Tampa City Council’s Luis Viera won’t seek another term as chairman

Viera isn’t going anywhere, but he says the gavel should be passed around
Luis Viera said he won't run for another one-year term as Tampa City Council's chairman. Courtesy of the Luis Viera campaign 2016.
Luis Viera said he won't run for another one-year term as Tampa City Council's chairman. Courtesy of the Luis Viera campaign 2016.
Published April 29, 2020|Updated April 29, 2020

TAMPA — Heavy is the gavel that rests in the hands of whoever holds it at Tampa City Council.

The council’s current chairman, Luis Viera, entered the contest to replace term-limited Frank Reddick as chairman last May reluctantly, after some persuasion from the newly-elected Mayor Jane Castor administration.

He is now ready to pass along the small perks of the job — which include a bigger office budget and the task of controlling the pace of meetings — as well as its many headaches to someone else.

Viera said he wasn’t concerned about not getting reelected to the post. Instead, he said he wanted to honor the commitment he made when accepting the role last year to be the first of many to hold the position.

“I’m first of I’m sure many chairs of this council. To continue would not be consistent with what I said when I was originally elected. I want to pass the gavel around some,” Viera told the Tampa Bay Times Wednesday.

Viera, first elected in a 2016 special election to represent North Tampa and New Tampa, was reelected last year. His current term on the city council expires in 2023. He was elected to the chairmanship with the support of council members Orlando Gudes, Joseph Citro and Charlie Miranda.

Guido Maniscalco, who was also in the running, later lost his aide, Carrie Henriquez, who resigned after uttering what many heard as a curse that was possibly directed at Viera. That incident was widely attributed to hard feelings on her part about Maniscalco’s failed bid. Viera and Maniscalco have remained friendly.

Related: Cough-curse?

The cough-curse was the latest in a colorful history of Tampa City Council politics when it comes to naming a chair. In 2016, then-chairman Reddick accused the police union president of making a throat-slashing gesture during a marathon election for chair that took 13 votes before Mike Suarez captured the prize.

Related: Throat-slashing gesture and 13 votes

Viera has presided over a council that challenged the mayor early on over control of the city’s Community Redevelopment Areas, single-bid contracts and neighborhood needs — mostly notably, council member Orlando Gudes’ successful push for a full-time ambulance and money for a cultural center in East Tampa.

In recent months, well before the pandemic turned council meetings into an infrequent and virtual experience, council meetings have become more sedate affairs, although occasionally flare-ups have occurred.

In March, council member Bill Carlson roiled some of his colleagues when he suggested the city may be vulnerable to an FBI investigation because of what he said were a high number of single-bid contracts over the past eight years. And John Dingfelder was the likely subject of an October memo that had Viera asking his colleagues to stay in their seats.

Related: Council members asked to refrain from wandering during meetings.
Related: Is Tampa vulnerable to an FBI investigation?

Viera declined to say if he would nominate anyone for the chairmanship.

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The council will select a new chairman at its May 7 meeting.