TAMPA — A familiar face and byline to anyone who follows Florida politics will soon be on news releases, YouTube videos and television in a new role: Adam Smith has been hired as Mayor Jane Castor’s communication director.
Smith, 56, begins work Thursday. And he said his main focus will be telling all the good stories that Florida’s third-largest city has to offer.
There are more than he knew before taking the job, Smith said Wednesday.
“My job is to help the city tell as many good stories as possible,” he said.
And Smith said he’ll have plenty of material.
“My job is going to be sort of easy.”
Smith has plenty of experience telling stories. Hired by the St. Petersburg Times in 1992, Smith quickly moved up the newspaper’s ladder as a reporter, landing the prestigious statewide job of Political Editor in 2002. He left the newspaper in early 2019 and soon began working as a consultant for Castor’s successful mayoral run while working as a senior vice president for Mercury Public Affairs, an international public strategies firm.
At Mercury, Smith represented a range of clients, including the United Nations-sanctioned government in Libya.
More recently, Smith had been advising former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch on his run for St. Petersburg mayor.
Smith will be replacing Ashley Bauman, who resigned in May for personal reasons. Bauman had worked for former mayor Bob Buckhorn and Castor for nearly six years.
Does Smith the campaign guru have any advice for his former candidate, current mayor and boss?
“I think she is working on or has done exactly what she talked about on the campaign trail,” Smith said.
But her office’s messaging could be improved, Smith said.
“I think it was communicated well, but it could be communicated better,” he said.
City Council Chairman Orlando Gudes wasn’t aware of Smith’s imminent hiring until he was informed by a Times reporter earlier this week.
Smith’s hiring, along with other recent Castor moves, including the announcement of former interim Fire Chief Barbara Tripp moving permanently into the job, left council members in the dark. And this pattern isn’t new, Gudes said.
Gudes has complained to Castor’s staff repeatedly for better community outreach and messaging.
“I’m tired of my constituents coming up to me and asking why I wasn’t at that meeting. I wasn’t at that meeting because I wasn’t informed about it,” Gudes said.
Gudes and his six council colleagues will be asked to approve Smith’s appointment in the coming weeks. City Council is on vacation until July 15.
City Council is the legislative branch of city government and should have its own spokesperson, Gudes said. He plans to include money to hire someone in that role in his upcoming budget request.
Smith will make $161,782. A longtime resident of St. Petersburg, Smith said he is considering a move to Tampa “down the line.”
Previous high-ranking Tampa officials have come under fire for not living within city limits, including former Chief Financial Officer Sonya Little.
Smith said he feels like he’s taking the public communications role for Tampa at a perfect time, with the city emerging from the coronavirus pandemic.
“I see my role as being as accessible and transparent as possible,” he said.