For Tampa council: Carlson, Henderson and Miranda | Times Editorial Board recommendations
The recommendations for Districts 4, 5 and 6.
“I Voted” stickers .
“I Voted” stickers . [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Feb. 6|Updated Feb. 6

The Tampa City Council faces many challenges, from expanding affordable housing and improving mass transit to modernizing the city’s aging infrastructure. The nonpartisan races are open to all Tampa voters. (There is no contested race for District 7.) Council members are elected to four-year terms beginning May 1 and paid $52,060 per year. Early voting begins Feb. 7 and Election Day is March 7.

Related: Read the Times recommendations in other Tampa races.

District 4 (South Tampa): Bill Carlson

Bill Carlson, 2023 candidate for Tampa City Council
Bill Carlson, 2023 candidate for Tampa City Council [ STEHLIK FOTO | handout ]

This race is seen by some as a proxy war over Mayor Jane Castor’s agenda and the reach of executive authority. While incumbent Bill Carlson and his opponent have policy differences, the real choice may involve personality and style. We think Carlson is more of a known entity and deserves another term.

Carlson, 55, is president of the public relations firm Tucker/Hall. First elected in 2019 to represent this South Tampa seat, Carlson has focused on economic development and governance issues. In recent years, Carlson has clashed with the Castor administration on several issues, including her plan to find more useful purposes for treated wastewater. He also has criticized some police practices, city contracts and what he’s described as the administration’s campaign to attack him politically.

Blake J. Casper, a 49-year-old South Tampa businessman, said he supported Carlson in 2019 but grew disillusioned with what he saw as Carlson’s undue criticism of Tampa police during the 2020 protests. Casper also said Carlson is “not staying in his lane” — focusing on the mayor instead of on his council duties.

Voters should largely ignore the drama. The question here is who is best prepared to serve on the city’s legislative branch.

We disagree with Carlson’s position on the wastewater project; the city needs to further explore the impacts of reusing this water to make an informed decision. Carlson rightly called out some past police practices, but his preoccupation with being attacked politically has grown weary, and it’s undermined his effectiveness. After all, everyone in politics has friends and enemies.

Carlson is a strong voice on modernizing Tampa’s economic climate, on promoting sustainable, mixed-use communities and on expanding entrepreneurship and housing programs. He has said he would support hiring up to hundreds of more police officers.

Casper, a first-time candidate, is invested in the city, and his civic service and contributions over the years through hospital, education and other community groups prepares him to handle complex policy questions. He says he would make supporting police a priority, and the police union has endorsed his candidacy. But Casper only recently entered the race, and with mail ballots already out, voters have had little opportunity to hear his agenda, question his priorities or make meaningful comparisons with Carlson.

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While we don’t embrace the entirety of Carlson’s agenda, at least we know what it is. Carlson does his homework, keeps neighborhood organizations in the loop and is readily accessible. He could bring more people around by dropping the conspiracy talk and highlighting what everyone should support — a more effective, forward-looking and transparent government.

The Tampa Bay Times recommends Bill Carlson for Tampa City Council District 4.

District 5 (East Tampa): Gwendolyn “Gwen” Henderson

Gwendolyn "Gwen" Henderson has qualified to challenge incumbent Orlando Gudes in the District 5 City Council race to represent parts of central and East Tampa.
Gwendolyn "Gwen" Henderson has qualified to challenge incumbent Orlando Gudes in the District 5 City Council race to represent parts of central and East Tampa. [ Candidate website ]

The incumbent, Orlando L. Gudes, is an embarrassment to his constituents and discredited as a leader. Residents of this heavily Black district face some of Tampa’s biggest problems — with crime, housing, poverty, transportation. They cannot afford a compromised representative for four more years. Challenger Gwendolyn “Gwen” Henderson offers a fresh start.

Henderson, 58, is a first-time candidate and educator who heads the business technology department at Jefferson High School in Tampa. Henderson has a kitchen-table agenda that addresses this district’s most pressing needs. She also recognizes the unique demands of its diverse neighborhoods, which stretch from hardscrabble East Tampa and Sulphur Springs to fast-growing downtown, Tampa Heights and Ybor City.

Henderson wants to promote home ownership to build household wealth and stabilize neighborhoods. She also would use her long experience in career and technical education to foster economic opportunities, especially for younger residents looking to lay down roots. Henderson is right that better infrastructure is necessary to attract more entrepreneurial and outside investment. And she wants to ensure that poorer neighborhoods have better access to parks, full-service groceries and other amenities that many elsewhere in Tampa take for granted.

Gudes, 55, is a retired Tampa police officer who was elected to the seat in 2019. He doesn’t bring much creativity to the table. Gudes says he wants to increase wages in Tampa to address a “salary crisis,” but doesn’t explain how. His ideas for expanding mass transit ignore political reality. Gudes is right to emphasize affordable housing but is hardly its lone advocate. It’s also unclear how he would strengthen relations between minority residents and police, which should be in his wheelhouse. Despite Gudes’ tenure as a police officer, Tampa’s police union has endorsed Henderson.

A months-long investigation that concluded last year found credible claims that Gudes made offensive comments about women in the presence of a former aide. Gudes denied or said he did not recall having made most of the statements, but the city’s outside labor attorney said the probe produced evidence of “a hostile working environment,” concluding the aide “suffered harassment.” The city later reached a $200,000 settlement with the aide to resolve the matter.

Henderson is related to the former aide, but says that was not a factor in her challenging Gudes. Whatever the motivation, Gudes’ bombastic style, failure to swing votes for his causes and needling of the mayor have left him a marginalized force. This district, and city government, deserve better.

The Tampa Bay Times recommends Gwendolyn “Gwen” Henderson for Tampa City Council District 5.

District 6 (West Tampa): Charlie Miranda

Tampa City Council member Charlie Miranda, June 4, 2020. At a council meeting at the Tampa Convention Center.
Tampa City Council member Charlie Miranda, June 4, 2020. At a council meeting at the Tampa Convention Center. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

Several first-time candidates in this five-way race offer energy and solid agendas, but Charlie Miranda’s experience, grasp of the issues and unmatched record of constituent service make him by far the best choice.

Miranda, 82, has served on council for eight terms over the years, having won his first election in the mid-1970s. He has seen the upside and downside of the city’s growth, and that perspective is helpful for a city balancing its rising status with concerns over gentrification and affordability.

Miranda supports secondary units on residential lots to increase the housing supply, but he insists that it be done carefully to protect the character of single-family neighborhoods. Miranda has been a longtime supporter of upgrading the city’s basic infrastructure. He understands that a healthy water supply and functioning city services are essential for continued growth.

Miranda has advocated for greener, more sustainable development practices, and as with the city’s proposal to convert treated wastewater into more useful sources, he stresses that the science must be convincing. He has long pushed to expand and improve the city’s code enforcement arm to maintain the quality of neighborhoods. Miranda also is a strong advocate for open government and for public involvement in the decision-making process.

Hoyt Prindle, a 38-year-old attorney, describes himself as a fresh voice with new energy, and his service on area transportation advisory boards gives him a firm grip on Tampa’s challenges in expanding mobility options. Prindle has creative ideas for making neighborhoods more livable, and he is solidly grounded on a range of issues, from housing to community policing.

Rick Fifer, a 61-year-old Realtor, wants to make Tampa safer for pedestrians and stop the city’s proposal to redirect treated wastewater for other uses. He also favors new public-private partnerships to improve transportation and stronger powers for Tampa’s police oversight board. Tyler Barrett, who’s organized for progressive causes, has sensible ideas to expand housing and mixed-use neighborhoods. Nicole Payne, a 50-year-old mortgage loan officer, would address housing and job development.

Miranda, though, is more up to speed on the critical issues. He is legendary for following through on even the smallest problems that residents raise about city government. Miranda’s institutional history has helped keep councils and mayors on an even keel. And his humility and openness reflect well on local government.

The Tampa Bay Times recommends Charlie Miranda for Tampa City Council District 6.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.