TAMPA — In a move that surprised no one, Hillsborough County Commissioner Rose Ferlita filed Wednesday to run for mayor of Tampa.
Ferlita, a pharmacist and former Tampa City Council member, has been saying for more than a year that she planned to be a candidate for mayor in the city's March elections.
"I'm ready to rock and roll here," Ferlita said, then amended the comment to quote a supporter: "It's time to rock 'n Rose."
Ferlita, 64, said one of her top priorities as mayor would be building relationships with neighborhoods, other governments, private entities and city employees.
"You're as good as your team," she said. "There are things they will be able to teach the Ferlita administration. I want to take advantage of it."
She also said she would create a financial advisory group of residents to help her shape the city budget throughout the year.
"Let citizens decide what citizens want as opposed to government telling them, 'This is what you need, this is what you don't need,' " she said.
She said she would take a cue from interim County Administrator Mike Merrill in dealing with the challenge of a shrinking budget. That means she'd like to consolidate operations at the city, something Mayor Pam Iorio has done in recent years, and look at working closer with the county.
"A perfect place is purchasing," she said. "Economies of scale. Let's do that first."
Iorio is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election to the post she has held since 2003. For the past four years, Iorio has devoted much of her time to pushing for a referendum on a 1-cent sales tax to pay for light rail, expanded bus service and road improvements. She has said if it fails, she will work as a citizen to get it back on the ballot in 2012.
Ferlita said she hopes the referendum passes in November, and pledged to help work to get it back on the ballot if it fails. Still, she said she would not be a one-issue mayor.
"There is life after rail," she said. "We need to support that. We also need to support a multitude of other things."
Ferlita has been a county commissioner since 2006. Her district includes South Tampa, West Tampa and the coastal area of southeastern Hillsborough.
Ferlita announced her mayoral run early Wednesday in a posting on Facebook and the website www.roseformayor.com.
She joins Tampa City Council Chairman Tom Scott and former Tampa City Council member Bob Buckhorn in the race, which is expected to draw a large field of candidates. Marion Lewis, a former Tampa police captain who lost to Iorio in 2007, and Arthur Richardson also have filed.
Scott said he welcomes the competition, pointing out that the slate of mayoral candidates is already diverse.
"I see it as a very different race and almost like a smorgasbord or buffet that people have an option to choose from," he said.
Scott said that compared with the candidates so far, he has the most leadership experience, serving three times as chairman for both the City Council and Hillsborough County Commission.
The most important issues for the next mayor, he said, will be job creation and economic development.
"Given the high unemployment rate, that's the need for Tampa as we move forward," he said.
Buckhorn has also made the economy a centerpiece.
"It's what everybody around the kitchen table in every house in this community is talking about and cares about," he said. "The only way we're going to get ourselves out of this ditch is to grow the economy and create jobs. To do that, you're going to have to make this a business-friendly environment."
Janet Zink can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.