TAMPA — It was quick and easy this year as Guido Maniscalco was elected chairman of the Tampa City Council without much discussion and by a unanimous vote Thursday.
It hasn’t always been that way. Although the honor doesn’t come with a salary bump, it does have its perks. If the mayor leaves office for any reason within the next year, Maniscalco becomes mayor until a special election is held.
That hasn’t happened since former mayor Bob Martinez left office in July 1986 in a successful run for governor. Sandy Freedman replaced him, becoming the city’s first woman mayor. She later won on her own and served until 1995.
A more certain perk? The council chairman gets to ride in a convertible provided by Ye Mystic Krewe in the Gasparilla parade, a big deal in Tampa.
Outgoing chairman Luis Viera nominated Maniscalco, his rival last year, for the honor.
“Viera nominated him. Can you imagine that? That’s a great nomination,” quipped council member Charlie Miranda during the virtual meeting.
Maniscalco thanked his colleagues and later confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times that he would only serve until next May.
“I appreciate this honor for this next year. I’ve always believed in a rotating chair so everyone has the opportunity to have their voices heard,” said Maniscalco, who was elected in 2015 to represent West Tampa and parts of Seminole Heights and South Tampa. At 35, he is the board’s youngest member.
Council member Joseph Citro was elected vice chairman. He was selected after Bill Carlson’s nomination of John Dingfelder failed by a 4-3 vote.
Orlando Gudes and Carlson were elected chairman and vice chairman of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency.
The city council chairman leads council meetings and is the point person with the City Clerk’s office on agendas and, often, with the mayor’s office on policy.
Viera’s year at the helm was the first in the administration of Mayor Jane Castor. Occasional flares of early tension between newly-elected council members and the administration largely subsided by the end of 2019. Viera also presided over an unprecedented disruption of council activity due to the coronavirus pandemic. After March 12, the council only met in special limited meetings over the phone until Thursday’s virtual meeting, which had a more regular agenda.
Thursday’s election, which was likely the first to be held over the telephone, was notably lacking in the drama of years past.
Last year, after Viera’s election, bad blood lingered. Within a month, Maniscalco’s aide Carrie Henriquez 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 to become chairman. Henriquez denied it had anything to do with Viera’s election.
Later, the Castor administration proposed, and city council accepted, a change that eliminated the small salary bump that had been a prize of being the legislative aide of the council chair.
The “cough-curse” was the latest in a colorful history of city council politics when it comes to naming a chair.
In 2016, then-chairman Frank Reddick accused the police union president of making a throat-slashing gesture from the audience during a marathon election for chairman that took 13 votes before Mike Suarez captured the prize.