Jane Castor taps ex-Nelson aide to help Tampa strategize

Marley Wilkes has worked in Florida politics for two decades. She was named director of strategic initiatives on Thursday.
Marley Wilkes has been named director of strategic initiatives for Mayor Jane Castor.
Marley Wilkes has been named director of strategic initiatives for Mayor Jane Castor.
Published June 13, 2019|Updated June 13, 2019

TAMPA—Jane Castor has a $1 billion budget to get approved in a few months, three city unions to negotiate new contracts with and a host of pressing issues to juggle.

To that end, Tampa’s new mayor named a seasoned political vet Thursday to help chart the political path forward.

Marley Wilkes will the the director of strategic initiatives, a position similar to one held by Christina Barker for former mayor Bob Buckhorn. Barker left the city in June 2018 to work for Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik as vice president of community partnerships and policy with the Vinik Family Offices, which manages Vinik’s independent business interests.

Wilkes, 40, will earn $90,000, said Castor spokeswoman Ashley Bauman.

In a release, Castor said she’ll count on Wilkes to help her keep campaign promises.

"“Marley is a consummate professional with years of experience executing major projects, building non-profits and running campaigns,” said Castor. “Marley will be a pivotal player in my administration and an absolute asset to the entire city.”

“I couldn’t be more excited to join this dynamic team Mayor Castor is assembling,” said Wilkes in the release. “Tampa is on the precipice of something truly remarkable and I am honored to be a part of this journey.”

Wilkes was the executive director of Ruth’s List, which recruited Florida women to run for elected office. She served as Sen. Bill Nelson’s campaign manager in his losing bid for reelection last year.

Wilkes also worked on Castor’s winning mayoral campaign. Castor’s political committee, Tampa Strong, reported paying $7,000 in April to Wilkes for consulting services, according to filings.