TAMPA — Boosting trade with Cuba. Promoting biomedical enterprise. Weighing wants versus needs. Leading City Hall in a crisis.
And attracting business to bring jobs, jobs, jobs.
Those were glimpses of the visions for Tampa on display late Friday afternoon at the first forum of the candidates vying to replace outgoing Mayor Pam Iorio.
By noon, the field for the March 1 election was set: former City Council member Bob Buckhorn, 52; former Hillsborough County commissioner Rose Ferlita, 65; former mayor Dick Greco, 77; City Council chairman and former county commissioner Thomas Scott, 57; and former county commissioner and West Tampa home builder Ed Turanchik, 55.
Speaking to the GaYbor District Coalition, the gay-friendly business group that hosted the forum, Scott was the guy who talked about getting ready to trade with Cuba.
He said the city should work with the Port of Tampa to foster trade with Cuba and make the most of the port's untapped resources.
Scott said he would work to build such economic development partnerships, scrutinize rules and ordinances for their impact on business and bring in an expert to focus on business recruitment.
The fact that fellow commissioners and council members had each elected him chairman shows something about his ability "to build consensus, bring people together and find solutions," he said.
"You don't just govern from the intellect; you've got to govern from your heart," said Scott, the senior pastor of the 34th Street Church of God. "And you don't go to school to get that. You try to help people find solutions to their problems. People who are hurting, who need help. That's who I am."
Turanchik talked of a vision to help "people get back to work and our city get back on track."
Turanchik said he would work to help people renovate and buy foreclosed homes, support a transit system with more buses and less-expensive commuter rail than the proposal rejected by voters in November and hold the line on city employee pay raises, cost of living adjustments and rising pension benefits.
In 1993, Turanchik said he supported building an arena downtown, saying that one day it would even host a national political convention.
"Ladies and gentlemen, dreams do come true," he said, referring to the Republican National Convention set for Tampa in 2012. "Vision does work."
But Turanchik also said his vision extends beyond the physical. Nearly 20 years ago, he said he was one of four commissioners who cast a historic vote to make Hillsborough the first county in this part of the state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Buckhorn said he decided to run for mayor because Tampa "could be so much more." It once was a model for cities like Charlotte, N.C., he said. Now it chases them, and watches its best and brightest leave for cities such as Austin, Texas, and San Diego.
Buckhorn said he would change Tampa's image as "a very difficult place to do business," and create an environment where entrepreneurs could take the University of South Florida's innovations "from the petri dish to the marketplace."
The job of the next mayor "is to take this time, where hope and history meet," build on the work of past mayors who have "given us our roots," and "give us our wings," Buckhorn said. "That's what this race is about."
Ferlita, a pharmacist who owned a drug store, said she knows how hard it is to meet a payroll and eke a profit out of a small business. That experience will shape her work as mayor on economic development and streamlining city regulations, she said.
"The city of Tampa will be out of the business of red tape," she said.
Healthy neighborhoods are vital to business success, so they will be part of the process, Ferlita said. Her experience as a former civic association president, and elected official gives her the perspective to make sure everyone is engaged, she said.
"It is well-rounded, it is balanced, it is the type of resume we need given the economy we have to deal with," she said.
On the city's budget, Ferlita said she would look at "wants versus needs."
"It's got to be pretty things to the side, and look at the essential things for now: the potholes, the solid waste issues, all those things that government is supposed to do," she said.
Greco, whose family ran a hardware store, built houses and attended schools in Ybor City, talked about his love for the area and the things he did to build the historic district.
In his first terms as mayor, he helped bring in Hillsborough Community College to ensure that something unwanted didn't fill in blocks cleared by urban renewal. During his last terms as mayor, he facilitated the development of Centro Ybor.
Greco summarized the job of the mayor as having vision, running the city, and dealing with crises. He said he is running for a fifth term as mayor to give something back, as his ancestors in Ybor City did, as well as to build Tampa residents' civic pride.
He said he will give it his all.
"I want you to know that whatever time I've got left in my life I will give to the city," he said.