Bob McDonaugh to retire as Tampa’s top economic development official

The powerful official’s last day will be Friday. No replacement has been named yet by Mayor Jane Castor.
Tampa economic opportunity administrator Bob McDonaugh, left, walks with former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn in 2016.
Tampa economic opportunity administrator Bob McDonaugh, left, walks with former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn in 2016.
Published Aug. 27, 2019|Updated Aug. 27, 2019

TAMPA — Bob McDonaugh, who had his hands on virtually every big project in town under former Mayor Bob Buckhorn, will retire Friday as Tampa’s top economic development official.

McDonaugh, who joined the city in 2008 under then-Mayor Pam Iorio, became the city’s economic development administrator under Buckhorn. In that position, he played key roles in the $3 billion Water Street Tampa project, the renovation of the Armature Works, the expansion of the Riverwalk and talks about bringing the Tampa Bay Rays to the state’s third-largest city.

“Anything brick and mortar, his fingerprints are on it,” Buckhorn said Tuesday. “He left some big shoes to fill.”

If Buckhorn was the city’s cheerleader extraordinaire, McDonaugh was often the one who did the detailed work of getting the big deals done. He also led an effort to streamline the city’s permitting process.

“Bob McDonaugh has had an incredible tenure with the city of Tampa," Mayor Jane Castor said in a statement. "His team helped usher our city out of the recession and transformed it into one of the top cities in the country to live, work and play. Because of his and his team’s great work, jobs were created, neighborhoods transformed, and our skyline will be forever changed.”

McDonaugh didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment on Tuesday. His salary is $176,550.

Castor hasn’t decided on a replacement, said spokeswoman Ashley Bauman.

“Now, with great growth comes great responsibility," Castor said. “I look forward to putting the resources in place to keep Tampa open for business while ensuring we strategically grow in a way that uplifts all of Tampa’s neighborhoods.”

McDonaugh also was the top city official in charge of the city’s Community Redevelopment Areas, a job which brought him under increasing fire from some new City Council members, most notably Bill Carlson, who have said the city has ignored neighborhoods, especially East Tampa, in favor of downtown development.

As the top development official to Buckhorn, McDonaugh worked on a series of projects that turned unused pieces of surplus city property into high-profile developments. They include:

• A 17-story building with a 230-room Hyatt Place Hotel and a 115-room extended-stay Hyatt House Hotel, plus parking for the public as well as the hotel’s use, that is now being built across the street from City Hall. The project, being built on a former parking lot that the city sold for $7.6 million, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2020, in time for the Super Bowl in February 2021.

• The creation of Ulele restaurant in the city’s old water department pump house.

• A boutique Le Méridien hotel that opened in 2014 in the long-closed historic federal courthouse on N Florida Avenue.

• A block of Ybor City apartments on 1½ acres previously owned by the city, plus neighboring land purchased from the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg.

• A new Harpoon Harry’s Crab house restaurant in the former home of the Tampa Bay History Center at the Tampa Convention Center.

McDonaugh is the latest high-profile departure in Castor’s nearly four-month-old administration. Human resources director Kimberly Crum left in recent weeks. And city attorney Salvatore Territo stepped aside for Gina Grimes. Territo remains in the city attorney’s office. Neighborhood empowerment administrator Jake Slater also recently retired.

Castor also recently named former assistant police chief John Bennett as her chief of staff. Bennett retired from the Police Department in 2015 and worked until 2017 as an assistant county administrator in Pinellas County.

Former chief of staff Dennis Rogero is now the interim chief financial officer.