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George Pennington


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George Pennington
Series Title:
Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman administration oral history project
Physical Description:
1 sound file (68 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Pennington, George H
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:
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), George Pennington served as the Mayor's Chief of Staff. Mr. Pennington begins the interview discussing his time as Chief of Staff for Mayor Bob Martinez (1979-1986). There is also a discussion of the mayor's Super Chiefs, and Tampa City Council. Mr. Pennington also discusses Ye Mystic Krewe, the Florida Aquarium, and the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. The interview ends with Mr. Pennington's impressions of the Freedman administration.
Interview conducted on August 22, 2005.
System Details:
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System Details:
Streaming audio.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Robert Kerstein.

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Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
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University of South Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 028546246
oclc - 180114071
usfldc doi - F50-00020
usfldc handle - f50.20
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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: George Pennington Interviewed by: Robert Kerstein Location: University of Tampa, Plant Hall Date: August 22, 2005 Transcribed by: Rebecca Willman, July 2006 Audit Edit: Rachel Lisi, February 14, 2007 Final Edit: Rebecca Willman, April 2, 2007 [Tape 1, Side A] of Staff. Thanks for talking, sir. Especially for Sandy. RK: You were also a Chief of Staff for the previous administration [for] Mr. Bob Martinez? RK: Can you give us some background in how you started in that position? GP: Well, I had known Mr. Martinez, Bobby, as we called him then, through the school each other, along with some of his friends at CTA Ka thleen Betancourt for one. And we became associates or friends, at that time. And then when I left the school system and went to Berkley, about the same time, he went into private business at a restaurant. And I used to see him out there, and we kept our friendship up. So when he wanted to run for RK: And did you play an active role in his campaign? in there to be the runner of the campaign. Bobby was politically astute, very thorough in what he wanted. He had run for mayor before. So I took over the role of Campaign Coordinator. Along with his guidance and some of my input worked i t. He was of course the boss, the chief candidate, and I was the worker bee. And we put a good team together Kathleen Betancourt again, and a few other good friends were a part of that team, so it was fun.


2 RK: And you stayed on throughout his time in off ice? GP: Throughout his time. All through here, and his time that he ran for Governor. I elected to in law that was living with us, and I declined, I stayed. And [I] stayed on, and then Sandy of course did get kind of a leg up on the way, [because of] how Bobby left. She was able to get organized and have a campaign that really the way it should have been. She had been on Council and [had] been the Chairwoman, and had been supportive of most everything we wanted. So it was a good transition I thought. I thought it was ideal at the time. You had a homegrown product who was an exc ellent politician locally, made an excellent mayor, [and] who was going to be Governor in the State of Florida. And they had the transition of a woman who had spent a long time on City Council, was ably qualified in government and in knowing what the city a better twosome I thought. RK: So the Mayor, Mayor Freedman asked you to stay in the same position that you had? RK: And what about the o ther top administrators? Was there much of a change or was there continuity? GP: It was pretty much continuity. Kathleen Betancourt stayed on for a while with us, and then, and then went with USF of course. There were, there were a couple of more folks wh o, who went up there. Joe Spicola, one of our who was our Chief City Attorney, joined Bobby for a while on the lottery campaign I think. Bob Morrison had a stint, or had an opportunity to do some things; he was one of our top young executives up there at t he time. And, but there were the dance the person you took. So, since he became a partisan, became a Republican, he had a raft of people that sought positions, and he had a lot to choose from. RK: What does Chief of Staff do? What did you do with the Freedman administration? What were your responsibilities? GP: Well, primarily Sandy used to ask me that, what do you do? What you do is to arguments, or off on person that suffers is that elected city official that happens to be the mayor. And whether to make sure that everybody was on the same page everyday. And so I did that. And big organization like that.


3 Sandy had a little bit different take on how she ran staff meetings and that was fine. She ran her staff meetings. Bobby ran his. I had an agenda, he had an agenda, and we kind of Huntley and it, if you want to go b little bit more roundtable, in the big office with a lot of heads talking and a lot of chins wagging. And so it was different as far as that goes. But then when her conversation was over, what did we say? How do we extent? Who were the Super Chiefs? GP: Well, the Super Chiefs came really before she did. We had brought fire and police under one shoulder, and that was Bob Smith, who had been Police Chief. We also, and then after, after he left, anyway he was working closely with both fire and police. You had, Mike Sa lmon who had all the work departments under him. He was the Coordinator of Public Works and a few other things. But he had, according to him, pure public works, waste, water, storm water, traffic engineering, so forth and so on. And then we had Joe Abrams who administered over the parks and recreation program and the, some of the other facilities such as the new Performing Arts Hall not the Performing Arts Hall, but the new Convention Center and things like that. So she, she had a structure to where you h ad five or six people who could touch all the departments all the time. And, and that worked quite well. It was an offshoot of what we had there, and she just polished the stone a little bit. RK: Some cities are known for having a quite a professional bur eaucracy in terms of rank and file and leadership. Others are known for being more, for lack of a better term, machine like the Freedman administration? GP: I think with, I think with her most of the top I used to teasingly call them top dogs and doggettes were, were in place, they had been professionals. The head of our personnel department was a strong professional woman. Our parks department man who did a lot of work here at the University of Tampa, Ross Ferlita, had been there for years [and] moved up through the ranks. Don Saltzman who was the head of our recreation department had had an extensive background; they were all pros in their, in their league. She interviewed and got a brand new fire chief from outside the first time that had ever happened that we got a fire chief from outside of Hillsborough County. She also interviewed and or, through Bob and the others interviewed, got a new police chief at one time, Eduardo Gonzal ez I'm sorry, I could be wrong. But Eduardo came in out of Miami. He had been born and raised in Tampa, but spent his a large police career in Miami. I had been there, and of course my background had been both in public and private education, and the prece ding years with Bobby, so you know, it was nothing. Lou Russo, who remained as Director of Finance, an outstanding job for both Bobby and Sandy, and had been a high ranking fiscal leader in the school system for years. And had voted, did a wonderful job fo a pretty good cadre of people around her.


4 At the other ranks it was just like it should be in a law and government organization. If public works needed the new super, new high level engineer in tr affic or something, they went through the proper roles and we interviewed, and we had selection committees, and we did what we thought was right. She made the selections. Some of her closer staff, one that you mentioned, Steve LaBour; she wanted Steve La Bour on board. She wanted Bob Buckhorn on board, he was her right hand young man when he first came to town, and supported her; he worked for the Homebuilders or something and drove her around when she campaigned for mayor. And campaigned for I guess, was it City Council at the same time, or did she run for mayor? GP: No, no, no. Well, she was still, she was going around as head of City Council, I guess. Because Bob was with her as soon a s she got in the office, Bob came in. So there were, there were some hires. There was a lady that she brought in who had been here as, as a TV announcer as a TV person and moved to California. And she brought her back at her work with WEDU and so forth. So she had some numerous hires, and so did Bobby, but nothing, nothing for the range of Boss Tweed. RK: Another distinction some people make in looking at an administration is whether down arrangement, or bottom up, or something in betw een. How did it tend to work? In other words, were decisions made at upper levels and then filtered down through the departments? GP: Both ways, both ways. We had some very bright folks at those, in those work departments: engineers, five year engineer g [They] had great ideas, and they would swatch these things to, up the channel. Then we talk about the budget and all of our requests and what we need ed, which lines had to be replaced, which had to be circumvented. So it went both ways. If you go out and find that there is a great big reverse elevation, which is a hole [laughs] sanitary or a wastewater sewer line. She may say, George, or Mike, she may call Mike directly this has to be fixed! But first, first of all, yes it does. Do they know about it? They probably do. Is it high on their priority list? Might wrong with that. First of all it tests her ability a s a mayor to seek out and change things immediately if she has to fix that line has got to have the flexibility and the good sense to know what comes first at certain


5 conversation and because of the kind of person she was, she always asked questions. Her ability o n City Council, as I saw her as a City Council person first of all she was exceptionally perceptive about what the needs were among staff and employees around her, around the, the Council. So in, in that sense, she got tremendous feedback from all kinds of people on all kinds of issues, all the time, which she enjoyed, and which she But she also knew which buttons to push to find out what was going on as a Council l eader in the various departments. So she was no stranger to somebody in traffic engineering saying, hi this is Sandy Freedman. You know, I saw this traffic signal out there close to where I live, it was going crazy. And because of the way she handled it, t hat would not get so much, It would probably get done. nistrator to say, you tell that That Back to the point of her perceptiveness. This carried over when, when she became mayor. why did I start that? I know that Bobby had a meeting right after we got into office, of some o f our top people who supported him and had big ideas and so forth, and they just about drove him buggy. And when that meeting was over he said, And she in her own way kind of did the same thing. But the staff, whereas we would meet in the little backroom at a table a little bit bigger than this one, in that back conference room irs all circled around, we had a heck of a party. And we got a lot done, and sometimes we got nothing done. But through it is that she wanted to know, wanted to be informed, and wanted to know what the decisions or what the opportunities were. RK: One issue in administration in many cities during the period that you were in office with Mayor Freedman was affirmative action. GP: Yes. RK: Did issues of race and ge nder come into play in your decision making in the administration? GP: I guess you always have to say you talk about it, you think about it. Our, our policies at that time were set and blessed by the feds, hooray for that. But even with that said you hav e to be a little bit more proactive. The thing that kind of messed it up a little


6 bit at the outset is because of her tenure on City Council. And because of this ability to get feedback from all kinds of folks, all ethnicities, all stations, she could talk to anybody the high roller or the low roller, black or white. She was one of those politicians that did not make gross promises, and I promise you so and so, or I promise you this, or I promise you that. I hav arm wrestled her to get the true fact on this ever. But in knowing how the Council worked and knowing some of our black members on the Council, it was evident that they expected more from her immediately than she was willing to give. RK: Would that b e Perry Harvey in particular? man, and in many of our big efforts, [he was] a big supporter. No doubt about it for the city and for the black community. But there were th ings on his agenda that he wanted on his own comments back and forward boo p be de boop that he would like to have done, and it was just not going to be. hard to say, I doubt it. A lot of this push on her became, he And all those qualities she has: short, and Jewish, and female, are blended by a very tena cious character that she had. She was a little competitor from the time she could grab a tennis racket. So she was a little battler. And when she got her dander up on this thing, it never to trying to discriminate, of course not. But we shes away every item of criticism that any black ought to have of her. RK: And what is that? GP: Well, as you know, during her tenure, we got cross wise with the Krewe, at [City] Hall, about the Gasparilla. The Krewe had done what they had done since 1 905. She however many of her friends were members of the Krewe. But the bottom line is this. Whatever is happening now that you get ni ce reports in the paper about the fifteen overstating the multi Krewes they have: the different colors of the Krewe, the different attitudes of the Krewe, the varying natures of the Krewes an and her stubbornness and hard standing firm and [Those traits of hers] caused this to happen, and caused her great, great pai n from friends, and those who were not friends. And nobody felt the swell as some of us knew I knew


7 and some of my close personal friends knew of how much it meant in forming the new attitude of this great big social activity that we call Gasparilla. And s he did it. The Gasparilla Krewe, thanks to Dr. Reddy, who nobody, nobody disloved word Fred Reddy, and a few others that joined the Krewe, and did this, and did that [and] the plethora of the other Krewes that formed. You even had a Krewe fr om the University of Tampa! [Laughs] So that in itself put women and minorities on the social negotiation skills, [and] not her ability to be able to sweet talk those people bu t digging in her heels and standing firm, and letting the obvious take place. And then the ground swell. And I told her that a couple of times, and she [said], want her to think maybe it was the biggest thing in her administra tion, but to me, it was one of the biggest social activities that affected hundreds and hundreds of Tampans, of what she did and what she stood for. Everybody like it? No. RK: That was a major issue during the administration integration of the Mystic Krew e of Gasparilla. What other major issues do you recall from the administration? job of wrapping up what had been started under Bobby as far as the Performing Arts hall. Bobby was Governor, there was a little bit of give and take coming in. H.L. and other folks who were working strongly with Bobby in Tallahassee trying to get their our share over if we could for the hall. RK: GP: H.L. Cul brea t h. [He] was a good advisor to her and a good friend. GP: He was with the Performing Arts Center, he was the Chairman. And he was working he and a big Republican so he was our tie into Bobby in Tallahassee during these times. So that got finished off. You have to give her good laudings for that. With the thing that kind of started out in her administration was this thing about the before she came in. And it was d etermined that I was part of this whole thing forcefully or unforcefully. [We found] the best site we could not be the biggest, because of land not going compete with Orlando, or Las Vegas to do it. But you, if you ha d something of quality, had a nice position, with hotels and access to it, blah, blah, blah. So, we selected that site, where it is on the water, and the old customs house was down there and a few other activities. And we bought some land, and did this a nd structured this, and moved the customs house out and so forth and so on. Well, in her negotiations with the Mack Family who had built Bill Mack and et al. other folks had built the building over there, and was building another building. Our negotiations for them to do


8 this design, build and place and all this sort of stuff went south, and got very, very a lot of money on this land [and] the negotiation with the Mack Family was not going Louie and I would run them involved. Well, not did she want to get she was in it, involve d of course, but she had we had to make a decision. And our decision was, we had to settle with these people, they had us over a barrel for the tune of maybe $750,000. And so she had to go and hammer their heads and finally settle with these people for som ething in I think in the range of $700,000. In the meantime, we had this property and we didn't have anything built down there, and she was getting frustrated. We all were. And she, loud as hell, out of it. Oh! Lou Russo and I, oh, my goodness gracious! We said, And her negotiations with both H.L. and Hinks Shimberg was Hinks a nd H.L. were doing some shuttle diplomacy was that she was going to terminate. Well, they both were just crystal, and oh, no for Not that we changed her mind but she thought about it, we cogitated, and finally we all hugged and all four of us, and said, And the rest is history. We took a little flack is it the right place? Right, about as right as we can get. We can get in there, we can build it, we can have access to hotels across the street if they ever get b served us well. But and she put it she almost popped it, and she uncorked it and made ause the intricacies of them having access to certain parcels on the land, or what they were then we had to [End Tape 1, Side A] ___ [Tape 1, Side B] RK: So the Convention Center was difficult but it finally worked out OK? GP: It worked out fine, it worked out fine. Long hard push and did a wonderful job On the Aquarium she made it quite clear from the outset I first had heard that somebody wanted to put the Aquarium in Tampa. I met with Chuck Smith and another


9 RK: Who was Chuck Smith? GP: Chuck was with the Gasparilla g roup for a long time but he was a builder in town Hinks (Shimberg) and the rest of them. At that time he was working for I guess he was still with the downtown partnership or so mething. But somebody had approached him about the Aquarium coming and their initial thoughts, that it either ought to [be] on the Hillsborough River, or they would build a great big thing at the end of Bayshore Boulevard. So after I listened to this [abou t] the river, we were talking and [said], what about Harbour Island? Oh! Well, Chuck and other folks, the fellow who owned Harbour RK: Was it Finn Casperson? Would that be a good place for it? We of course had gone through the Convention Center, and ending up the Performing Arts hall. And our plate was full. Her plate was full. So her feeling was, have anything to offer or jump up and dow n over right now. And that was true. shops wound up was not the place for it. Or nor on the other side where those big apartments are that now face the hotel, tha conversation, how about over there in the Port? Well, everybody kind of liked that spot. work with the populace, they went to the Tribune company [and] got all kinds of editorial support for this thing, and [the] downtown group thought it was a great idea if there was an Aquarium, blah, blah, blah. Well, the thing that she told Mr. Russo, or that Mr. Russo and she agreed to, was that we're not going to do a lot of backing on this thing. This has to be something that is proven, that these people who are The pledges are going to come up Y ou k now there was a million dollars here, a million dollars there about a multimillion dollar building. But the idea of having a, having an Aquarium built was solid. And folks went out to look at various Aquariums around the country and som e enthusiasm grew for it and so forth. Anyway, her, her push was, going to be funding that thing to keep it going until we What happened is that she was absolute ly right. Some of the major fundraising for it fell pressured into doing a little bit more than she wanted to at the outset. Nothing wrong with it, a little bit more, bec But, there was something and there was that support and that enthusiasm, and her own ability to talk and to edify the whole program. So that was good. Some of the fundraisers for that got a l


10 some very, very rough time s as it opened, and the city did have to commit other funding things, other bonding capabilities to keep it rotating and floating. But it was a grand purpose and to be able to draw people back condition. and Whether or not the so called wonderful fundraisers and folks who were going to give them the big money came through ed I teased her the other day, eight?! How could you do that? support of it. And so forth. RK: Was one of the rationales fo r the Aquarium tourism? Was there a thinking that more GP: Oh sure, oh sure. GP: Oh sure. Just like they say Super Bowl will bring in eight dollars and it only brings in one dollar. But the biggest thing you get from Super Bowls is the publicity nationally and worldwide. You have spin offs, and always spin offs, but nothing to write home about. And I think this has been proven over the last ten to twelve Super Bowls. But this one, but there was a rush to build [the] Aquarium in the United States of America. Chattanooga, Tennessee grand one. The one we looked at, or the ones that we had looked at, were the Monterey and the one in Baltimore on the water. But this one was different in that it had the theme. New Orleans has one. It has a theme, where you start in the swamps and move out, or you start in the wetlands except now your buildings are so high that your, your little short condo people are having problems seeing some of the beautiful sights! RK: The Aquarium was one project that was criticized by some. Do you reca ll any of the major critics, on what basis they criticized it?


11 GP: The figures of getting tourism in here were too high. They were fabricated not fabricated, but inflated greatly. Never going to get that many tourists and they were right; they were infl the mayor and top staff people interacted with in the private sector, major corporate heads for example. Who was closest to your administration, to the Freedman administration in the private sector, as far as working with the mayor to try to accomplish certain goals? GP: Well, two stand out, of course, that were always there. That was Hinks Shimberg and H.L. Culbreath. Now H .L., while he was there, Tim Guzzle came in. Jerry Anderson who was on the board here was always under Tim and H.L. of course. But, so the working relationship with Guzzle was not very smooth. But H.L. made it as smooth as he rior to Guzzle, of course, strongly with H.L. The downtown partnership, downtown developing group Hinks [was a] strong supporter all the way; there were others. Byrne Litschgi was very supportive; Byrne was a right hand close ch for him and did so much for the City of Tampa. Chuck was building buildings [as] fast as he could in those days. Dick was very supportive of her, very, very, very nice. Dick was the kind of a developer that he said what he did and did what he said. So if you had a deal, you were trying to do something on a Washington Street to help his, if he had to give up something, he told you what he had to give up to make it w saying that he was, secretly, politicking for her or against her, but in his role as a business community leader, Chamber of Commerce of course, he worked she worked very well wit h these folks. She made friends because of what she did and what she believed, and what history proved to her. And friends had to be friends. Now you could say, Dick, Dickie made a friend a day and she lost a friend a day political sense because her stance of what ed about bled throughout the entire community, with this Gasparilla stuff or with this stuff through Perry and some of the black community. Not all, but some. And her certain stance on certain things which were right, had they been made by Bobby or Greco o r anybody else, nobody [would] give it a time of day. But because she was [a] "she", she was constantly challenged, Bob. As a female and as a and given nothing but pa ts on the back. Nobody gave her a hard time, accepted her everywhere. She became mayor; the tide had changed a little bit. And those who expected for all the right reasons. So I give her great credit for that


12 But she RK: You mentioned Hinks Shimberg a couple of times as a close supporter and GP: Yes, yes. GP: Well Mandell Hinks S himberg and his wife, Elaine, came to Tampa many years ago; Shimberg has been a great supporter of the University of South Florida, and of the Building Housing Association early developers went to LaMonte of the Town and Country area. A lot of the work in Brandon Fish Hawk Creek is an offshoot of some of their development work. Hinks has branched out over the years in to play production New York production of plays and things. An entrepreneur of great ability; has been close to Sandy and Mike for, for years, RK: Did he have a special interest in any particular issues during your administration? ight. He was working, he worked strongly for the Performing Arts hall Commissioner RK: You spoke about the Convention Center earlier and how negotiations went awry with the Martinez administration, with the goal of getting a convention center and a hotel built, negotiations with Mack Company fell apart. With the Freedman administration there were several efforts to attract a hotel near the Convention Center [that were] unsuccessful. Can you say a little bit about the difficulty of the hotel Convention Center? G P: Bob I that may have come owned a piece of property the city owned a building and a half down there that we had some offices in over the years. And Joe Taggart owned a little hunk down there. But there wasn we always knew what we he RK: Sure. During several years when the Freedman administration was in office, the economy nationw ide was not strong. Did this impact what you were able to do? GP: Well, we did kind of what we did when Bobby was in there, we built all the growth.


13 We kept taxes low same old story tried to do more with less. Of course you have a increased tax base so y well, you know this economy is really affecting the nation. It never got that big in our staff meetings that I can recall. for. Pick up garbage, make the water, make the toilets flush, be safe and put out fires. When they do of course considerably more, no doubt about it and should. But the basic is to make that thing run, keep down the, keep down the chaff; have a fire department that i s responsive and well equipped and so forth. Just trying to keep these, the increases of the price of these fire engines and these rescue vehicles and changing from one model Ford to another model Ford, is millions of dollars of activity talked about. Ther e was a time the police department wanted Tauruses. Taurus was the car, Taurus was the car. And all of a sudden, the Taurus is not really what we want, we need that Crown Vic [Victoria] back and here we go again. So the day to day routine of making sure t he city kept going was what she did. And I thought she did a marvelous job, marvelous job. RK: One of the goals of the Freedman administration, especially I think in her second term was to foster neighborhood organizations. GP: LaBour was charged with that I say charged, it was part of his enthusiasm. We used to go out to these neighborhood meetings, and Louie here was no doubt about it. She wanted to make sure. And Culbreath Park or Culbreath Isles se signs were put up after it was designated that that truly was the area. And we met at various places, churches, schools, and so forth to about, neighborhoods, neighbor We seemed to have a real high incidence of unpaved streets being an old city person, e again talks to people, listened to people, and we got some feedback. Some of the feedback was good. And you probably know this we'd have a meeting, there would be a somebody would stand up, Mayor, the speeding in my neighborhood we need thes e speed tables, or these speed humps and so forth. Well, our public works people they would get agitated as all heck, speed bumps cause more accidents than they do curtailing accidents. Now you see things called speed tables, which are a little less intrus ive to making a car fly off the road and drive into your driveway or your living room. So we had great restrictions on where we would put these things and so forth. Smith, and Bob would stand up, Well no, every time you do that, the speeders you catch are the people who are at the


14 I got arrested! [Replies,] were you speeding? [Answers,] yes. [Responds,] You going to do it again? [Answers] No! That was funny, you try to make that happen. So w ith our, especially with our paving programs and things like that. The thing that we could never push across is peninsular settin g and because of the tides coming in off Westshore. Some of those areas increase them. I know that during her time many of those canals and those estuaries had got fi lled up with everything from ice boxes to tires [and they] were cleaned and she felt good about that -I did too. Plus the other thing that she got done, and we got through fighting for it, is the Bayshore walkway. And she took a lot of flack for that and I took a lot of head hitting with City Council, bringing it up, what we were going to do, so forth and so on. But it worked out. And it would be nice if it could be, if the median could be twice as big, and the sidewalks twice as big. But the way that thi always been a main artery south. And now that the growth has impacted down there so heavily, and unfortunately deaths have happened. I think people are driving better, and job. But starting with her, our effort to improve that Bayshore and spend that money to secure those balustrades, and to pull that sidewalk, and put in a little bike line of course activity on that Bayshore. So that was a good positive no doubt about that. RK: One of the bureaucracies that the mayor sometimes was criticized by, at least informally, was the police d epartment. GP: Sure. RK: Did you get involved in any of the relationships there? do their own battling back and forth, and Bob (Smith) would handle that. I would b e involved too, but they good move. He stayed there a long time. Had a good career, solid career really. Things were pretty smooth in the fire department at the time. But, you know, again, when ca ptains and the this and the that. And nothing was promised. [No] going to be a captain. Or, But they all


15 l [mumbles], same old story. And then, the pipeline was always open. Because of her feelings that she, and rightly so, that she needed security. And we changed the security tag out there. Not tag, but the, you know, the system. And she had a driver, and she had this and she had that. It was have it either. She had it. And that of course gives a not that her individual assignees would talk, but they do. So here she was with all these friends out there who, many of them still were, and now she was mayor and now she had to be secure, and now we that we had this going, why do we have to do. And that was that. She went with her gut on that police chief and her gut was rig ht. He proved alright. He mumbled some words when he first started; his suits looked like they came from John Gotti the mobster. But he changed and grew, and did a fine job. GP: Big facto r, big factor. GP: Save money. GP: Save money. We pushed it. We Lou Russo, myself, Bob Bob was a little reluctant, [he would say] well, you know we could say.... And then when you look at the getting new vehicles, and it just caused a lot of consternation Now, on hindsight, I out of the cost savings, but [also] a lot of complaints. RK: Most citizens get information about the mayor and administration from the newspaper. What was the relationship between the mayor, and at that time, the dominant newspaper, The Tampa Tribune ? GP: Well, I think that was good. And I have to digress else from the Tribune You know his name? Wade Stevens, editorial writer. A very strong willed, opinionated, a University of South Carolina graduate. Left the Tribune left the editorial boards t o come work for her. Well that was probably one of our that was her first failure. [End Tape 1, Side B]


16 ___ [Tape 2, Side A] RK: So the mayor brought in Wade Stevens from the Tribune ? GP: Yes. And the assumption was [that] he was going to be a writer and a counselor and a helper and a seer of all seers, I guess. And we were, we were surprised but welcomed to reasons nobody knew what those reasons were. So eventually sh e had to make up her mind that Wade was not good for the city or for her. And it was up to me to give him the word that the mayor had no longer wanted his services. Well, he was an unhappy camper. But he did leave, and that was the end of that. And just so had we had so many other more important things to do. recall the editorial push, and it would be interesting to know of what they said at the time about the curtailm ent of Gasparilla Day and of course that weird Bambaleo that took its go be fore the editorial board. There was one little sidebar I thought was cute. We were over there early on talking talking about the environment, the story it would tell and hills and the flat woods to the this, to the that, to the ocean, to the coral reefs and all. And this one editorial writer said, well how are they going to, how are they going to mine that coral and have it positioned in t hese tanks? And our answer was, So with that, is the happy ending. RK: If I can ask just one final question, sir. GP: Yes. RK: What, as you look back on your years in the Freedman administration, what do you remember most fervently about it? What, what really did you take away from it? the person. Billy Poe, I was a fraternity brother with at the University of Florida. I knew him as a young man a nd saw him grow up. I never served under him, but had to transition with him when Bobby came into office. Bobby was an excellent mayor and had all the success in life.


17 Sandy was a success from the day she picked up a tennis racket. She made her own success. And her enthusiasm for her job, and for the people she served impressed me and RK: Thank you very, very much for taking this time and speaking with me. I appreciate it.

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Pennington, George H.
George Pennington
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Robert Kerstein.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (68 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman administration oral history project
Interview conducted on August 22, 2005.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Streaming audio.
During the tenure of Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman (1986-1995), George Pennington served as the Mayor's Chief of Staff. Mr. Pennington begins the interview discussing his time as Chief of Staff for Mayor Bob Martinez (1979-1986). There is also a discussion of the mayor's Super Chiefs, and Tampa City Council. Mr. Pennington also discusses Ye Mystic Krewe, the Florida Aquarium, and the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. The interview ends with Mr. Pennington's impressions of the Freedman administration.
Pennington, George H.
Freedman, Sandy.
2 610
Tampa (Fla.)
Office of the Mayor.
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