Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Once more unto the breach for Dick Greco

Dick Greco now becomes the only candidate for mayor of Tampa with his own statue.

They gave it to him in 2008, along with a roast to honor his two stints as mayor from 1967-1974 and 1995-2003.

It was a fine event and everybody said witty, affectionate things about him, even his successor, Pam Iorio, who is pretty much the opposite of Greco in every way.

Maybe they figured they could safely pay tribute to the Old Guy. After all, Greco had decided not to challenge Iorio for re-election in 2007, and seemed content to coast into his 70s and into the sunset.


Like the boxer who won't stay retired, Greco is running to be mayor of Tampa a third time. With a crowded field, his chances are as good as anybody else's, if not better — a recent poll even put him in first place.

And make no mistake. He is a great guy.

A great guy. The kind of guy who remembers your name and knows things about you and always acts like running into you is the best thing that's happened to him all day.

In short, Greco is the greatest schmoozer of all time. That does not imply insincerity — no, he is perfectly sincere in his schmoozing. The man loves people the way that most people love breathing.

Here's the downside.

Greco's buddy-buddy, back-slapping style also is exactly the way he ran the city, a throwback to an earlier era.

He loved the big deal, whether it was the tax for a new football stadium, or the Centro Ybor development that put the city on the hook for massive debt once its developers defaulted, or the mammoth parking garages he built that saddled the city with even more debt, or the plans for a scary-colossal downtown art museum that Iorio got scaled down.

Greco once joked that his successor would find a lone dollar bill in the mayor's desk drawer with a note saying, "This is all that's left." Except it wasn't that much of a joke.

His City Hall was stocked with pals and cronies, who often got into some jam or another — those wacky fellows! Iorio spent much of her eight years systematically rooting them out.

In the defining scandal of the Greco years, his housing chief, Steve LaBrake, and LaBrake's wife were sentenced to federal prison in 2005 for conspiracy, wire fraud and more than two dozen counts of bribery.

But Greco never wavered in his support of the LaBrakes despite all evidence. He took the investigations and media coverage as a personal attack, a cruel persecution. He hinted darkly that the reporters covering the story had Their Own Secrets and how would they like it if they came out?

I got the Greco treatment personally during this time and remember it vividly. His own eyes would well up as he recounted how LaBrake had come to him during the investigation and broken down in tears. The man. Was. In. TEARS!

As if upon hearing this, the listener should agree with Greco that it was okay for LaBrake to have been on the take.

Here is what U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara said as he pronounced sentence:

"What strikes me about the LaBrakes' situation is that they were part of the culture that permeates Tampa government, where you do me a favor and I'll do you a favor, even though it violates the public trust."

What the heck, though. He'll probably win.

Once more unto the breach for Dick Greco 11/29/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 8:46am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018


    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    And Ramos is giving the Rays a pretty good glimpse of what that can be like.

    In Friday's 8-3 win over the Orioles, he hit a grand slam - …

  2. Buccaneers-Vikings Scouting Report: Watching Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen


    No matter how much film we study, no matter how much data we parse, we just don't know how an NFL season will unfold.

  3. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  4. Sue Carlton: Job or family when a hurricane's coming — a very Florida conundrum


    It must seem as foreign to Northerners as shoveling snow is to those of us raised in the Sunshine State: The very-Florida conundrum of having to choose between work and family — between paycheck and personal safety — when a hurricane comes.

    A hurricane helps the rest of us acknowledge the police officers, paramedics, hospital personnel, public works employees and others who stay on the job despite the storm. 
  5. After Tampa concert, Arcade Fire members party, preach politics at Crowbar


    After waiting more than a decade for Arcade Fire’s first appearance in Tampa, fans didn’t have to wait long for their second.

    DJ Windows 98, a.k.a. singer Win Butler of Arcade Fire, performed at a "Disco Town Hall" at Crowbar following the band's concert at the USF Sun Dome on Sept. 22, 2017.