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Bob Buckhorn


Material Information

Bob Buckhorn
Series Title:
Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman administration oral history project
Physical Description:
1 sound file (65 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Buckhorn, Bob
Kerstein, Robert J
University of South Florida Libraries -- Florida Studies Center. -- Oral History Program
University of South Florida -- Tampa Library
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Race relations -- Tampa (Fla.)   ( lcsh )
Tampa (Fla.)   ( lcsh )
Oral history   ( local )
Online audio   ( local )
Oral history.   ( local )
Online audio.   ( local )


During the tenure of Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman (1986-1995), Bob Buckhorn served as Special Assistant to the Mayor beginning in April of 1987 through the fall of 1994. He worked predominately as a liaison to the Tampa City Council and the Hillsborough County Commission. Much of his time was spent working on MacDill Air Force Base related issues. Mr. Buckhorn also discusses issues with the city's growth and the mayor's relationship with the media (the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times). The topic of race relations and Mayor Freedman's involvement with Tampa's African American community are also discussed. The interview ends with a discussion of Mr. Buckhorn's overall opinion of Mayor Freedman's tenure. There is also a brief mention of Mr. Buckhorn's time on the Tampa City Council from 1995 through 2003 and his current partnership with the national public affairs firm, the Dewey Square Group.
Interview conducted on May 13, 2005.
System Details:
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System Details:
Streaming audio.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Robert Kerstein.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 028545871
oclc - 180111285
usfldc doi - F50-00003
usfldc handle - f50.3
System ID:

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C O P Y R I G H T N O T I C E T h i s O r a l H i s t o r y i s c o p y r i g h t e d b y t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a L i b r a r i e s O r a l H i s t o r y P r o g r a m o n b e h a l f o f t h e B o a r d o f T r u s t e e s o f t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a C o p y r i g h t 2 0 0 7 U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d T h i s o r a l h i s t o r y m a y b e u s e d f o r r e s e a r c h i n s t r u c t i o n a n d p r i v a t e s t u d y u n d e r t h e p r o v i s i o n s o f t h e F a i r U s e F a i r U s e i s a p r o v i s i o n o f t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s C o p y r i g h t L a w ( U n i t e d S t a t e s C o d e T i t l e 1 7 s e c t i o n 1 0 7 ) w h i c h a l l o w s l i m i t e d u s e o f c o p y r i g h t e d m a t e r i a l s u n d e r c e r t a i n c o n d i t i o n s F a i r U s e l i m i t s t h e a m o u n t o f m a t e r i a l t h a t m a y b e u s e d F o r a l l o t h e r p e r m i s s i o n s a n d r e q u e s t s c o n t a c t t h e U N I V E R S I T Y O F S O U T H F L O R I D A L I B R A R I E S O R A L H I S T O R Y P R O G R A M a t t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a 4 2 0 2 E F o w l e r A v e n u e L I B 1 2 2 T a m p a F L 3 3 6 2 0


1 Sandy Freedman Oral History Project University of South Florida Interview with: Bob Buckhorn Interviewed by: Robert Kerstein Location: Unknown (Tampa, FL) Date: May 13, 2005 Transcribed by: Rebecca Willman Edited by: Robert Kerstein; Bob Buckhorn (09/06) Rebecca Willman (09/06/07) Audit Edit by: Cyrana Wyker (08/28/07) Final Edit by: Nicole Cox (09/20/07) [Tape 1, Side A] RK: This is an interview with Bob Buckhorn, a Special Assistant to Mayor Freedman during her entire administra tion. Thank you for speaking with me Bob. BB: Sure. BB: Yeah. RK: When did you move to Tampa? BB: 1982. RK: 1982. From where? BB: From Falls Church, Virginia. RK: And tha BB: Yes sir, yeah. RK: And I know you went to Penn State University, my alma mater. BB: Yes. Your Alma Mater! RK: And why did you move to Tampa? BB: I had been selected for Aviation Officer Candidate School, which is a precursor to to get your commission before you start flight school. And when I got down to Pensacola, which is where Naval Aviation Officer


2 Candidate is, I was diagnosed as having a degeneration in one of my corneas, a nd was discharged. And I had a fraternity brother who lived in Tampa, and drove from Pensacola w it began. RK: When did you first meet Sandy Freedman? BB: I met Sandy almost immediately after I got down here. I started volunteering in political campaigns. My degree is in Political Science. And I met Pat Frank, who was a state senator at the time t hrough the John Glenn presidential effort in 1984 introduced me to Sandy Freedman, and Sandy was contemplating running for mayor at the time she was chairman of the City Council. And for two years, pretty much from Sandy and I just traveled around the city, you know, getting I was single at the time, was always available, and so whenever she needed someone to go with her to an event or to a function, I would go. And i n 1985, I started working for the Builders Association of Greater Tampa as their Director of Governmental Affairs was with Sandy during that whole time. And then Sandy became the Mayor in July of 1986, when Bob Martinez went to assume the or to run for Governor. She was Chairman of the City Council and took over at the time, and I stayed on with the Builders until I think December of 1986, at which point I left to help coordinate the campaign. RK: Were you the campaign manager? BB: She was fu was that somebody else was the manager of the campaign. She wanted to be the manager of her own campaign. So I think my title was Campaign Coordinator. RK: You ran a campaign for mayor in a medium sized city that is relatively diverse. Do you remember what your general strategy was? BB: Well, I think based on her history, her relationships, the polling data that we had at the time, she enjoyed tremendous support in a couple of the key gr oups. And if you assume that the City of Tampa is primarily a three American community, and in West Tampa, which is predominately Hispanic. Did very well as well in the Anglo community, but those were really strong numbers for her. So obviously the strategy was, first and foremost, raise the money, which she did very successfully from the business community. And then focus on the neighborhoods and the grassroots side of it, which tended to be in African American and Hispanic neighborhoods. And so we sort of built that three legged stool. She enjoyed support across the board, from every segment, but the numbers in those two communit ies were particularly strong.


3 RK: You know why she had that response from BB: Well, I think she had a history of always standing up for the little guy. I think that was sort of what people knew her for. She took some tough stands during the course of h er City Council career that involved issues that were important to the African American community. She was very, very active in terms of neighborhood empowerment actually the whole trend that we see now towards empowering neighborhoods and civic associatio ns and giving folks a voice at City Council were really things that she was at the forefront of. And as a result of that there was a wellspring of affection for her out there. I mean in addition to the community that she grew up in, which was predominate ly white, South Tampa. She was a tennis star growing up; her family was very, very well known. Her, her dad had a store on Franklin Street Mall. Obviously within the Jewish community her family was very, very popular and so it was a wonderful chance to hav e a candidate that was universally liked. [The] business community rallied behind her. She was the clear frontrunner. She had little difficulty raising the money that it took to be competitive. I think we ended up raising close to half a million dollars. RK: Was it true that that was considerably more than in the previous races? BB: Yes, it was, it was. I think probably the highest was Bob Martinez before that, and his was probably two or three hundred thousand. I mean, he could have done more in his re e community, particularly after Bruce Sampson decided not to run, saw her as a clear frontrunner with very little alternatives. And so they rallied behind her, as you know, as the business community tends to do. RK: Who would you say were the major figures in the business community in Tampa at that point? BB: Oh, I would say folks like Hinks and Jim Shimberg, Jack Wilson. The Levys Dick Beard. You know at the time, the de velopment community was really starting to take its place in this town. Because the economy was booming, downtown was coming alive. So developers tended to be at the forefront of political givers and folks who were making things happen. People like Joe Tag gart there were a number of other folks who have moved on since then. But it was predominately developers that were the face of the Tampa Business Community. In addition to some of the old, the old I say the old guard: Parke Wright and the Lykes family St ella Thayer, Bronson Thayer H. L. Culbreath who was Tampa President of Tampa Electric at the time. You know, Jim Ferman obviously. So there were the existing business cadre in addition to the new blood that was predominately the development community ten ded to be the folks that pretty much wrote the checks and made the decisions.


4 RK: And were they involved in any particular organization that kind of mobilized them, for example, the Chamber of BB: Yeah, I mean, not that mobilized them necessarily, they were small enough at the time that they all knew each other, they all interacted with each other, they all socialized with each other. So they knew what each other were doing. There was no group that channeled the energy of the business community. The Cha mber was fairly powerful because it was made up of a lot of the largest employers, some of whom have ceased to exist at this particular time, but they all knew each other. It was a small circle. I mean it se. They were all white, all male, for the most parts. And it was a small group. RK: Did they belong to certain clubs? BB: Oh, sure. I mean, you know, it was the predictable: the Tampa Yacht Club, Krewe Gasparilla, Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club, Univ ersity Club. Those were the four. RK: And at that point did most live in South Tampa? Tampa, with maybe a scattering of two in Carrollwood or Avila. But by and large i t was all South Tampa. RK: Did you know many of these people because you had been with the Home Builders? BB: I knew a lot of the Home Builders. You know, the Bobby Suarezes, and the Jack Suarezes of the world. The Shimbergs obviously, who had built an awful lot of homes in this community. But most of the commercial developers, the guys who were putting up the towers downtown for example, were not members of the Builders Association. Because the Builders Association tended to be homebuilders, and then su ppliers of homebuilders. You know the engineerins were all part of it, but not necessarily the Dick Beards of the world, or the Mike Hogans, or Ron Moore, who is deceased now, or Joe Taggart. RK: Did Sandy Freedman already know these people? BB: Yes, y known them you know, they had appeared before her on City Council. Obviously the Shimbergs and the Freedmans have been friends for decades. RK: So she won the election relative ly easily, is that fair to say? BB: Yeah, I think the margin was about 75%, 74%. There were five opponents four five opponents. The strongest of which was probably a former City Councilmen named Helen Chavez. Also there was a former City Councilmen, Charl ie Spicola, in the race. And then there were two minor candidates. One of which was Faye Culp who went on to


5 win a few elections. There was another young man in the mix too. But yeah, she you know, we put together a great coalition, we ran a good campaign. This was probably the first campaign that outside consultants had really been a part of in terms of doing the TV, the polling, the mail. It was really a well run campaign. She was a great candidate. She got the endorsement of all the newspapers. At the time, one of the key things that probably synergized her or coalesced the support was, there were some racial disturbances in I believe it was early 1987. It was December or January of 1987, and the election was in March. Where she really went out and took charge. She had credibility in the African American community that gave her standing, if you will, to help to diffuse the situations. What triggered it was a number of incidents that involved white police officers with young African American males. I thin k two or three of which died while in the custody of the police. Some of which had to do with natural causes, and things like that. But it was a very, very tense time. And there were a number of civil disturbances in the College Hill area that required a l ot of police attention. It was a huge media event. It went on for a couple of nights. And throughout it all, I mean, I think Sandy demonstrated the type of leadership that she demonstrated throughout her career. And I think that sort of cemented that victo ry. RK: When you were appointed Special Assistant to the mayor? BB: Almost immediately after Sandy was elected. I think I started April 1 st of 1987. RK: What were your primary responsibilities? BB: I did a number of things. One, sort of served as th e liaison to other local jurisdictions. Predominately the City Council and also the County Commission. [I] was really there for her in whatever capacity she needed. Because I had been with her for two years prior to that, I was probably the one person that knew, obviously, who had been helpful during the campaign, who her friends were, where what commitments she had made on the campaign trail, and [I] was familiar with why she was running and the platform on which she was running. Because I had been there, I mean, everyday, for ten hours a day, twelve hours a day. So a lot of the people that needed access to her, or wanted to get messages to her, or wanted her ear, would call me. Just because you know, they knew me from the campaign and knew my relationshi p with her. I ended up spending a lot of time focusing on economic development efforts, interacting with the Chamber of Commerce, interacting with neighborhoods. As it evolved, I ended up spending probably a vast majority of three or four years working on MacDill Air Force Base and MacDill related the closure, the potential closure of MacDill Air Force Base. So it really varied from day to day. I was, for a lack of a better term, an ambassador without a specific portfolio. But you know, the mission changed literally every five minutes depending on what she needed done.


6 RK: How would you characterize the relationship of the mayor with the City Council during her first term? People always speak of Tampa as having a strong mayor system, but obviously the counc il plays a role in land use decisions. How would you ? nature of the relationship Our charter calls for a very, very strong mayoral form of government. City Council is cast with approving a budget, land use, zoning, alcoholic beverage permits. City Council is not involved in day to day operations of the city the hiring and firing of e mployees, nor in the setting of policy. people tend to do, they want to interjec t themselves often times into the administrative every City Council. So for the most part they were very, very supportive. I mean she got virtually all of her agenda pass ed through City Council. She had some great friends there who were supportive. You know, she had the usual one or two antagonists, one of whom subsequently ran against her in 1991. But by and large, she was immensely popular with them and with the public, and got Council. Maybe with the exception of an effort to privatize fire inspection, which ended up not, not getting approved, but other than that I think she was tremendously successful. RK: Who was the Cit y Councilperson who ran against her? BB: Larry Smith. And remember most of the council members she had either served with or had very long term relationships with. I mean Ronnie Mason came in with her. You r] probably thirty years. Perry Harvey had been you know she had served with Perry Harvey on City Council. You had Tom Vann, first term; you had Lee Duncan who she had served with. Gosh, my memory is going to be tested here. I forget Linda Saul Sena, who h ad been a friend of hers. So I mean it was a very supportive council by and large. RK: Is there any way you can rate top two or three priorities when Mayor Freedman first took office? not of her making. Often times mayors end up certainly as the first order of business, dealing with what and went to run for Governor, there was a significant amoun t of debt that was left over. He had bonded an awful lot of revenues in order to build things like the Convention Center, and Performing Arts Center and some other things. So the first order of business was to get the fiscal house in shape. I mean when sh e took office, the city was significantly in debt the Convention Center was not yet constructed Governor Martinez had acquired the land at a very, very


7 exorbitant price. There was a significant debate internally, about whether or not we should proceed with that building. And in the long run, what was decided was that they had already spent too much for the land, there was no going back on that, and for them to cancel the project would have meant that they would have lost a significant amount of money on the land. So she went forward with that. That was a big, big project that was sitting out there. You obviously had the race relations issue, which took up an awful lot of time in the beginning. And then you had just the normal even though she had served on Ci ty Council, I mean, I can tell you that there is still a significant amount of learning that goes on when you assume a strong executive role as opposed to a legislative role. So you know, just getting used to the players and the individuals and being in ch arge and spent on City Council, you know, took up probably you know, most of your first year is just getting accustomed to being in charge. RK: Regarding the Conventi on Center, you had mentioned some major business ventures in Tampa. Did one or more of them get involved in that issue in other words, wanted to go ahead with the Convention Center or not? BB: Yeah, well, actually there was a great debate about that beca use at the time, there were a lot of folks in the business community who thought it was built on the wrong site. They had wanted built on the other side of the Cross Town [Expressway] which would have allowed for expansion, which in hindsight was correct. I mean, when Governor Martinez made the decision to build it where he did, he had in effect land locked it, and prohibited any significant expansion forever. There were a lot of people who thought that was a much more valuable piece for commercial property Either a hotel or you know, an office tower, given its position on the waterfront, as opposed to a Convention Center. And so yeah, the business community was split on that. But you know once the decision was made and the land was acquired, there was real ly no looking back. And so at that point, it became the job of the Mayor to get it done on time and under budget, which she did. RK: And did the business community urge her to go ahead with it? BB: Oh yeah, yeah. I mean at that point it was too late. Ye ah. It was too late. Then in it is land locked community. RK: You mentioned that y ou served as liaison, at least informally with the Chamber of Commerce, is that correct? BB: Yes. RK: How would you characterize their policy orientation? Did they, in other words want, your administration to go in any particular directions? Did they ad vocate certain policies?


8 BB: No, not necessarily. I mean the Chamber by and large is you know the Chamber to take an active role as a proponent of business because they are wedded to public tax dollars. Currently, the Chamber gets about $700,000 from the city and the county, which makes up probably a third of their entire budget. So they are not particularly aggressive about articulating policies that would cause problems with local jurisdictions. So what you see more of is the Chamber d esirous of particularly the great at. She would go anywhere, anytime they needed her to recruit businesses to come here. RK: Now the Chamber wants business in this area, outside Hillsborough County BB: No. BB: Tampa Bay Partnership does but not the Chamber. RK: Okay. One would think that the mayor would primarily want businesses to locate in this City of Tampa as opposed to the county. Was that the case or did she have more of a parochial focus? BB: Yeah, I think she had great and very easy to be parochial. great to be parochial. But you quickl y recognize that even if a, a company has relocated to say Temple Terrace or the county, you know, and so w e all benefit from the type of development that we were trying to attract. So sure, yeah, we would love to have it all downtown, you know. In hindsight, you know, Westshore never should have been allowed to grow the way it did, and that those industries an d companies should have been induced to come to downtown. But all that being said, a job is a job is a job, and we all benefit from that kind of growth. So, I mean she was less parochial about it than some mayors might have been. RK: And what about the re lationships between the city and [pause] BB: County Commissioners? RK: County Commissioners. to say strained, but you have competing interests. You have a boar d of County Commissioners that really is, is leaderless and powerless by comparison to the mayor. Wherein the Mayor The Mayor of Tampa has always been the titular head of basically the Bay area the most recognized politician. The County Commission, because


9 a weak form of government, is often times looked up and sometimes, rightfully so, feels, as if they are county city clash over funding, over infrastructure, over over turf, over power, procedure or we got stuff done. It was just painful sometimes. But that happens you k now, I mean, I lived through it, I mean, it RK: Can you give your best, or one example of having to work with County Commission? ultimately resolved. That, what it got down to was a lot of little issues that sort of added up to a frustration level. And it could be issues regarding tax increment financing, where the county has to sign off on, on our ability to implemen t a tax increment in a financing district. So it was little stuff like that that ended up but it was never, you know, painful going through the process. RK: I think you played a major role in the hockey arena issue BB: Well, not as big as some others, I mean there were others that were much more involved than I was. RK: Okay. I was wondering if that was an example of the city and the mayor having to work with the County Commission. BB: Yeah, that was, that was a great example of it working. I mean Ed Turanchik took the leadership role at the county on that particular deal and did a wonderful job. But you know it was the city helping to acquire the land, it was t he city working with the downtown partnership and the banks to pull that deal together. I mean, I was not that particularly involved in, in it by comparison to say, Bob Harrell, in particular. But yeah, that was an example of the county and city working t ogether. RK: What about annexations? Were there any tensions over city annexations for land? BB: Always, always. You know at the time the county was less urban than it is now, and probably less prepared to provide the services. So when Ken Goode and the folks at now remember it was all vacant land, there was nobody living there but cows he kinds of the issues that inherently cause problems between cities and counties. I mean, and they will continue to cause problems for as long as there is two separate jurisdictions. Most of the developers found the city easier to do business with, and I think that was because the city has one strong executive who is in charge who could say yes or no, and then back that up.


10 The permitting process in the city was easier to get through. We tended to be much more pro development, pro growth. Because what, a s a mayor, you realize very quickly is if rate of decline of urban infrastructure and urban housing stock. So in order to, to basically subsidize the urban core, who demands a tremendous amount of services: police, fire, you know, EMS making a tremendous mistake. And so that clash always happens and will continue to happen. RK: But did some however in the development community feel your administration growth enough? BB: Sure, yeah we could have done a much better job cleaning up the permitting process. To developers, million dollar loan, every day that goes by, you pay interest on it. So the interest carried translates to your ability to make money. Our permitting process at the time was a disaster. And we should have, and could have done a better job eliminating the antiquated regulations, making the permitting process more user friendly, trying to find ways to say yes as opposed to finding ways to put hurdles in front of people. I mean, Sandy was very cautious with the public money and the tax money. And developers often times will take a run at the city in hopes of g etting some incentives or concessions from the city that inevitably means the taxpayers pay. She was very fiscally conservative on that. And would not endorse, nor would participate in development projects that she thought were risky, or fraught with poten tial disaster for the taxpayers. business, not pro development. We could have done some stuff to make that to change eah, there were some who, to this day, business development pro business mayor. RK: And as far as and you had impact fees increase. BB: Well, impact fees just came to fruition. 1986, statewide. They just came to fruition. So you started to see municipalities all over the country starting to impose impact fees which had never been done before, which caused a huge uproar amongst the development community. She happened to be there at the time, and did impose impact fees. It was the right thing to do. But it did help in terms of the business community perceiving her as being anti development. You know and I think one of the probably the mistakes that we made early on was in


11 And what it meant was, all of the g reat things that make this a wonderful place to live we need to retain. You know, the quality of life, protecting the environment, the diversity. The somewhat small town feel to this city. some to mean, was reverberated for a lot of years. RK: Do you remember who interpreted it that way? BB: A lot you know some of the developers. You know, and obviously some people get selective amnesia or selective enhancement of their memories over time. But you know, certainly some of the RK: How would you characterize the relationship with the Freedman administration with the media? Tribune St. Pete Times BB: I think, I think by and large, it was pretty good. Certainly with the rank and file reporters that covered City Hall [End Tape 1, Side A] ____ [Tape 1, Side B] RK: Administration and the media? BB: I think with the rank and file reporters that covered City Hall it was good. You know, Sandy was a very, competitive, very direct indivi dual, particularly as politicians people speaking for her, which took us a while to get her accustomed to the fact that you g every crazy question all the time that that is what we were for, as staff. Her relationship with the Editorial Boards, I mean, St. Pete Times was not really a factor over here at that point. During the first couple of years you know they became a facto r down the road, as they grew and expanded into Hillsborough County. So it was predominately the Tribune And the Tribune Editorial Board specifically. In hindsight we o ut to them, and because it was just not her nature. And so she could get pretty combative at times. When Doyle Harvill took over as the Editor of the newspaper she and Doyle were like oil and water. And so I think that was reflected in some of the coverage that we saw during his time there. Much more vicious, much more critical. Which also tended to sour her on her relationship with the Editorial Board. But by and large, you know, every politician is sensitive to criticism. I think, you know, in the long ru n, she did


12 RK: Can you think of any specific issues where the paper was critical? really thin k about it to But you know they had come off of Mayor Martinez, who was there during a time of great prosperity for the city. The city was just sort of taking on its Nes bit quote. And so the Editorial Board at the time was very much supportive of that, almost a cheerleader for the Martinez administration. You know, the economy tanked after Governor Martinez left, it was a much more difficult town to govern. Much tougher decisions had to be made. And as a result of that, the criticism the coverage was probably much more critical. RK: What was your biggest challenge in your position? BB: I think probably ensuring that, you know the relationships that we had in the comm unity, and the strengths that she brought to the table were maintained. And that those folks were cultivated, that they were involved, that we never lost sight of who brought us to the dance, if you will. And that you know, the face of the administration w as very much positive, pro Tampa, pro growth, you know, pro progress. So it was, you know, again it was I was sort of the jack of all trades. BB: Yeah. RK: How had things changed in terms of Hispanics? BB: Ob viously we had a record to run on. You know, during the course of the first four years there had been some decisions made that had made people angry, particularly the me mber, as well as a fellow who ended up going to jail, Charles Eatson. But the race was not necessarily competitive, but at the same time, particularly, the police department at the time, and the police union, really made an effort to try and do some damage I mean, she won overwhelmingly. I mean, the margin was in the early in the mid 70s I think, low 70s. So it was clearly a mandate. But any incumbent has to run on a record. And any people mad over time. But most of the base that elected her the coalition that elected her for the RK: Who was the City Councilperson? BB: Larry Smith. I mean, who was n ot mayoral material. Not ever remotely close. He was, he had been a thorn in her side for the entire four years that he had been there. He sort of fancied himself a populist, but unfortunately he had no population following him.


13 But you know, we had to def end a record, and she did, and she won overwhelmingly. You know, and just got ready for the next four years. RK: Why were the police critical? BB: During the one of the things that she had to do a number of things that she had to do in order to restore to sort of, balance the budget and bring us from a deficit to positive cash flow. And in doing so there were a number of personnel decisions that she had to make that affected the police department. The most controversial thing that she did, and probably in hindsight regrets, was she took away house his or her house. Obviously it cost the city gas, insurance, wear and tear on the vehicles, etc., etc. The decision that was made, and again in hindsight, the lesson learned i n order to save, I think it was about a million bucks, they needed to end that take home car policy. Which forced the officers to buy personal cars. Which created a huge, huge uproar, that soured any relationship that she had with rank and file Police Unio n, forever. Forever even to this day that relationship is not, not good. There were some other decisions involving the police department surrounding a policy the time, which was in very heightened state, there had been a number of examples where police officers had used racial epitaphs aimed predominately at African Americans. She passed policy that said, you will be fired if you say these things Which obviously ever say never contemplated saying it, but So there were a whole series of events that sort of just destroyed that relationship that she had with the police dep artment. You know and it led to you know, four tough years in negotiating with them. And you, led them to endorse her opponent in the run off or in RK: And what about the firefighters? Were the relationships there better? BB: They were better, they had a fire chief at the time who was universally disliked by rank and file. He was a competent administrator but his people skills were terrible. And as a result of that rank and file Firefighters really did not like him and blamed her for not getting rid of him. RK: Had he been, been in prior to her? I mean, [he] instituted a number of wonderful things in the department professionalized it and he did some things, but was just not liked by rank and file Firefighters. So they that festered for a number of years, and they never forgave her for not getting rid of him.


14 And all this came to fruition in her congressional race, when they all came out and worked ve ry hard against her to elect a relatively unknown Jim Davis. Who ended up winning in the run off. But a lot of that was people that were getting pay back. RK: That was firefighters and police officers? BB: Uh huh, yeah. RK: Prior to the second electi on, you had the conference involving the Super Bowl, the Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla. Were you involved in ? BB: Yeah, I mean, I was involved in everything. RK: And how do you interpret all that went on involving the Super Bowl and Mystic Krewe? BB: Well going through an awful lot of growing pains. We were going from a small, Southern city to potentially a national player. And you know, under the harsh glare of the national spotl ight and that and that maturing process, there were a lot of fault lines in the city that were exposed. One of which was the state of race relations. I think when Sandy goes down in history, I think she will be judged much more kindly in the long term sche me of things than she has in the short term. I mean her focus throughout her political career has always been on the human infrastructure, the human capital as opposed to bricks and water. And near and dear to her heart was obviously her relationship with the African American community. But more importantly, the state of the African American community and the desire for the economic progress of this community has achieved to affect everybody, and to empower everybody and to benefit everybody. And so you ba sically had a city that was controlled by white males, from the Chamber of Commerce to private clubs, to you African American, predominately. Hispanics were a little b it different because of the immigration going back 100 years, the intermarrying were much more incorporated into the fabric of this city. African Americans were not. I mean, Hispanics had you know, elected mayors, they had elected you know they were runnin g companies, they were CEOs, they were intermarried into you know, community members of Gasparilla, they had their own Krewes, they had everything. So the Super Bowl really exposed that fault line of racial fference. Such that we very clearly recognized that we needed to do something about it. And it meant more than just the Krewe. The Krewe just happened to be the most symbolic example of how far this community had to go. But looking at the Chamber of Comm erce which had little if any black representation on the board of Governors to any of the University Club, the Palma Ceia, Tampa Yacht Club, it was a problem symbolically and substantively substantively, it was a problem. Super Bowl brought


15 that to light a nd there were a number of folks in the African American community who drew literally, the line in the sand and said, you know this has got to stop. I mean if we are a part of this community, we deserve to participate and we deserve to reap some of the bene fits And that became a huge issue during the course of the preparation for the Super Bowl, in which public money is expended to put on a parade, that is hosted by, at the time, an all white, all male group. And for some of the members of the leadership, t he African American community, they felt that that was not appropriate, and demanded change. And so you had this huge the role of the Krewe of Gasparilla, about the need for integration, but the larger is sue was making sure that everyone had a seat at the table, particularly African Americans. So you know, we went through a whole host of efforts to try and rectify that as best, you know, as any politician can. The end result was not particularly pretty. Th e Krewe pulled out of the parade for the first time in its history because it did not want to be forced to integrate. I mean it subsequently has, they did the right thing. A substitute parade was put on, and you know in hindsight, was a disaster. But out of that came a an agenda for inclusion I think was the name of it, that really set in motion, particularly on the part of the Chamber of Commerce and the business so what you saw was significantly more representation at the Chamber of Commerce on the board of Governors, by African Americans. We as an administration had always made it a point in appointments that we had [to make sure] that those appointments reflected the diversity of this city. I mean that was a hallmark of ours. But others needed to do the same thing. And so, you know, appointments to committees and you know, whatever, charitable things, United Way, needed to reflect this community. And I think Sand been some back sliding since then. But she was the mayor that did that. And when you do that, yo u often times make people mad. You rattle them out of their comfort zone. And clearly in some segments of the community, that bothered people. I mean you had [a] Jewish woman mayor, sort of imposing her value set which happened to be the correct one on fol ks that would perhaps not choose to do it of their own volition. And so it, you know, it bothered a lot of people, and for some, again, these are some of the decisions that they never forgave her for. RK: Was the appointment of the first African American Police Chief, Mr. Holder, a response to the controversy over the Krewe? BB: Well, no, I think that was just Sandy being Sandy. I mean, I think Sandy recognized that particularly in our public safety areas, that we needed to reflect a community that we p atrolled and served. Bennie Holder was qualified for the job, he was the best it was in keeping with her philosophy, and so she did it. And I mean, you know, she


16 make a political statement. RK: And what about the WMBE program, was th at an initiative of the administration or is that City Council? I mean, if we were asking others to do this, then we need to do it as well. And so, you know, African American people and Hispanic folks pay taxes just like you and I do, and they deserve the same opportunity to reap some of the benefits, particularly from public contracts. And makes sure that everybody has a chance to participate and share. And so, yeah, we were Women and Mino rity Business Enterprises we were aggressive about finding qualified African Americans and Hispanics and women to serve on boards and appointments. I mean, if you look at ted more women and minorities than any mayor and I mean any mayor. You know, whether it was Pam Aiken being appointed the City Attorney or Bennie Holder as Police Chief, you name it. And what she also did was and this goes to the long term benefits is, try and grow, within the city staff, a for lack of a better term, a minority middle class. So that when she was gone, they would be able to move into positions of leadership and eventually assume department chairs and things like that. So, you know, she was s RK: On a different topic, did the administration support historic preservation? mething she believed in and did what she could. I mean, a great example was the Lykes Building. Which ended up getting torn down, like the day Mayor Greco took over. But you know, it was not something we spent a great deal of time worried about, because th ere were other more pressing things that we ended up having to deal with, but yeah, she believed in it. BB: Tampa Theatre, she helped to restore. RK: I was wondering if a conflict with the Lykes business over the historic pr eservation effort to keep their buildings from being knocked down, was a clear example of tension between the mayor and the business BB: Sure. Well, I mean, when it was all said and done, accumulation of eight years of decisions, for some segments of the community were problematic. For some in the business community or in the in the white community it all sort of came together in this anti business, social liberal [way] that they found unattractive. You know, and again


17 it played to some of the police depa know, the no racial slur policy, the increase in minority hiring. I mean all that for some folks came together in an unholy mix that a lot of them went out and supported others when they got an opportunit y against her. Particularly [inaudible]. RK: She focused on neighborhood empowerment to some extent. You mentioned that early on in our discussion BB: Yes. RK: Did you get involved in any of those efforts? BB: Yes, yes. RK: And how would you charact erize them? What sticks out in your mind? BB: Well, I think, for the first time, we had an administration or she had administration that clearly recognized and paid more than lip service to the fact that neighborhoods are the building blocks to any great what downtown looks like, because ultimately people go home at a night to a restoring, empowering, [and] engaging neighborhoods was a no brainer. That to me was one of the hallmarks of her administration. [Which] was that these neighborhoods, if engaged, would help this community move forward in a very, very positive way. r some politicians, you know, an advocacy engaging them to get hookers of f Nebraska Avenue, or lobbying City Council for storm water improvements I mean, whatever it may be, they can be a force for good. And given enough attention, and given enough resources, they can shape their own destiny and city government will have to do less of it. So what you see now, which is a city with probably 60 or 70 neighborhood associations; I mean when we started, we had maybe ten. And she grew that, she grew that. She trained neighborhood leaders, we set up a neighborhood liaison, Steve LaBour, whose job was to do nothing but help neighborhoods be successful. We institutionalized it so that no mayor could dismantle it large what affects them the most. Some because they often times saw neighborhoods as a built in opposition group to whatever they wanted to do. So you know, her you know, again, you ended up having a by empowering neighborhoods you alienated the b usiness community to some degree. And so then further reinforced in the minds of them that you know, Freedman was anti business, anti growth, anti development, anti whatever. But again, you know, going back to her legacy of human capital that plays right a long there with it. And going in and rebuilding these


18 neighborhoods and out of that came her emphasis on affordable housing, which she became recognized as one of the leaders in the country. And the program that she created was recognized by President Cli nton and Vice President Gore, as one of the finest and a role model for other cities all over the country. I mean that all was part of empowering subsequent years, but I think that probably, that housing program and that neighborhood empowerment, in terms of tangible accomplishments, was probably the best thing that she did when she was here. RK: Was this perspective at all influenced by, or at least compatible with any nati onal movement during the time you were in office, whether it be a neighborhood organization movement, or anything with the Democratic Party? politician. She was a Democ rat, she was proud of being a Democrat, she stood for much city. And so she was very practical in terms of the application of power, she was very fiscally conservative, probably socially liberal, whether it was on things like Human Rights ordinances or race relations or things that tend to that people tend to tie to the Democratic Party. But I, you know, I think she was more concerned about running an efficient city about reinventing the way we do business I think if anybody or any movement helped sway with her, it was more David Osborne talking about laboratories of Democracy and reinventing government at the local level than it was, you know, the Democratic Party. I mean, you know, she did her thing as the trains run on time, which is what people hired her to do. RK: Did she support any one Presidential race? BB: Yeah, she was in 1987, she supported Dick Gephardt. And then in 1992, she was one of the first mayors to come out publicly for Clinton. [She] came out for Clinton at the elections, and worked very hard on his behalf, raised a lot of money for him. You know, still to this day, friendly with him, and you know, she very much believed in his administration and what he was trying to do. some extent, how would you place the Freedman administration between the Martinez administration on one hand, and then Gre co on the other? BB: I mean, all three of them were accomplished mayors in their own right, [with] very and this is somewhat painful to say, but it seems as though that the voters tend to elect the right mayor for the right time. And you know, Martinez came at a time when the city was starting to emerge as a second tier city. And he brought the rights and when I say


19 York, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Washington, DC. We were competing with emerging, predominately sun belt cities in the south and the west. He [Martinez] was a t, he served at a time when the economy was booming, when development was just starting to take off here the first of time of great prosperity, which sort of set T ampa on the map. and properties being turned over to the banks. The development in dustry, which fueled, lost their jobs, a lot of people lost an awful lot of money. You had a city that was wrecked by race relations, issues. You had a city that was to so me degree left in a great deal of debt, and so it required a different skill set. She was followed by Greco, who came in at a time when the economy was just starting to pick up conv inced in about six years, any mayor wears out their welcome, just because the nature of your relationship with the people that you govern in, and the types of decisions you an, he was absolutely hands off of the administration. But the economy allowed him the economy and his very pervasive, charismatic attitude allowed him to really capitalize on that, and you know, instill a new sense of optimism, particularly amongst the bu siness community. You know, he neglected the neighborhoods and neglected the human issues, but from a business perspective, Tampa was booming. I mean, most of that was out of his control because the economy was booming. But I mean, as a mayor, timing is ev erything. And you are either the beneficiary or the recipient of the larger economic cycles. And And so huge stylistic differences, and substantive differences between all of the mayors, but you kn what they did because they did a lot of good thin gs. RK: As far as how people perceived the different administrations, was the fact that Mayor Freedman was a woman is a woman did that in itself make a difference for some? BB: Oh sure, yeah. There were some people who never got over the fact that we ele cted a five know, but a lot of it a lot of perceptions of mayors in the short term are base d on the concrete


20 [End Tape 1, Side B] [Tape 2, Side A] responses to her BB: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think to some degree there have always been biases. I think for the vas t, vast majority of people in the community that was not an issue, and for a great many of them it was an asset. I mean she brought a different sensitivity and having worked and served with women, they bring in a different perspective to political discussi good thing, by and large. But you know, its you know, she was the first woman that we had ever elected mayor here, so you know, she had to deal with that, and she did. I me an, BB: She was active with Athena early in her career. I think the League of Women Voters re you had a lot of the high powered, professional women her peers if you will, her support group. But you know, Sandy Sandy was extremely confident and prepared to be mayor. She RK: Now on e final question. Can you just catch us up on what you have done since you left the administration? BB: I left in probably the fall of 1994. She was finished in, what, April 1, 1995 was when the new mayor took office. I think I left about maybe, November December. [I] ran for Tampa City Council, was elected citywide, 1995, served four years, was reelected 1999. Ran for mayor in 2003 and was not successful. [I] joined the Dewey Square Group as a partner here, which is a public affairs firm, a national pu RK: Thank you very, very much for speaking with me Bob. BB: Yeah, sure. Happy to do it, Bob.

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Buckhorn, Bob.
Bob Buckhorn
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Robert Kerstein.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (65 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman administration oral history project
Interview conducted on May 13, 2005.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Streaming audio.
During the tenure of Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman (1986-1995), Bob Buckhorn served as Special Assistant to the Mayor beginning in April of 1987 through the fall of 1994. He worked predominately as a liaison to the Tampa City Council and the Hillsborough County Commission. Much of his time was spent working on MacDill Air Force Base related issues. Mr. Buckhorn also discusses issues with the city's growth and the mayor's relationship with the media (the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times). The topic of race relations and Mayor Freedman's involvement with Tampa's African American community are also discussed. The interview ends with a discussion of Mr. Buckhorn's overall opinion of Mayor Freedman's tenure. There is also a brief mention of Mr. Buckhorn's time on the Tampa City Council from 1995 through 2003 and his current partnership with the national public affairs firm, the Dewey Square Group.
Buckhorn, Bob.
Freedman, Sandy.
2 610
Tampa (Fla.)
Office of the Mayor.
Tampa (Fla.)
x Race relations.
Tampa (Fla.)
7 655
Oral history.
Online audio.
Kerstein, Robert J.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
Tampa Library.
4 856