TAMPA — The transition from one mayor to the next has begun.
Mayor Pam Iorio met with Mayor-elect Bob Buckhorn Wednesday morning to kick off a busy week before he is sworn in April 1.
During a 20-minute news conference at City Hall, Buckhorn said he got very little sleep after his decisive victory over Rose Ferlita the night before.
"I think I'm in an altered state at this point,'' he joked.
Iorio said she has arranged for a City Hall parking space for Buckhorn and temporary office space for him and his transition team, which will be headed by David Straz Jr., a wealthy philanthropist who was a major supporter of defeated mayoral candidate Dick Greco.
"I think Bob and I are going to have a very smooth transition,'' Iorio said.
Most of the transition team is still to be named, but Buckhorn promised a diverse group.
"It will look like the city that I will soon be representing,'' he said.
Iorio said she and Buckhorn plan extensive talks about how to close a looming budget deficit, which will likely require further cuts. Buckhorn will need to find a new finance director: Iorio's finance chief is leaving for a similar post with Hillsborough County government.
Buckhorn said another top priority is to get a handle on the city's hurricane preparedness. Hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.
Buckhorn said he didn't know to what degree he will shake up the staff at City Hall. He said Iorio assembled a good team and he has a lot of confidence in it, but wants to spend more time with the employees before making any decisions.
He also looks forward to working with a newly reconstituted City Council, four of whom are newcomers and all of whom are Democrats.
"I know them all, I know them well,'' he said. "I think there's a new sense of energy.''
Buckhorn is a longtime Democrat, too, which means city leadership is completely in the hands of the Democratic Party for the first time in years — one year before the Republican National Convention convenes in Tampa.
Buckhorn, however, downplayed the significance of the party affiliations.
"This is a non-partisan job,'' he said. "They elect you to be practical, not partisan.''
He also said he welcomes the RNC, despite the political differences.
"My job is to make sure the RNC is a wonderful experience,'' Buckhorn said. He sees it as a chance to showcase Tampa to "the titans of industry'' and is confident the city's track record of hosting Super Bowls and other big events will be as asset.
Iorio said the fact that Buckhorn got 63 percent of the vote suggests her endorsement of him did not make that big of a difference. Still, she said she's glad she endorsed him because she was disturbed by a negative turn in Ferlita's campaigning.
And she would do it again.
"I care so much about the city," she said. "I don't want it to become like the rest of the political world where the negative politics is considered the norm and we all accept it. The mayor's race is something special, it's something different. You're setting the tone for the community. It's important that it always be positive and forward-thinking and respectful of your opponents."
Iorio said if people do not take a stand against negative campaigning, "You know what, you're condoning it.''