attorney Harry Lee Coe, served as president of THAN, and worked as an executive and consultant with a law firm and several nonprofit organizations involved in issues related to disability employment. His passions included baseball — he started as a fan of the New York Yankees, later switching his loyalty to the Tampa Bay Rays — and history.

"We would text back and forth during Jeopardy, and I knew that anytime there was a history question, there was no way I was going to get it," said Scutt, his sister.

Though he moved to North Carolina, Mr. LaBour kept in close touch with friends and stayed on top of current events in Tampa. He talked with Vizzi two days before he died about his desire to move back.

"He never left Tampa really," said Sonny Oppenheim, Freedman's former executive assistant, who regularly talked with Mr. LaBour. "He knew more about Tampa than I did when we talked."

Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] Follow @Danielson_Times

Comments
Developer proposes Sprouts Farmers Market for Land O’Lakes

Developer proposes Sprouts Farmers Market for Land O’Lakes

LAND O’LAKES – A Sarasota developer is proposing to turn a vacant Winn-Dixie store in central Pasco into a Sprouts Farmers Market.Benderson Development filed preliminary plans Monday with Pasco County to redevelop the former Winn-Dixie store at the n...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

BROOKSVILLE — With dust still settling from the Hernando County School Board’s close vote to fire Superintendent Lori Romano — and days before her time as head of the district runs out — school officials and community members seem to be already movin...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Lightning announce home opener: Oct. 6 vs. Panthers

Lightning announce home opener: Oct. 6 vs. Panthers

The Tampa Bay Lightning will announce their full 2018-19 schedule on Thursday, but the league announced each home opener Wednesday, with Tampa Bay playing host to the Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena on Saturday, Oct. 6.The Lightning will know their ...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
Police investigating body found floating near Davis Islands

Police investigating body found floating near Davis Islands

TAMPA — Police are working to recover a body that was found floating in the water near the Davis Island Sea Basin on Wednesday morning.It is uncertain how the body ended up there, according to police.This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Passenger in Bayshore crash that killed mother and toddler pleads not guilty

Passenger in Bayshore crash that killed mother and toddler pleads not guilty

TAMPA — Tristan Herrin, a passenger in the speeding black Mustang that struck and killed a woman and her young daughter last month as they tried to cross Bayshore Boulevard, renewed his not guilty plea Wednesday to a misdemeanor street racing charge....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

BROOKSVILLE — As schools and districts across the state await their 2018 grades from the Florida Department of Education, the standardized test scores that factor into those ratings and were dropped last week show slight gains in Hernando County.The ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top 5 at noon: Berkeley prep revolts against graduate Kirstjen Nielsen; Lawsuit against St. Pete alleges racial motivations; and more

Top 5 at noon: Berkeley prep revolts against graduate Kirstjen Nielsen; Lawsuit against St. Pete alleges racial motivations; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.TAMPA’S BERKELEY PREP GRADS LEAD REVOLT AGAINST ONE OF THEIR OWN: KIRSTJEN NIELSENWhen Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen went on national television Monday and dismissed criticism o...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Clearwater’s Clegg Insurance Group buys Advanced Insurance Brokerage

Clearwater’s Clegg Insurance Group buys Advanced Insurance Brokerage

CLEARWATER - Clegg Insurance Group of Clearwater announced on Wednesday it has bought Brandon-based Advanced Insurance Brokerage.The merger creates a firm with more than 2,000 customers and more than $10 million in annual premiums. Terms were not dis...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida State will host Florida Gators to open this basketball season

Florida State will host Florida Gators to open this basketball season

For the first time in almost two decades, Florida and Florida State will open the men's basketball season against each other.The Seminoles will host UF on Nov. 6, both programs announced Wednesday morning. FSU has won four in a row in the series."Any...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox Sr. was watching the NFL draft 24 years ago when the phone rang. Buffalo coach Marv Levy was on the other line."Marv said they were taking me," said Knox Sr., a standout receiver at FSU.Soon after, Knox Sr. saw his name scroll across ESPN'...
Updated: 2 hours ago