Friday, June 22, 2018
Politics

RNC needs Tampa volunteers

TAMPA — Come August, Michael Almeyda expects to be standing in a hotel lobby and welcoming Republican guests to Tampa.

That Almeyda is a registered Democrat is beside the point.

"I love visiting New York, I love visiting California," said Almeyda, a 34-year-old staffing manager. "But Tampa is a great place to live. It's a great place to raise a family."

Almeyda is one of 10 registered volunteers who are part of the Faces of Tampa Bay, a campaign by the Tampa Bay Host Committee to recruit area residents to volunteer in the days and weeks leading up to the Republican National Convention.

Host committee officials launched the 10-day recruitment campaign Wednesday in a news conference at Tampa International Airport. Volunteer duties range from helping man welcome stations at TIA to greeting guests at area hotels where delegations are staying.

The Host Committee has 7,500 volunteer shifts — only about half of which are filled, said Amanda Whitelaw, director of events and volunteers.

Volunteers so far have been looking to be a part of history, to get college volunteer credit and to network, Whitelaw said. They will receive uniforms — probably a collared shirt, hat and tote bag — and training on how to promote a range of area attractions and restaurants.

Airport CEO Joe Lopano said it's important for convention visitors to see friendly faces when they arrive in town.

"This is our biggest dinner party we're going to have in our lifetime," he said.

Volunteers say part of what they'll be doing is showing visitors, especially those who know Florida through news-of-the-weird stories, that there's much more to Tampa Bay than they might think.

"To show we have more depth than what you see or hear in the news," Almeyda said.

Larry Davis, a 44-year-old IT consultant from Lutz, said he looks forward to promoting the beaches and Lowry Park Zoo. He signed up for the gig as part of a networking group.

"It'll never be around again," Davis said.

Maryann Wetmore, a Carrollwood resident who's lived in the area for more than 50 years, said she'd be ready with weather reports and directions. She's a registered Republican, but she said she's less interested in politics than civic pride.

"Even if it was the Democratic National Convention," she said, "I'd still be volunteering."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374.

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