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After 100 days, Iorio's flair apparent

Published Sep. 1, 2005

At 1:27 p.m., Mayor Pam Iorio's secretary stepped into her office.

"Your 1:30 p.m. appointment is here," she said.

Iorio finished her thought, and moments later, she was moving across the floor. The frosted glass door to her office swung behind her. Iorio swirled around to tell her visitor goodbye.

Time was up. Iorio was off to her next appointment.

As much as any thing else, the moment crystallized how different the new mayor is from the old one.

Former Mayor Dick Greco loved to linger with visitors. The habit made him notoriously late for appointments. He was even late to testify in federal court during a 1998 trial.

Iorio does not like to keep people waiting.

"I don't like to waste time talking about things that don't serve the citizens," Iorio said in an interview last week that ran two minutes over schedule. "I like to get things done."

On Thursday, Iorio will complete the first 100 days of her four-year term. Elected three months ago, Iorio acknowledged that she hasn't completed any major initiatives in the first chapter of her administration. But she said she didn't expect to.

"I see (this time) as laying the groundwork for the rest of the decade," Iorio said.

She has begun a program called "Operation Commitment" to clean up streets in east Tampa and has reorganized the code enforcement department.

But in her first days in office, Iorio has mainly made a mark on the office by setting a new style. Here are a few things that are in and some activities that are out:

LET THERE BE LIGHT: The first thing Iorio did when she inherited the mayor's suite was open the window blinds.

Greco liked to keep the blinds drawn; he said the dark ambience kept people calm.

Iorio prefers bright light. The change is more than stylistic. Iorio has told department heads to answer questions and return reporters' calls. She'll even talk to reporters from WFTS-Ch. 28, whom Greco had banished from his office.

TECH-SAVVY: Greco never had a computer in his office, and he joked that he wouldn't know how to use one if he did. As county elections supervisor, Iorio switched from punch card voting machines to touch-screen computers.

Iorio uses her computer to stay in touch with work from home and answers her e-mail promptly. (Her address is

Iorio also was flabbergasted that the mayor's office did not have voice mail. She added that technological wonder her first week.

HANDSHAKE, NO HUG: Greco loved to schmooze. He would rub people's shoulders, hold the hands of women and squeeze reporters' biceps. "You been working out?" he would ask.

Iorio does not hug or squeeze or pinch. She offers a businesslike handshake.

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS: Greco did not like to tell people no, and he rarely disciplined employees. He didn't have the heart, people said. Greco refused to fire then-housing chief Steve LaBrake, who is now under federal investigation, even when his closest friends urged him to.

Already, Iorio has signaled she will hold her staff accountable. She fired solid waste director Tony McBride a month after she learned of accusations that he was involved with his secretary, a violation of city policy.

Iorio also ousted Katie Hughes, the Tampa police spokeswoman. She did not say why Hughes was dismissed.

Iorio said she doesn't enjoy firing people.

"I am a caring person," she said. "I don't mean to make anyone miserable."

But, Iorio said, she won't tolerate people who are only good at "moving paper."

"You have to get on board this train, or people are going to get off the train," she said. "This train has left the station, and it is moving on a single track."

EARLY TO BED: Greco enjoyed spending late nights in Ybor City with his wife and friends. The mayor's police escort sometimes didn't get home until 2 a.m.

He'll have no such worries with her, Iorio said. She's asleep by 10 p.m. every night, and she doesn't drink, not even a glass of wine over dinner. Alcohol makes her tired, she said.

Iorio also makes time to read nightly. Right now, she's devouring Master of the Senate, a 1,040-page biography of former President Lyndon Johnson.

IN CONTROL: Iorio has set up an administrative structure where decisions must flow through her chief of staff, Darrell Smith. All issues raised by City Council members also go through Smith.

Greco was far more hands-off _ too much so, some critics say. Departments heads operated on their own and reported to Greco as needed. The former mayor relied heavily on consultant Ron Rotella to handle big projects.

"I have a more centralized approach," Iorio said. "You need to work things through the system."

NEW FACES: Out of favor are a crew of men who knew Greco when he was mayor the first time in the late 1960s. Figures like Rotella, former city attorney James Palermo, economic development chief Fernando Noreiga and longtime adviser George Levy have lost influence.

The new friends of City Hall include Fran Davin, the former county commissioner who ran Iorio's campaign; Fred Karl, Iorio's appointee as city attorney; lawyer Frank Fleischer and his wife, Circuit Judge Barbara Fleischer; lawyer Richard Salem, who won a city lobbying contract; and Bob Clark, the president of Tampa Steel Erecting Co. who was part of a lunch group that encouraged Iorio to run for mayor.

Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla is out. The Athena Society is in.

NO THANKS: Greco accepted gifts worth thousands of dollars from friends. He took free trips on private jets from executives with business before the city.

Iorio said she won't take any gift from someone doing business before the city. When officials with the Tampa Bay Lightning gave her tickets to a playoff game, Iorio said no thanks. She went to the hockey game, but she paid her own way.

_ David Karp can be reached at 226-3376 or

Among the ways Mayor Pam Iorio is keeping the peace in her new position: She is following a strict appointment schedule, updating office technology with computers and voice mail, and being more hands-on in city decisions.