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The year Tampa had 4 mayors in an 8-month span

Four Tampa police chiefs in under 18 months? In 1974, Tampa’s mayoral office topped that.
In March 1974, Dick Greco resigned as mayor of Tampa. His replacement, Richard L. Cheney, died just months later.
In March 1974, Dick Greco resigned as mayor of Tampa. His replacement, Richard L. Cheney, died just months later. [ Times (1974) ]
Published Dec. 8, 2022|Updated Dec. 11, 2022

Four.

That’s the number of police chiefs who have served Tampa in less than 18 months.

Brian Dugan retired in September 2021.

Ruben Delgado was then acting police chief until the mayor selected Mary O’Connor as the chief in February.

O’Connor resigned this month after an investigation into a Pinellas County traffic stop where she flashed a badge and asked a deputy to let her and her husband go.

Lee Bercaw is now the acting chief while the city seeks its next top cop.

Four police chiefs in under 18 months may seem extreme, but try four mayors in an eight-month span.

That happened in Tampa in 1974.

“I don’t think it had a lasting effect on people,” said the Tampa Bay History Center’s Rodney Kite-Powell. “Day to day, life went on, and the national events going on at that time — Nixon and the Vietnam War — were certainly more important. But, it was certainly an odd time in Tampa.”

It began on March 28, 1974, when Dick Greco resigned as mayor with around a year and a half to go in his term. He took a job with the Edward DeBartolo Corp., then the nation’s largest developer of shopping centers.

“Greco’s resignation shocks city officials,” a Tampa Tribune headline said. The article went on to quote city employees as being “surprised,” “shook” and “astounded” by the mayor’s sudden departure.

Richard L. Cheney became acting mayor after Dick Greco resigned in 1974.
Richard L. Cheney became acting mayor after Dick Greco resigned in 1974. [ Times (1974) ]

Richard L. Cheney, who was president of City Council at the time of the resignation, was named acting mayor until a special election could be held in September 1974. Lloyd Copeland was then named City Council president.

Cheney planned on running in that election but died in June of that year. He collapsed from a heart attack as he was a little more than a minute into a speech at the Sheraton Tampa Motor Hotel. He was 52.

“I am shocked,” Cheney’s longtime friend Henry Williams told reporters. “I had talked to him just an hour before. He seemed to be in good spirits.”

“City officials stunned at Cheney’s death,” read the Tampa Tribune headline.

Richard L. Cheney died while serving as Tampa's acting mayor in 1974.
Richard L. Cheney died while serving as Tampa's acting mayor in 1974. [ Times (1974) ]

Copeland then became acting mayor but announced he would not run in the election.

“Bizarre political year could produce 4th mayor,” a Tampa Times headline read following Copeland’s promotion.

The special election went to an October runoff that pitted William Poe against Joe Kotvas.

Lloyd Copeland was the third man to serve as mayor of Tampa in 1974.
Lloyd Copeland was the third man to serve as mayor of Tampa in 1974. [ Times (1974) ]
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On the morning after the election, Poe had a 153-vote lead with about 950 absentee ballots that needed to be counted.

That night, Poe was declared the winner by 282 votes that held up in a recount.

Poe finished the one-year term and then successfully ran for a full term the following year. He completed it.

“It was a strange time,” said Joe Chillura, who served on City Council during that eight-month span with four mayors. “But we had a great group of councilmen who all agreed to do whatever was necessary to keep the ship afloat, and we did.”

By winning a special election in October 1974, William Poe became Tampa's fourth mayor that year.
By winning a special election in October 1974, William Poe became Tampa's fourth mayor that year. [ Times (1974) ]