Mayor Buckhorn starts second term with fanfare for Tampa

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn thanks supporters after he was sworn in and delivered his address Wednesday at the Tampa Convention Center.  
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn thanks supporters after he was sworn in and delivered his address Wednesday at the Tampa Convention Center. 
Published April 2, 2015

TAMPA — After taking the oath of office for his second term as Tampa's mayor, Bob Buckhorn started his speech, as usual, with a quip.

"Well, if it wasn't inauguration, it might as well be church," he said, referring to the uplifting gospel music that filled the Tampa Convention Center, packed with about 1,000 onlookers Wednesday.

The crowd laughed.

But that laughter turned to applause for the rousing speech that followed. Buckhorn praised Tampa's re-emergence from the 2009 recession and reminded everyone that the city has more work to do if it wants to become a global destination.

"We need to take the ordinary and the visionary, and weave together a future that our children can be proud of," said Buckhorn, who is widely believed to be eyeing a 2018 run for governor.

Tampa is becoming a haven for everyone, he said, young or old, rich or poor, gay or straight, black or white. "The only limitations that we can become," Buckhorn said, "are those that we choose."

Unity was a common theme during the ceremony in which new City Council members were also sworn in.

Una Voce Men's Chorale, which has performed at Pride celebrations, sang the national anthem. A South Tampa rabbi wished for a term that brings "great equality to all people." There were Catholic and Baptist ministers. And a representative from the Islamic Society of New Tampa sang verses from the Koran.

"I am proud to be a Tampa citizen," Imam Junaid Khan said.

Buckhorn said Florida will progress "if we care less about who's a Democrat and who's a Republican."

His speech was also a pep rally for his city: Tampa, which is growing faster than the rest of the state, has attracted national attention and is becoming something that "people want to be a part of." Tampa has real jobs and continues to attract younger generations, he said. People aren't leaving Tampa anymore. "They're coming home, and they're bringing friends with them."

Buckhorn said he wants to transform the city's street car into "a real means of transportation" and enhance the city's walkability. He briefly mentioned the creation of a rail connection between Tampa and St. Petersburg. He applauded the city's Riverwalk and the success of the Seminole Heights neighborhood. Even Sulphur Springs, long a struggling community, has turned a corner, he said, but there's more work to be done.

"We won't truly be successful," the mayor said, "until that morning when every child wakes up and feels safe and thinks, 'This is home. I am part of this place. What I can dream can happen to me here.' "

Contact Zack Peterson at Follow @zackpeterson918.