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Florida's political whirlwind isn't moving Pam Iorio

In the same week our governor told us of his big plans beyond this state, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio surprised some folks by announcing her intention to stay put.

As in, no to a rumored run for the U.S. Senate.

And no to stumping statewide to become its chief financial officer.

For now, Mayor Pam plans to remain Tampa's stay-at-home mom and keep pushing the projects she cares about — notably, a badly needed regional bus and light rail system that has to get buy-ins from politicians and voters alike. She loves her job, she says.

Still, you can't really blame those who think there must be something deeper, something cunningly political, something even Machiavellian in all of this.

She is, after all, the same person who got herself elected to the County Commission at age 25, the steady-at-the-helm elections supervisor and the politician who made her first bid for mayor a scant few weeks before the election and handily bested the competition.

She laughs when I ask about the politicking grand scheme of things.

"My husband and I joke about this: In many ways, I'm the unpolitician, even though I'm a politician," she says. "I don't have an ambitious strategic master plan to my career, I never have." (For the record, that first mayoral election "truly was a last-minute decision," she says.)

Not that this latest means the mayor, who just turned 50, doesn't intend to stay in public service, even if her path is not "seamless," as she puts it.

A hint? Is that a hint?

The mayor says she ruled out the Senate run pretty early on, then focused on the state CFO job currently held by Alex Sink, whom she considers a friend.

She says she gave it a look and calculated that running would take 50 percent of her time and energy to make a proper go of it, since she's not well-known statewide.

"And that I couldn't live with," she says. "It just seemed like I'd be shortchanging the community if I was out campaigning all the time."

Speaking of Sink: In a week of big announcements, she officially-but-not-unexpectedly threw her hat in the ring for governor. And guess which local politician not often seen at fundraisers was spotted at a re-election one for Sink not long ago?

That would be Mayor Pam.

So if Sink is elected, could the mayor ultimately end up in Tallahassee, too?

More speculation! More intrigue!

And how about that county mayor job that remains a possibility for Hillsborough?

The mayor talks about appreciating the moment, about wisdom that comes with age, about enjoying her life, her family, golfing with her son.

She intends to finish as much of what she started as she can through the end of her final term in March 2011.

Good. Tampa will be better for it.

In a world thick with politicians and their politics, it can be hard to believe a move is part practical and part the right thing to do, but this sure sounds like that. A mayor who cares about the place and its future wants to keep at it without the distraction of running for something else — which can't be bad.

But, hey, how about governor?

Could she, not now but one day, see herself headed there?


"Yes," says the mayor. "You never know."

Florida's political whirlwind isn't moving Pam Iorio 05/14/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 14, 2009 10:39pm]
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