Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rudy Spoto, first county administrator of Hillsborough, dies at 80

TAMPA — Every year on April Fools' Day, Jack Espinosa liked to get together with his good friend Rudy Spoto for what the two called their "religious holiday."

The annual celebration began that day in 1977 when Mr. Spoto resigned his job as Hillsborough County administrator.

The get-togethers, in which the county's first administrator and his former aide shared drinks and talk of old-time politics, was a tongue-in-cheek toast to their past political life.

"We went through so much to get things done," Espinosa said. "He was probably the best government administrator I have ever seen."

As the first county administrator, Mr. Spoto bore the brunt of competing political agendas, all while building the system of government the county still knows.

He died early Saturday after years of failing health. He was 80.

The youngest son of Italian immigrants, Mr. Spoto grew up in Tampa, helping his five brothers and one sister run their father's clothing store, Spoto's Men's Shop in Ybor City.

He attended Jefferson High School with Espinosa, who would become his aide and later business partner at the consulting firm Rudy Spoto Inc.

Mr. Spoto served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and later attended Florida State University, where he earned a master's degree in psychology.

In the early 1960s, he was the assistant director of social services for the Hillsborough Board of Public Assistance. When President Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty in 1964, Mr. Spoto became director of the welfare department, which gave aid to residents in dire straits.

"He cared about the human condition of the world and wanted to better the world," said his daughter, Lisa Spoto. "He would do anything to help somebody out."

His daughter remembers stuffing envelopes and waving signs as a young girl in political campaigns her father, a Democrat, supported. "He really believed the people he supported were going to do a good job," she said.

Mr. Spoto was appointed as the county's first administrator in March 1973 after a heated debate about who should fill the new position overseeing the county's operations and employees.

His tenure was marked by controversy and criticism. At the same time he battled opposition from some County Commission members, supporters brought pressure when they felt he was not doing as they wanted.

He suffered through scandal, firing an assistant amid a federal investigation of a jobs program.

After four years, he grew tired of politics and resigned. Mr. Spoto left jaded, but his legacy is seen in the county system.

Espinosa noted that before Mr. Spoto, the county fire department was volunteer. Water and sewage departments didn't exist.

"Thousands of people owe him their jobs that are still around," Espinosa said. "He put a lot of people in low poverty to work."

Mr. Spoto and his wife, Nadine, were married for 59 years. They retired to Redington Shores in the late 1980s. He kept an ear to the happenings in Hillsborough, but largely stayed out of politics.

"He was a fighter who would never back down from what he felt was right and just, even if it was to his detriment," his daughter said.

.biography

Rudolph Spoto

Born: Oct. 5, 1930

Died: March 26, 2011

Survivors: Wife Nadine S. Spoto; daughters Michelle Spoto Klein and Lisa G. Spoto; sister Josephine Martino; brothers Nelson Spoto and Steve Spoto; and three grandchildren.

Services: The family will hold a private service.

Rudy Spoto, first county administrator of Hillsborough, dies at 80 03/27/11 [Last modified: Monday, March 28, 2011 12:15am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees

    Politics

    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact

    World

    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.