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Bob Harrell


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Bob Harrell
Series Title:
Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman administration oral history project
Physical Description:
1 sound file (93 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Harrell, 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:
City planning -- Florida -- Tampa   ( lcsh )
Water conservation -- Florida -- Tampa   ( lcsh )
Tampa (Fla.)   ( lcsh )
Oral history   ( local )
Online audio   ( local )
Oral history.   ( local )
Online audio.   ( local )
interview   ( marcgt )


During the tenure of Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman (1986-1995), Bob Harrell initially served as the mayor's Director of Business and Community Services and he later served as the city's Director of Finance. The interview begins with a discussion of Mr. Harrell's education and graduate internship with the City of Tampa in 1974. He then began working for the city in 1975. Mr. Harrell discusses changes to the city's zoning and subdivision codes under the Freedman administration. There is also a discussion of the city's first water conservation ordinance that was implemented during the Freedman administration. Mr. Harrell also talks about the Lykes family, historic preservation, transportation impact fees, and downtown redevelopment. The interview ends with a discussion of Mayor Freedman's leadership style and her administration's focus on the common citizen and the development of the Office of Neighborhood Relations.
Interview conducted on January 10, 2006 in Tampa, Florida.
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 - 028546000
oclc - 180112258
usfldc doi - F50-00009
usfldc handle - f50.9
System ID:

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1 Sandy Freedman Oral History Project University of South Florida Interview with: Bob Harrell Interviewed by: Robert Kerstein Location: Lazydays RV Super Center (Tampa, FL) Date: January 10, 2006 Transcribed by: Rebecca Willman Au dit edited by: Rachel Lisi (2/12/07) Final Edit by: Nicole Cox (09/18/07) [Tape 1, Side A] RK: No, because everything you say is for history. RK: And everyone knows that you would want everything for history anyhow. BH: Right. Lazy Days BH: RV Super C enter! BH: My pleasure. RK: Can I ask a little bit about your personal background? mother never found germane to your question. I was born in the, on the East Coast the Atlantic coast of Florida in Fort Pierce. Went through school there, went to the Community College there; went to the University of Florida in Gainesville, as a junior. Got an undergraduate degree in Political Science. [I] in state and local government. I did an internship whi le I was in graduate school with the City Government of Tampa in Personnel.


2 RK: When was that about, roughly? BH: Seventy started working for the City of Tampa in 1975. And other th an a couple of time outs that I took, [I] worked for the City of Tampa, boy, almost the whole time through the Freedman administration. Worked in personnel initially; from personnel I went to a rather odd duck organization called Administrative Services, I was the manger there and had insurance claims, safety, risk management, printing, mail, telecommunications, building maintenance, and a bunch of other odd stuff that nobody wanted to deal with which was great fun. I think I was 29 years old and because of the, that was when insurance prices were starting to go through the roof, we had big budget for that period that was over 20 years ago. But our budget was over 12 million bucks a year and we had no adult supervision. It was a nice situation. RK: So initi ally sir, you were with the Poe administration is that correct? BH: Right. I was with the Poe administration, and then the Martinez administration, and the Freedman administration. I worked also after Mayor Freedman, I worked for Mayor Greco for a little over a year, and then for Mayor Iorio for about seven or eight months I guess. RK: What position did you hold during the Freedman administration? BH: Initially I was the Director of Business and Community Services. [I] was there for a little over six years of her her tenure was a little over eight years because she, she came into office and filled the unexpired term of Mayor Martinez when he resigned to run for another division that was responsible for land development regulations, subdivision of real property, developments of regional impact, zoning, and other land use r egulatory matters. Had a division that was responsible for code enforcement, vacant property standards, existing structural standards commercial and residential. Housing and commercial buildings, made sure they were kept in compliance with the minimum stan dards code. Had another division that was responsible for real estate, the acquisition and disposition of City of Tampa real property and real property interests if we were buying property for street, sidewalk, waterline, sewer line, some municipal facilit y of any sort, or disposing of property that we had that was surplus, all of that was went through that division. And we had a historic preservation component within the organization that came into, into play when Mayor Freedman was in office for the first passage of the first historic preservation ordinance. business friendly as perhaps earlier administrations. And I think some who would suggest this are in the business of building and developing. Were there changes in the codes or in implementation of the codes during the Freedman administration that some might of


3 interpreted as being not as business friendly? BH: Well, in terms of changes in the code, my e with that more. This mayor, Mayor Freedman brought into play a complete revision of the zoning code. It was just an antiquated mish mash of rather confusing, in some cases contradictory regulations. And she went through all of that, I mean that had start ed in, but without a lot of it very hard. We completely rewrote the subdivision code. Now keep in mind that during the prior administration, the City of Tampa had added hal f again to its land mass, with the north of the University of South Florida, and now goes all the way to the Pasco County line in some, some places. d much subdivision of real property because the, that other, what is now about two thirds of the city was pretty well built out, or at least subdivided if it vacant. It w as pasture land that was being developed into subdivisions. And our, we, our subdivision code, was just totally inadequate to deal with that that was completely rewritten, and it was rewritten by a group, we had a consultant, an excellent consultant, Rick Smith, that was running point on that along with some very, very, capable city staff members. But we invited to the table in that process a number of industry representatives: engineers, developers, land use attorneys, that were integrally involved in redr afting the subdivision code and were supportive before City Council when it was, when it went to City Council. she was not theories about it the development community was the difficulty in getting permits and getting, just getting through the regulatory process. Well that wa s a system that had been in place for a long, long time that we inherited. It was completely revamped. I mean we went through that from end to end replaced some people that we thought needed to be replaced [and] acquired a new facility. Now there was som e disagreement on the part of some of the downtown interests, but, because one of the complaints that we had from the contractors, the developers, the subcontractors, was that it was difficult to dash in and dash out and get a permit, or, or submit paperwo rk or, or pull something that needed to be acquired on a short parking was just inconvenient downtown. We got a facility that was dedicated to nothing but the regulatory process, the construction regulatory process. And not only did we move out all of our people out there, but other people external to the organization for which I was responsible had a place, an appropriate place in the development review process. People that had to look at, how are we going to get water to a development? How are we going to get a sewer line or a storm water line to it? How are we going to deal with the transportation issues? And those are folks in other department. We moved all of those folks out there also. And it, and we put it into a spot that was convenient


4 from downtown, but it had plenty of parking, all of the parking was free, you could get in, you could find everybody in one location that you wanted to deal with. And in terms of that, that became a model. I mean there were people who would come from all over the state looking at what we did there, and how we did that, and how we routed our paperwork. We put in a whole new computer system, we, we installed the first we did the first the ability to use credit cards, that we had been told by some of our fina ncial some creative legal minds to take a look at that, so, so we could. We could establish accounts, we could charge, we could charge for plans examination fees, or permit fees or some of the other regulatory fees that were there. We established the first voice interactor system. So that a person could, after hours, through by way of a telephone, this predates any of the widespread use from the internet, where you c ould go in by a telephone and call up an inspection. on your jobsite for the next, for the following business day. appropriate credit for. Now, why do you think that might be? Well, a couple reasons. One is that the Mayor, Mayor F reedman had a significant interest in promoting positive development. She also had a significant interest in making sure that the private sector beneficiaries of that development paid a reasonable fair share for the city services and costs that were tied t o it. And that was as a, as a badge of honor. Financially she was quite conservative, and looked at things fro m the perspective of a reasonable rational person that says, OK, these are the guys that are with the people that are making money off of this stuff they ought to be paying for what it costs to provide those services. like having to pay some fees that were higher than they had been in the past. Part of it, quite frankly, is that, this was the first female mayor that the City of Tampa obably the last bastion of folks that dealt almost exclusively with men because they of folks that do screen enclosures on pools or, or do carp entry subcontractors that are the folks that these, the development community dealt with were by and large a group of other men. And so there was this, this sort of lack of an to be as receptive as one of the good old boys. The other part is that while she was, while Mayor Freedman was very pro development, she also cared about a whole lot of other folks that might not have received nearly as much attention in prior administr administrations where I worked, but I know that this mayor made a concerted effort to


5 reach out to the citizens in our community. She would take the entire staff, her entire senior staff, at least once a month, would go out into the community, to speak at a neighborhood organization, a civic association, some crime watch crew. And where we would find a part of the city tha make an effort to get them organized. The mayor established the first Office of Neighborhood Relations or something like that, and, and put a senior a person that was on her staff to run that, establish that. And the interesting part is, because we talked to her about it. I thought it was great idea, but at the ly that in the course of creating these entities we were establishing powerbases that would not necessarily agree with the positions that we would take. So we were, we were creating what would we, knowingly we were creating organizations that we knew would awful if everybody agreed with everybody else. But the mayor was very, very interested in, in reaching out and taking people. That had never been done before, to thes e neighborhood organizations and, and I hate the damn word empowering. But going to these folks and letting them know, She went out the first couple of times by herself talking to these folks, an d then somebody would ask a question about, well, when there, but are you really going to cut that through? know about every doggone next time that she goes out, she took everybody. And then we went with her every other time. She would take the head of transportation, she would take the head of the water department, the hea finance, her chief of staff, the fire chief, the police chief, and typically, some of their underlings in the areas where we found we were getting the most questions. If we were getti ng a lot of questions about code enforcement, as we typically did, then we would start bringing one of the code enforcement one of the senior management people in code enforcement along with us. If we had a lot of questions about crime, crime prevention, a nd we frequently did, then the police chief, in addition to him being there, would have the major or the colonel that was over the crime prevention bureau in the department. it w as good for us as the executive branch of government, the management of the government in the executive branch to have to look eyeball to eyeball with a lot of the folks that we get buffered from through our subordinates. That we got a better feel for what the people, our citizens were interested in, cared about, wanted to see us doing. It was, I been Greco and Mayor Iorio and have continued to strengthen that entire outreach effort in when these organizations are created.


6 But these guys, that was unheard of when she came into office. And when the business community sees her doin Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, or meeting with a business group, or meeting with an industry organization, and she sees that happening or they see that happening, we kind of stuff. be know, it comes with the testosterone or something. But some guys would try and bully boy she start to make my, when I start backing up. When she decided she wanted to tear into somebody she could do a good job of it. But, [she] was a wonderful woman. RK: Did you also have to appear before City Council frequently? BH: Very often, yeah. RK: And were ordinances changed that affected your departments? BH: Well I think I mentioned the zoning code, a complete rewrite of the zoning code, a complete rewrite of the subdiv ision code. A number we put in the first water started, she raised it as an issue about the first day that she was in office. She wanted a water conservation code for t he, the City of Tampa. So we, we put that into, into effect and that was, interestingly enough was quite a controversial issue with the when you, when you start restricting the, the type of fixtures for instance that can be installed. At the time, most toi lets were 3.5 gallons a flush. Our new code called for 1.6 gallons per flush. Well, what do you k the 1.6 works, because bunch of plumbers upset with us, and a bunch of some, and we worked through all of those issues. But that was a significant, that was a significant change. And the, and the precursor to what we see now in the, in the city and across the nation, the way water conservation requirements. I put through the first historic preservation ordinance in the, in the history of the city and established the first landmarks, city d history. RK: Do you know what motivated that? Was that the mayor or was it certain groups? BH: Well there was, there were people that were interested for quite some time. Now [the] mayor as you know was on City Council was the Chair of City Council. And, and was quite aware, and was a member of Tampa Preservation Incorporated, which is the,


7 the organization, the local organization that was most involved in promoting preservation of the, of our significant historic buil dings. They she was a member of that so she had an awareness and a sensitivity to it coming into office and, and certainly there were others in the community that were, that were interested in pushing that. She saw it as something of, of value that warrant ed some of the effort that she put into it. RK: Were you involved with the controversy of the, with the Lykes family and the two buildings? BH: That was occurring just as I came in and, and she came in. And it was really dealt more with in legal. It wa s a real, that was a real ugly situation. And went on during, gosh I think the entire administration. It was not settled until after Mayor Freedman was out of office. It was actually settled during the early parts of the Greco administration. It was really bizarre law there that and there was a settlement in that case that was, that restricted like a, like you would settle a suit. So you had an agreement to settle a suit. There was an agreement to settle this thing. Part of what that agreement did, and actu ally and must do with regard to historic preservation! Right down to the structure of the restrict what a just I questioned it, at the, [laughs] from the get go. But hell, eve Bob. RK: In your capacity as head of the different departments, you dealt with many business leaders, I would guess. BH: Oh yeah. RK: Can you give me your impression of who were the dominant business leaders in Tampa during t hese years? came into office at about the time that the existence of major, really major business players in Tampa was kind of going away. Now, there was a time befor e deregulation Verizon or something but before deregulation, and then following deregulation, there was this whole, this whole busting up of the telephone companies. But the head of General Telephone was a major player in the community. I mean a major influential person in the community. That, and the last one of those was a guy named Fred Leary. There was a time when banks were predominantly local, and two or three bankers would have great influence because of their longstanding place in the community. Well the banks started going national, they started getting bought and merged, and became more nationalized, based out of Charlotte or New York or someplace external t o Tampa. So, I


8 mean, local bankers were not what they used to be. And frequently, if we were dealing The law firms, similarly, there was a time when there were a couple of big law firms in town and their, and their, principals, their managing partners were very, very influential people in, in local government, local business. Well, those they get absorbed, they get bought, they different, it was a rather different time. But wi th all of that said, Ken Good e who was the head of Tampa Palms Development who was the publisher of the Tampa Tribune had a man named Doyle Harv ill at the time, car ried some significant influence in the community. A couple of the developers, most notably probably Dick Beard, who was head of the Paragon Group, was a person with some significant influence, and in the community. And I say that I keep saying within the c ommunity. These are people that could get things done, and keep and significant [because] these are people who can keep things from happening. Influence on because I was not as close to in the last, probably four, five month s of her administration, the Chief of Staff had left, administration I was very close to her as we went further and further towards the latter part of her administration, [and ] I got closer and closer. But I never saw any of those folks having mayors or not, I d like she was as business friendly, or whatever that she was not, she was not she she was going to give everybody a fair hearing. She was going to listen to a whole lot of different sides before she made a decision. RK: Were you involved with the controversy over impact fees? BH: Oh yeah. The, impact fees were the first impact fees were put into effect for transportation, and then the first connection and capacity f ees for water and sewer. The newspaper loved them, the media loved them, the planning commission, and in Tampa, there is, what is allegedly an independent planning commission that is responsible for the ultimate submittal development of the comprehensiv applicable to the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County, Temple Terrace, [and] Plant City. The planning commission loved impact fees, and by and large, people liked impact fees.


9 ter as to whether or not But we, we had some; they were put into place, they were obviously oppo sed by most of the folks in the development community. But ours tended to be lower than anybody was experiencing some of the same rapid growth that we were going through in Hillsborough County, unincorporated Hillsborough was going through did not have communities complained to me, Pasco. Well, P asco got behind the curve on, on trying to manage its growth, put in impact fees that were twice what ours were and then you know, we had a few boys crawling back to Hillsborough and the City of Tampa to do some work where we were. RK: What, can you agai n tell me please the position you took after your initial position with the administration? Officer for the city government. The organization includes general acco unting; accounting for all funds; receipt of all funds received by the city government; a budgeting by the mayor [and] submitted to Council for their review comment, [and] ultimately has to be passed. Within, before any funds can be spent in the, in the fiscal year to which it is applicable, because they have a similar requirement Well, fortunately we never got into that, but we had, we were responsible for crafting a budget. We had another or ganization that was responsible for the collection on all of the except that all of the money that comes in and goes out has to be tied to that service. We had an enterprise fund for water, for sewer, for sanitation, and for parking. And the for service business. You buy water from the C ity of Tampa, you pay a water bill. All of the money that you pay has to be used on for sewer has to be used for sewer related services. And consequently you have to have separate accounting systems for each of those. We had it for those, those four, and that was a separate part of the organization. [End Tape 1, Side A] ___


10 [Tape 1, Side B] RK: ...Director of Finance. BH: Yeah. And what was more, the most significa nt there were two, two responsibilities that were not by charter that were really the most, the most important for advice with regard to the allocation of city money. about what dollars, it was almost 500 million dollars a year. Before the mayor would spend something or something came up, really durin g the course Is this something that we should spend money, move money; how can we do this? Is this something how, how can we make something happen here? And she, and that financial longstanding. That was the same under the, under Mayor Poe, and under Mayor Martinez. They both looked to their Finance Director for to serve in that role. And the second is that it was irrespective of the financial implications, the Finance Director traditionally [it] was that way under Mayor Poe, that way under, under Mayor Martinez, and that way under, under Mayor Freedman was, if not the top advisor to the those were really the two most important elements. But, but keeping tabs of the money, and we were very tability and responsibility. During the two, I had two audits outside audits when I was there both ard for what a financial accountability and the presentation of financial data. scal Northeast and Midwestern cities that were losing people, losing businesses and so on. When looking at the City of Tampa, when you headed the finance department, would you s ay that was it a tough time for the budget in terms of having a difficult time raising the needed resources to provide services to the population? BH: Yeah. It was, we had to be very cautious, very prudent. The between the demands of government and the rational raising of resources by government. Well, you know, folks go, gee, you got a problem? No problem, just raise taxes. Well, it axes is obviously going to be unpopular with a whole lot of folks, most folks. It, it adversely your tax situation, the tax implications have, have a significant significant that decision making of types of


11 organizations that you would like to attract to p fire protection and police protec streetlights and all of the other services of government. We had, we had some debt that we were still carrying from a new performing arts center and a decision had to be made with regard to whether or n ot we were going to build a convention center, and that decision was made that we would build that convention Then part of the catalyst to the redevelopment of, of downtown, that decision was made by Mayo and how we would pay for it. [The] mayor was very, very good about not wanting to leave the next person in office bankrupt and, and good about paying, paying the freight while she that was going to be difficult not only in her time, but in, in the, in the next, in the future for people who came after her. a mayor leaves office is more indicative of things they do which are un they leave office. rece BH: Yes. BH: Right. RK: And I went to a City Council meeting where you spoke on behalf of the administration trying to encourage City Counc BH: Right. BH: Right. RK: Can you tell us that story?


12 and I worked for the city, I worked for the admini strations, five different mayors; [a] total of something over twenty six years that I worked for the city. That is the only matter that I ever advocated in front of City Council that was denied. The only one. And one of the most significant, I mean of, of the matters that I personally took to City Council. We were attempting to get approval by the city administration to issue bonds that would allow a Convention Center hotel to be built. The city would be backing them. The, obviously the hotel would be bac king it. It would privately operated and managed under the auspices of a not for could establish a not for profit organization; the not for profit would be required to hire a professional management organization. We had placed, put all of that in place. And then on that deal we lost that one by a four to three vote. And it was, it was one of those times w hen I, the mistake that I made, and I, I was the person that was responsible for that failing to go through that was my fault. And, and I deviated from a cardinal principle of public administration that had served me well and chose that one time I could to deviate from it. Which is, that cardinal principle is, forget about the substance, concentrate on the flaw. exaggeration of the produc t is less important than the marketing. But the fact of the go bankrupt On the other hand, if you have a rather mediocre product but you market it, it. That was a 127 million dollar deal. And I was the Director of Finance. And I was incredibly wrapped up in ensuring that it would be a good deal. That it would be a sound financial decision to move forward. And I left mistakably, I left the marketing, the getting that sold through City Council to some other folks in the community. Not, not even city staff; and it was people, it was people that we thought were, could be effective in dealing with our City Council, instead of being personally, taking char ge of that and making sure off I was. And, and the only part that kind of makes you feel good is that it was an incredibly prudent, would have been an incredibly pr udent financial decision, a part of the city. A hotel was ultimately built, it was 700 rooms instead of the 900 rooms plus that we had envisioned, and now the 700 room hotel is not big enough. They should have built it g that we were going to put on it. We, Marriott was of the Marriot organization, and has been from virtually the day that it opened its doors.


13 And all of that m oney would have been neared to the benefit of the tax payers of the city RK: You have a theory why a few Council people voted against it? BH: I know exactly why some of them did. We were out politicked, we were outsold. We were out politicked on that one. BH: Well, no, you know, some of it would some of it might be statute of limitations for some of these poor bastards might not have run out by now, s RK: Well let me just say that some people have speculated that the incoming administration BH: Yeah, yeah. administratio n did not support that. BH: That was, that was one of the votes I believe. You know, what I tell you, I know exactly but yeah, I, after I lost that damn vote, th en I start working the streets real hard to find out exactly what happened with every single, single one of these no votes. made a mistake. He just he looked at it, evaluated it from the perspective of being a Repub lican, which I am by the way CPA, which I am not, and an financial advisor. So he fancied himself pretty good at finance and thought it was a bad deal financially. Gee, I must have screwed up on that in not selling him on how what a good deal it was But anyway, he voted on it, he we right, smart, good, financial decision. One of them was, I believe was clearly influenced by, by Mayor Greco; and if Mayor G reco had looked at it as hard as if he would have been fully, and that another screw up. I should have been briefing him. I should have been briefing this guy his support. That was -and keep in mind any one of these folks, all I needed was one more vote. But there was one person I went, one of them, one of them somebody got to them on a, on a in fact two of them. Somebody got to them. They offered them something If not for them directly, but indirectly. and dealing too often during your administration? This is kind of an exception to the norm?


14 RK: I wanted to ask you about a program the mayor initiated that has received a lot of attention, generally positive attention in Tampa, and I think to s ome extent, nationwide. BH: Yeah. RK: And I think you were involved with that prior to your being Director of Finance. BH: Right. RK: Can you tell us a little bit about that program? BH: Yeah! The mayor deci ded that she wanted to make housing a priority of her administration. One of the things that she did was to, she wanted to survey, what is the Well we ey to hire a consultant to go out and survey the 128,000 residential units that existed in the City of Tampa. But, gee, sitting over at the Hyatt so what if we got the fi will take their vehicles out to make sure that their vehicle can get down a street or something a limb needs to be trimmed, or a street sign needs to be relocated. They can turn that in; but checking addresses to make sure that they know their areas. What if we, instead of hiring a consultant and a big team to do it, we get, we hire a consultant to t rain these guys how to do it? Then we have the fire department go out and survey the exteriors of our, of our housing stock. Which we did. And they did a magnificent job of it. And it was good for them, it and it was, we saved, saved a couple hundred thous and bucks. beginning of her administration, geez over 15 years ago. But if I re member correctly, our substandard rate was somewhere around 40%. It might have been 42%, might have been 38%, but it was right around 40% of the residential units in Tampa had something, not g in the front yard, but some significant signs of decay, deterioration was like 40%. So the mayor looks at what money we have, mostly federal money, not very much, about a few million bucks; three, four, five million bucks more closer to three. [She] g oes, how can we leverage that? How can we take that money and do more with it than what we could? The city had been doing 30, 35 units of housing rehabilitation and that was the extent of what the city could afford to do with the money that it had availabl e. She goes,


15 Well, city had never gotten the banks involved in anything like calls me up an d wants to get me and the head of the housing organization at the time, Fernando Noriega, a fellow that worked for me. I called Fernando and go, you know the about this loan thing. [And] get the banks involved in housing, what are we going to do? We never sat down. And then about fifteen I go, well what are we going to ask them for? I want lower interest rates. I want them to lower the interest rate and make some money available for rehabilitation, new construction Because at the time, rates were quite high. [Inaudible] rates were 12, 13%, uble digits. I go, I want them, I want two percent? Two percent what they, below what they would do normally. we them for one and a half percent lower on rehab. And I want, what else do we need Fernando? He goes, well, we need them to relax their underwriting a little bit. They need to lighten I go, OK. Well, then, to So we went, osts. No closing at that. And then Fernando, said, now what are we going to give in return? What can we do for them? I go, Fernando was the one who suggested, ikely to go into five years. The City of Tampa to guarantee the loans. Five year guarantee. So, lower r ates, extended terms, more relaxed underwriting, no closing costs, and you get a five year guarantee on it. bankers. We were, we were going after, we figured three becau trying to get another three or four million dollars. We got six million bucks that day. By the time we announced that program, we had thirteen and a half million. And the bankers loved it. We w hile but in addition to the five year guarantee, we also offered to do the initial and we had, I think it


16 was twelve banks, everybody coughing up a million, and Bank of America to big the big cheese came up with 1.5. They were NC N B at the time. what the hell a lead bank was, where all of these, all this money could be funneled into one bank from all these other participa ting banks, and then we would deal with a single set of paperwork, a single process, a single procedure, single set of underwriting criteria, hell we were doing. So we, en ded up, our staff ended up learning the procedures of all, I want to say it was twelve might have been more than that. Because we had some of the real small banks that would put in a couple of hundred, 250,000 bucks for that. We ended up with our guys lear ning the procedures of all of these banks to originate loans. Within two or three years, because we had greater stability on our staff than some of the banks did, some of our folks were teaching their new employees how to underwrite, how to, how to process loans. From its inception we had virtually no delinquencies or defaults. Part of what we did in the course of, because we were processing the loans, we had a great opportunity to do quite a lot of housing counseling. Of dealing with people and explainin g to them that you know, not be able to pay your water bill or you light bill; your lights might get turned off; your e got some other things where we might can help you there. But let me tell you what you you might not be able to pay the rent to You might not be able to make your car payment. But you go to the doctor, you might not be able to pay the doctor. You go to the doctor, but you make your house payment Because we could show them you cannot, with, with the deals that we were getting, these, these folks could not rent a property for what they were paying to buy it, to own a place. It was initially targeted solely towards rehabil itation. Because getting back to our survey that showed this significant rate of deterioration of our existing housing stock; it started branching it just took off and went gangbusters from there. Not without a whole lot we had lots of problems. Learning the processes were, w as a significant learning curve for our folks. We had, we had some problems with our friends at the federal government that were going, wait, you some cases 60% to guar antee the loans. Well we had people, we would go as high as 150% of the median income, which in, in some cases for a family of three, it could be 45,000 dollars. But these folks could not qualify in a, in a through some program like this.


17 But we could get, part of it also was stabilizing our neighborhoods, where we would get a ing up to North Tampa to Lutz or someplace out in the, out in the sticks, we can put them into a, an abandoned, derelict home, rehabilitate that home, and start to stabilize that area. So it was a it, it went gangbusters. We went from thirty four units, th irty eight units that were done in the year immediately prior to Mayor Freedman being there to, of all sorts we, doing fourteen, fifteen hundred units of, of residential housing. Now, we got into things like adult congregate living facility for low income people. Some assisted living; multi family rehab; new construction demolition and of doing that, we, we got into all sorts of other stuff that was just, we, because we were working in older sections of town, where there had in the past been some significant animus between the preservation community and the rehabilitation people. The reh ab s cia on the thing and that will be good. And well, they ended up looking pretty much out of character with the community. I between the city folks and the Tampa Preservation Incorporated people. We learned from each other; we started doing rehabilitation that was historically correct. RK: Was that mainly in Tampa Heights or a different neighborhood? BH: It was all over. Tampa Heights and Ybor City, Seminole Heights, West Tampa; any place that there was a significant stock of, of historic homes. But then it got to the point that if it were a home that, that had character our folks started developing an appreciation for the, for the aesthetics. Understandably, a number of our employees had dealt in some of the very worst conditions. They were, they were concerned about I mean s ome of, they used to say that if the, if the termites quit holding hands, the walls would fall down. And some of the homes were in serious, serious disrepair. But they were most concerned they would have, some one would have put of a Quonset hut if that wo uld But we started figuring out that we can integrate some attention to aesthetics, that without sacrificing that commitment to providing a decent place to live. And, and we ended up working with these folks, and that became the springboard that, getting Tampa Preservation Incorporated and a number of other not for profit organizations, doing work in the community, which gave us kind of another double whammy on the savings. Be cause now instead of dealing exclusively with for profit organizations, we would be dealing with not for profit organizations. That got some tax breaks, did not have to generate a return to their stockholders, and consequently could create a less expensive


18 financing, and, and the ability for people who could not otherwise qualify for a loan to get into, into rt layering that sort of stuff on top of one another, and you end up with making some truly affordable housing, affordable to people that never would have, would have been able to see that before. And it had impact beyond the work that we did. We would d o work on, very often, the homes were, that we were targeting, would be the worst house on that block face. You but then you see the guy next door and the oing, to make them look bad. And all of a sudden you see this guy starting to clean up, getting the junk car out of the front yard, painting their place, putting a new roof on it that oh gee, every now and then we see this happen. No, damn near all the time we would see that happen. That was, of everything that I ever did in the city, that was the most fun, the mos t personally rewarding. And the stuff that generated the greatest, the folks would write letters that would tear your heart out. That, that we would get, the mayor would get, that would just talk about, I never in my life thought that we could have anythin g so magnificent as this. And it would be something that you and I would find quite simple. But for somebody who never in their life thought that they would be able to own a home, we started another program where we were getting folks out of public housing into homeownership. Which is some other folks have done that of late going from subsidized rental housing to unsubsidized rental housing in som e apartment complex; but going directly from subsidized public housing to a homeownership RK: You stayed with the city during the next administration of Mayor Dick Greco. Did that p rogram continue? BH: I did not stay initially. I left for about six months and then I was asked to come back as the Interim Director of the Tampa Museum of Art under Mayor Greco. And I did that; I agreed to accept that on a short term basis mostly so that I could tell my friends when what are you doing now, Harrell? well, There was a question among some of the board members whose supportive directors had s ome say in, in addition to the mayor. And there was a question among some of which, whether or not Bob Harrell had ever set foot in the Tampa Museum of Art. And then one of the other board members who I know quite well said, a cocktail party at some point. And they were she was absolutely right. But anyhow, I did


19 Yeah, the program did stay, and Mayor, Mayor Greco did a, a took housing to some But that was and [End Tape 1, Side B] ___ [Tape 2, Side B] RK: This is the second tape in an interview with Mr. Bob Harrell on Ja nuary 10, 2006. You were supposed to BH: Couple of programs that, that were started under, under Mayor Freedman. One of the head of Code Enforcement, he worked for me, [had] gone to a convention and saw a tape and I think it was where it was came back all enthusiastic about this, it was a program that was designed to, to paint the I I think probably then Pittsburgh Paint was supporting it, and they had gotten some money from the, from the city and, and it was a great thing. And he wanted me to see this tape, and well I go, OK, that sounds get me all fired up. And he keeps bugging me to look at this VHS tape. And I kept cutting it off, and I finall y watched this damn tape, and I just became a believer. This just, thing, assistant. And I start bugging him to look at it, and he goes, that doe I keep bugging him until he looks at it, then he becomes a believer. And then the two of us take it to Mayor Freedman, and she becomes a believer, and she goes, alright. And then Buckhorn says, we we were still tight for cash. And seeing, trying to find, figure out long story sho rt, he comes over with Doug Labelle, who was the president at the time of the Builders Association of Greater Tampa. We go to Doug, get Doug signs right on; I nothing. The guy was just the perfect, perfect person for it. He agreed to take on the chairmanship of the thing, so long as he could have a co chair that had approached that said, I want to be able to fire volunteers. I go, ing to be the chair. He goes well, Doug was a business person, damn good. He gets a guy named Tom Willis, and they co chaired this thing, and it became my gosh, every person that we took it to signed on immediately. And it [we] just, you talked to them. We went to a paint manufacturer, you


20 know a local paint manufacturer and said you know, He goes, y [We reply,] we could be doing 30. He goes, Holy moly I said, he gave us paint for 30 freaking houses! And he goes, gn these folks so that me so combinations that look nice. They went to every house. We, we ended up paint them, and select a date. We go to Tampa Homeowners, an Association of Neighborhoods. Remember all those little organizations, little neighborhood RK: Yeah. the city was listening to them? Well they formed their own association now, the big umbrella group. We go to them, that we want the volunteers from you guys The head of THAN, a woman named Margaret Vizzi, she signs on right off, yeah, absolutely, count on it. well, it got word started to get out on this. he calls up Doug and he volunteers to be the fundraiser! I never and Doug was saying the same thing nobody volunteers to be a fundraiser for anything! This guy calls up, to be stuff. I go well, The first year, we then, the volunteers start coming out of the woodwork. We ended up adding another ten houses we went from 30 to 40, then from 40 to 50, from 50 to 60, and w e go, and do 60 houses. bank, it was, but I said, They go, 10,00 which tells you something about how this community is responding to this. And I go, shit! What do we do now? Well I got a team of employees in my department that had, that were go ing to paint a house. And I call up, it was Nick D'Andrea and John Barrios, were the captain and co captain. Nick was the head of the construction, construction service center. g oing to, going to paint a house? Your boys are home free, you can head out, you know, And I explained the situation to him, and he and John look at me like I have just popped their balloon and licked the red stripe off of their candy cane going,


21 I go [expletive], I wanted to cry. I go yeah, I think we can work that in. own because everybody got t shirts you know, [they said] shirt. We did 61 houses that year. And the next year I think we did 90; the year after that we RK: And was there anot her program you wanted to mention? BH: Yeah, that one that the neighborhoods were very, very interested in was in cleaning up -the neighborhood organizations were interested in cleaning up their neighborhoods. We had, we had our band of Code Enforcement [inaudible] Something that I had done years before in a, in a county neighborhood where I lived, was that our civic association would send a very un intimidating letter, when we, as a civ ic association would see that painted and go, exists at your place, and you know this is our neighb orhood, and, and we love it, and I a look at it and see if you agree with us that you know, maybe something could be done hoo do bing bang. When we sent those out in that little I lived in a little neighborhood that was out in the county before I had this job. We got something like 70% compliance on the first time that complaining about Code Enforceme nt, and I said in conjunction with you We can, at the time it was we could pull ownership information, so we could give them a list by address, computer run, this was again, before the internet and all this being ac cessible to just about anybody. Give you a list of all of the places in your neighborhood, and then help you with a little post card, and print those threatening fashion. different people respond to things differently. Some oh my gosh, the City of Tampa has the government I better get this taken care of right away. A lot of folks, other folks, will take something from the city and go, that notice, roll it, smoke it, and say to hell with them. bor, this is different. And then they, then start going, well, OK, my neighbors are the folks who are sending Sulphur Springs, on their first, first canvass of the neighborhood, got something like 70%


22 compliance, 80% it was just out and a feeling of getting back to that word that I hate many of these organizations, their greatest succ ess was a function not of what they accomplished, but what bad thing they kept from happening. A neighborhood would neighborhood. And they go, They show up en masse and from getting worse. But it was damn rare that neighborhood organizations could, had something they could grab a hold of that would make thei r place better. That their power was coming from doing something as opposed to their power coming from keeping something bad from occurring. It was making something good occur. And, and they just loved it. That thing took off across the city. And virtuall y every neighborhood that, that had any sort of Code Enforcement issues, that, that and it became a galvanizing, a uniting affect when they saw the results that they were generating from it. It was just phenomenal. To RK: National League of Cities, was that it? is it the National L had ever received that. And Florida, no, Mayor Freedman, and those were two of the three programs that were submitted to get us into that running. So those were a couple things that were fun to be a part of, that were, the Ice Palace. I wa participation. It gets back to her being for fiscal conservatism in that. The, it was a great deal, it was more private money than had ever been put into one of these facilities an and it was, it was, I want to say it was almost half of the money was coming from private sources. Then the state was coughing up a big chunk. The, the county was coughing up we were the last ones in, we put the least am ount of money in, we put less money than any city in the nation had put in to get a multi purpose sports facility. We got it in downtown Tampa, which was catalytic to changing the nature time of things like the Aquarium, the Convention Center, the Ice Palace we knew we


23 in the a adm inistration, made happen in her administration, that, that really came to reality. In addition to us having damn little money in that, for what we got, we also got, we got a lean on the franchise and restriction on how much they could borrow against the f ranchise to keep them from leaving. That if they leave, we could foreclose on their franchise to pay for any, any money that they owed us. Because we had a long term arrangement with them. We said, can Well, we found that some of these folks had blown through some of those make them stay or to, well, we had a hook. It was the only one that the National Hoc key of the league. And that league is the oldest professional league in professional sports. It goes back to the 1800s, NHL does. All this stuff that we learned. H ow is it League, I believe is the name of it. Sandy would know. National Civic League. Pre tty sure. RK: I should know but I forget. BH: Yeah. I do too. But that was cool, the Ice Palace. RK: Was the Sports Authority involved with those negotiations as well? BH: Not, not really. The Sports Authority is kind of the management arm. And at t he time that we did that deal, if I remember correctly, they took possession of it. They owned it, but it was basically a pass through because part of what the Lightning organization; the Lightning is you might not know what the Lightning RK: [Laughs] for, for their significant financial participation was that they would manag e the facility. in, in St. Louis, when, when they were trying to get the Los Angeles team to move from LA to St. Louis, good gosh it was something like 350 million dollars that they paid to get that franchise there. Jacksonville was in the h undreds of millions to get, to get a professional football team. To me it seemed like insanity. We got ours in for, you know, ten, twelve. RK: Was that an example of good cooperation, good relationships between the city and the county regarding the hockey ?


24 BH: Oh yeah, yeah. And there, there were a lot of people that were, that were instrumental in getting that. Ed Turanchik was that the County at the time and he was, he a I mean, they look at the county map and they automatically exclude the municipalities that, well, excuse me, we are in the county, we do pay county taxes. d spoke with, with some frequency. And the state was obviously important every piece of that was important. Any one r coming from things that something happen. And unfortunately some people gravitate to government because they and t hey, and they, their feeling of BH: Sure, sure. leadership s tyle? and, and, and T he mayor was very decisive. She would seek input from lots of folks, and was receptive even if it was not solicited. That if I knew something was going on, I, I felt very comfortable going to her and giving her my opinion and my recommendation. I saw, saw degrees different from it. And when that occurred, then it becomes my job nobody e my job to make, to implement the decision that she makes. And, to the best of my ability, to make it successful and prove myself wrong. I go, d idea, we OK Well, but she was very open to listening. She was very intolerant of of people failing to execute with, with the zeal that she wanted and expected. And rightfully so in my opinion. She expects it be execute it and execute it zealously. That becomes your job. And she di and if she ever caught a whiff of somebody that was trying to torpedo something that she wanted to


25 do, then that person was as good as gone, and should be. That to me is a 100% appropriate. Incredibly fair, incredibly sensitive. Almost to a fault. A bout people. Not an ounce of pretension. None. And, and in her, in her decision making, never once and I was closer to her in, in just about all of the major decisions that, that were made at, in the city, especially in the last couple of years. I never o well, this Or, well, these folks have always been, h them. Or, these people have been real good to us, so we need to take care of them and None of that. Just none of it. None of it. A lot of guts, very courageous whole, her whole exchange with the Krewe of Gasparilla and, and saying that, of your organization. She was, she was accessible to the staff; respectful of the staff. And I think had, you have to understand this is tempered with the fact that I loved the woman, I loved the woman. And, and closer to her personally than certainly to any of the, any other mayor but closer to her personally than most other peopl RK: And I just have one final question sir. You worked for several administrations, when you look back at the different administra tions, how would you characterize the Freedman BH: [Pauses] BH: That the most profound change element that I saw, in the office of the mayor that resulted that came about from her administration was that focus on the common citizen. of the neighborhood organizations, the neighborhood associations, she put into pla y. A lot of cities hate this comprehensive plan that we are required to submit to the state. And and time consuming process. She added to that plan, an optional neighborhood element.


26 things with regards to neighborhoods, neighborh what I mean, it, it, it makes that a requirement as we move forward in everything else that, in terms of gradations, of levels of things that supersedes th e zoning code, as a for instance. That supersedes our land development regulations, our because that is at the top of our, of our list of things that we have to abide by. And she saw it as being that important. She had the first neighborhood convention tha t, that she invites all the neighborhoods to come down, has guest speakers that talk about organizing, things that can be done; how you can be more effective; the head of the Convention Center. And I guess it was the last year of her administration, she de Hell, it was the only year of any god damn thing that she did during her entire But as a legacy, that, that I need to come u p with another word that, for empowerment but creating that sense of a people being able to significantly influence their community and their local government that has transcended two administrations. And as I said, it was strengthened under Mayor Greco. I have a choice. And Dick Greco and Pam Iorio are bright people, and they could look at it and see, make it look like it, you know, [lau ghs], freaking hate it! And so, that and Mayor Iorio has taken it and added many organizations are out the re and it changed, not only did it change how the people, how our folks in, and some of common people, people that never felt like they had much to say about it before, but it changed how the bureaucrats, the especially the middle management folks looked at their, what they were something, bu involved in it. There was a time, for instance when, when the city would look at, you know, where are street doing to happened one, it happened in Palma Ceia, because we were, they were looking at Plant s a And, and it was interesting, George Pennington, who, who was still Chief of Staff at the time, he called me in, and said,


27 walks for kids to walk to school. And I did a survey, and no, the network that exists out there. They had no damn reason for it! And at the same time we sidewalks, and I go, maybe we ought to listen to some of these folks! And it, and it changed that mentality on the part of, of what the citizens looked to f or their from their government, and what, and how the employees who worked for the government responded to the citizenry. And, and in a very, very, very positive way. Very positively. BH: My pleasure.

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Harrell, Bob.
Bob Harrell
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Robert Kerstein.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (93 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman administration oral history project
Interview conducted on January 10, 2006 in Tampa, Florida.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Streaming audio.
During the tenure of Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman (1986-1995), Bob Harrell initially served as the mayor's Director of Business and Community Services and he later served as the city's Director of Finance. The interview begins with a discussion of Mr. Harrell's education and graduate internship with the City of Tampa in 1974. He then began working for the city in 1975. Mr. Harrell discusses changes to the city's zoning and subdivision codes under the Freedman administration. There is also a discussion of the city's first water conservation ordinance that was implemented during the Freedman administration. Mr. Harrell also talks about the Lykes family, historic preservation, transportation impact fees, and downtown redevelopment. The interview ends with a discussion of Mayor Freedman's leadership style and her administration's focus on the common citizen and the development of the Office of Neighborhood Relations.
Harrell, Bob.
Freedman, Sandy.
City planning
z Florida
Water conservation
Tampa (Fla.)
2 610
Tampa (Fla.)
Office of the Mayor.
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