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Roger Wehling


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Roger Wehling
Series Title:
Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman administration oral history project
Physical Description:
1 sound file (52 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Wehling, Roger
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 )
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), Roger Wehling served as the city's Director of Planning. The interview begins with a discussion of Florida's mandated comprehensive planning program. Mr. Wehling also discusses Tampa's Blue Ribbon Committee, the Channelside area, the Florida Aquarium, and the Tampa Port Authority. He also discusses city planning and zoning issues. The interview ends with Mr. Wehling discussing his current (2005) position and how working in the private sector differs from working in the public sector.
Interview conducted on June 16, 2005.
System Details:
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System Details:
Streaming audio.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Robert Kerstein.

Record Information

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University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 028546273
oclc - 180114278
usfldc doi - F50-00021
usfldc handle - f50.21
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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: Roger Wehling Interviewed by: Robert Kerstein Location: University of Tampa (Tampa, FL) Date: 06/16/05 Transcribed by: Rebecca Willman Audit edited by: Rachel Lisi (0 2/13/07) Final Edit by: Nicole Cox (10/22/07) [Tape 1, Side A] RK: Roger Wehling, who was Director of Planning for the City of Tampa during the Freedman administration. Thanks for s peaking with me. RW: My pleasure. RK: During the time that the Freedman administration was in office, part of the responsibility of the planning department that was mandated I believe by the State of Florida, was comprehensive planning? RW: Yes. RK: Can you tell me something about how you were head of this effort to formulate the plan ? RW: Yes. RK: can you tell me something about how what the process was? What the goals were and so on? RW: OK. Well, it was legislation that was crafted by the De partment of Community Affairs. And my involvement started with the legislation itself through our lobbyist, Kathy Betancourt. We spent a good deal of time in Tallahassee helping to shape that legislation. In fact, a couple of provisions we were responsible for getting in [the to be a plan that could be amended only once a year. That was expanded to twice a And with that, we had some special legislation, that in Hillsborough County, designated the Hillsborough County City County Planning Commission with a responsibility to


2 received those [elements], there was a problem with them in that elements like [the] recreational element for example, was written to apply to all four local units of government. The problem with that was we had administered our programs differently [than did the other jurisdictions week vernment had to [complete] a five year update for [the] comprehensive plan. And when it came to those elements, the direct service elements, we took responsibility for drafting the updates and amendments, [and] conducting the ose to the Hillsborough County [city] Planning Commission; they conduct[ed] a series of public workshops on them, and then forward[ed] those elements to City Council for review and adoption. RK: Can you give an example of some of the elements? RW: Well RK: Did they have a direct impact, or did any of them have a direct impact on service delivery would you say? RW: Yes. They had a major role. The legislation was written with the premise that local gove new buil ding permits until you could raise the level of service [to the minimum standards]. back to the Department of Community Affairs and urged that they allow us to do a two could use for lo implemented statewide. RK: Now when you say level of service sir, is that the same as service level analys is? comprehensive pla communities, in that regard.


3 RK: And when you looked at service level analysis was this to evaluate adequacy of services? Did it also focus on how services perhaps varied from neighborhood to neig hborhood? d where the next dollar was to be spent in each of these areas, they could do it armed with the information of what the disparity of the services were, at the neighborhood level, [on a] citywide [basis. It was more comprehensive than the comprehensive plan .] RK: And did they often defer to your analysis? process. And when it was over he was n ot sure whether he had been finessed by city departments on what the real needs were. So he and the finance director asked me to come up with a process that, in the subsequent years, would allow them to have a good handle on what the actual conditions and some people wonder whether th get involved in downtown planning? admin istrations to come up with a downtown plan. One was by the now defunct Downtown Development Association. The Hillsborough County City [County] Planning Commission prepared [another] one. A couple of different consulting firms were retained, but none of the other downtown stakeholders.] member c [help her committee to] come up with and get adopted the firs t plan for the downtown persistence that it succeeded. RK: I know it was a long time back but do you remember any of the kind of guiding principles of the plan?


4 RW : Well yes, there were quite a few. First, I would have to say we started by changing edge in downtown. None of that along the Channelside was zoned so housing could b e RK: And there was industrial zones? You could have office buildings, is that true? But not residential? RW: Correct. You could not have residential. But you could have very intensive appropriate time to make that conversion. It laid the groundwork for what is h appening today. Along with some other things that affect the amenities and the aesthetics of the, of those districts. RK: Were there any height limitations included in that plan or ? ons actually were RK: And as developers are announcing projects today, are they bound by some elements of this downtown plan? Is that still in affect, do you know? RW: Some of the provisions that w ere initially adopted were watered down in the subsequent administration under Mayor Greco. RK: The belief was that they were too restrictive or is that ? RW: Yes, they were more sympathetic to developers. Developers for the most part fought the adoption of the plan because it raised the minimum standards. It set higher standards for the quality of sidewalks, providing public art, providing public space, some landscaping [and] submitting new construction for design review. [Through] design y had] standing to take into account architectural features of the buildings. So we were discouraging reflective glass at the ground level, flat box top roofs on the buildings, and a number of [other] things like that. happy with it. Though almost all of the Class A developers were putting those features in their projects anyway. But they fought, making it a minimum standard or a mandate for development in downtown Tampa. Mayor Freedman was a remarkable public official those standards. And many of the things you see today I attribute to, to her leadership and


5 RK: When the Freedman administration first came in, you had already had a lot of cuts in urban programs accompanying the Reagan administration. Then President Clinton in 1992 proposed, and Congress passed a program which might allocate, did allocate funding for certain cities who applied for money to help engage in urban develo pment. RW: Yes. In fact Tampa might have been, for a city of its size, the most successful in the longer had Model Cities [and] the CDBG, Community Development Block Grant city neighborhoods. The federal enterprise zone exact number; [but] it was something like eight cities who were awarded those grants. It was enormously competitive. Tampa was one of the winners of the, of the federal designation. We also concomitantly won a designation for state enterprise zone at the s ame time. So, RK: I know that the plan you formulated was very thick RW: Yes. RK: very intensive in its analysis. Can you recall a process by which you formulated the plan? Because I recall there was several meetings and so on. announced and had been conducting annually a neighborhood conference [organized by al grant was, how well you developed your plan using the neighborhood themselves to come up with a direction for it, [by] setting the goals, objectives and the fundable convent we came up with a meeting place in a community center near Lake and 22 nd Street[s]. them, and developed the plan taking our direction from them. And we had had some federal employees in the audience, unknown to us at the time, that had validated just how effecti vely we involved the community in developing the plan that was ultimately RK: So that was a very s uccessful effort. Are there any challenges during the administration where you tried to accomplish certain goals and were unable to for one


6 reason or another? pretty much accomplished it. There may have been some grants that we went after and getting awa rds. And of course there were many things we would liked to have done in terms of services for neighborhoods, particularly the low income neighborhoods. There just were never enough resources to get us to some sustainable level of improvement. But even in did have. RK: Periodically the military goes through a process by which it considers downsizing certain bases or even closing certain bases. Did they go through that process during the Freedman administration, did you get involved in the effort to try to keep MacDill open and strong? RW: Yes. Well, actually it was kind of a bifurcated process. We had one committee headed up by Al Austin whose role it was to try and prevent t that came up with, should the base be closed, re use, alternative re use plans for that site. It was a beautiful piece of property. If it ever becam e available, there may be a silver lining in it because I believe we could have matched the economic impact with future they came up with three alternatives that we submitted t o the federal government. Had the base been closed, then the federal government would have done an environmental impact assessment on each of those alternative plans. RK: You mentioned Blue Ribbon Committees a couple of times. Is this something that the Freedman administration thought was a good, part of a good, wise process? Did you ever get people outside of government at least to a significant extent to study an issue? RW: Oh absolutely, and I think she wanted to make sure that it was a plan that was always offered to the elected officials for adoption that passed the acid test of community involvement. And often she made sure that it had the stakeholders involved. So, going back to the downtown plan for just a minute, it was amazing that you had majo r property [such as] Dick Beard, a major Class A office project developer. These kinds of people were on the committee and this was a committee that ended up recommending majo r reductions in their property rights for the good of the overall development of the downtown district. And it was amazing that these people were, were not on the other side of the fence ittee [that held meetings open to the public], they would have been very effective at killing this plan just


7 to her success. RK: Not far from downtown is Channelside area that has again, announced recently developers announced projects there and some have already been completed. Did th a plan for Channelside the Aquarium had taken off but there was not a real concept that could guide funding decisions on the part of the city in terms of what its participation might be responsibilities. So we came up, again working with a very active group of property owners and tenants in of renaming the 7 th ay. But again, it was also an area that was not zoned for residential [and] that was changed. I think the power of showing that government saw a future in this district [and] it was going to be very supportive. [This] made it easi er for investors to RK: The Port Authority owned some of the land, and RW: And they too became a very important player. They started looking at the[ir] property, not just for maritime use, b traditional] uses of the property. RK: So they were cooperative in terms of working on this Channelside area? without the Port look RK: Did you ever have to work directly or respond directly to City Council people? How did the chain of command work so to speak? Or channel of communications? RW: Well I worked directly with City Council on issu es involving city planning. But RK: Who was that? to any visit with City Council. So I always felt like I was at City Council knowing what that way. I never had any problem. I was never sent over [to City Council] to do a nything that I found disagreeable or [that I] did not agree with. So I was very fortunate in terms of


8 RK: Tampa has a strong mayor system. RW: Yes. RK: Do you agree with the notion that the mayor has clearly m ore authority than any other individual and more than the City Council? Or is it more split? Or divided? RW: Well, I think in terms of the things that City Council has the power to act on, and a partnership. And the Mayor great for people like myself. As a department head y ou can get clear decisions and can move quickly. And your ability to provide input and get decisions is vastly improved feel like it. RK: You mentioned before when we di scussed the comprehensive plan, the Hillsborough County Planning Commission? RW: Yes. RK: That has responsibility for planning for the entire county, including RW: Right RK: the municipalities of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City. Is [there] any way you can discuss the kind of division of responsibilities between you as the head planner for the city and this planning commission? to create a planning componen t within the city department that administered federal programs. That included the Model Cities program at that time. And the federal government mandated that you [had to] have direct planning in support of the expenditure of those funds. being hired, [the city] had contracted with the planning commission RK: It was his first administration?


9 Metropolitan Development Agency. We got very active in working with city departments and assessing conditions in low ch is what] we focused on. funds and [we] administer[ed] those projects as well. The Planning Commission chose to, I think, be threatened by the fact that we were in existence presentations to him on needs analysis in the low income neighborhoods before we was so impressed with th at, that he said he wanted us to provide those planning services on a citywide basis for all of the funds that he was responsible for. So he abolished [physically] into City Hall. At that point the tension with the Planning Commission grew, because we had a new role ty departments led probably to some friction with the Planning Commission [that has ensued] over the years. Our roles were generally defined. Where the state legislation defined [Planning Commission] responsibilities, we respected that and in many cases tried to augment and Planning Organization ? RW: Yes. RK: that focuses on transportation? Did you interact with them as well? RW: Not very often. I did on a project by project basis. If there was a major thoroughfare being improved and it was in a neighborhood or a distri ct that we were already working [our] architect to help them with urban design issues and the aesthetic issues for their transportation improvements. They generally welcome those organizations when it came to preparing the transportation element in the involved with the MPO. We generally took the product from the MPO planning process and integrated it into the comp plan to meet Affairs, which often were not [always] compatible or identical t requirement.


10 RK: This must sound like an odd question, but during the Freedman administration you and the budget department were in the same, administrative unit, is that correct? Or your, you reported to that, the budget, is that correct ? RW: I reported to the Finance Director RK: Finance. RW: which included the budget officer, the chief accountant and the business and occupational licensing department. RK: Now was that new with the Freedman administration? Or that was the structur e prior to it as well. RW: That was the original structure. It was never changed while I was there. I liked it because it helped integrate [the] planning and budgeting process, which I thought was [End Tape 1, Side A] ___ [Tape 1, Side B] RK: that planning and budgeting was in the same administrative unit. RW: Oh absolutely. It could not have been a better organizational decision So we, the planning director and the budget officer reported to the same person. So it was very easy for us to integrate planning into the budgeting process and to have plans implemented through resource allocation decisions. And vice versa budget was in a better position to rationalize its recommendations for resource allocations, because they had a stronger ge change across the board without much analysis. RK: So a lot of times when people think about a city planning department, they think exclusively of land use. But obviously what you did was much, much broader than that. act the day to day zoning decisions, the administration of zoning, was done by another department. So we were not tied up in that. But we were responsible along with the Planning Commission for the land use element in the comprehensive plan, which guided t involved in the day to RK: And your staff had how many people?


11 RW: It was never more than 1 0. Which I thought was fairly significant for a city this size and the amount of responsibilities we had. RK: So you felt you had ample resources, generally speaking? staff as anyone could have asked for. So we, we were always able to, I think, accomplish what we were asked to do. RK: Many people interested in urban design and urban aesthetics; you had an urban design person on your staff, is that true? rue. RK: Was this a major focus of the Freedman administration, the importance of urban design? And maybe connected [to] that, perhaps, public art? undertook the [downtown ] land use planning process. I had the architect intimately involved in coming up with the design standards for the downtown district [and] working with the [blue ribbon] committees. And these were very intensive working sessions numerous ones over a perio d of a year. And when it was finally adopted, typically that responsibility [of design review] would have gone to the department that administers the But the committee recommended that the oversight for downtown be placed with this architect and with City Planning. So we ended up having the lead role in design review of all new construction projects in the downtown district. So even the development s]. RK: Did you get involved with public art as well, was that as ? to say it was sold at the beginning of the process. We took the committee to visit some other communi outstanding outdoor public art collection and program. So riding back on the plane it them; [which] they ultimately recommended [to] the City Council and got it adopted. So public art used to be a requirement only for publicly funded projects. It was expanded to include all private development downtown, and required that a certain amount of public art be spen t on art that was placed outdoors or [indoors that] could be seen from the street. h issues such as storm water?


12 RW: Not, not really. We worked with the [city] department developing the storm water element in the comprehensive plan. It identified needs and set some development range [capital pl anning] standards. But those long revenues that we were projecting for the next 20 years. So the areas that today suffer from flooding conditions are very difficult to solve [financi e minimum requirements of the Comp Plan.] RK: I know the mayor took different heads of departments to neighborhood meetings. Did you often attend these meetings? RW: Yes. RK: Is there any way you can generalize about the type of grievances that citize ns had? go to those neighborhoods on what we knew to be the condition of the neighborhood based on the data we had. And quite often the neighborhoods were validating that we did and [in] need [of] funding. Take Park and Recreation through our program, she was armed with information where not only did she know which neighborhoods did an d did not have parks, but the ones that did, what the conditions were. Were they substandard? Was it a ball field below official minimum dimensions? Did it have restrooms? Did it have equipment rooms? Did it serve all age groups and if it did, what was the So she really had far more information than they knew about when she went into neighborhoods, she just did not have financial [resources to solve] all those problems [on a short term basis]. RK: Do you have any memory, and again, I know this is a long time ago, about what people in South Tampa would be saying, as compared to those in East Tampa in terms of the major issues that came up? now. But South Tampa issues were often with traffic [and] drainage. The inner city areas were much different the needs were quite often in terms of law enforcement. Often es neighborhoods


13 he initial development project.] RK: The Freedman administration devoted a lot of effort to affordable housing. Did your department get involved with that? RW: We got involved in terms of attracting grants. But it was administered by the Department of Ho funded housing. And we more involved under Mayor f housing department became enormously creative and turned it around. [Consequently] the y won several awards from HUD and Department of Community Affairs for their innovative approaches to housing. She accomplished that by using the service level analysis. She set ually and RW: No, [but] that was one of the innovations they came up with, [which] was to leverage the block grant funds by ch allenging businesses to contribute. And so instead of making a one for one direct loan to an end user, they used the money as a bad debt reserve to guarantee loans made by the banks who would take a chance in going into neighborhoods that if you will, they construction loans in these lower income n eighborhoods. RK: Did your department endure an analysis of lending or I think you used the term RW: No, we did that under that and collected data from the banks and it was a way to [and] there, would be people like us looking at the lending patterns, and trying to put teeth into it. It may have helped. I RK: You entered city government in 19


14 RK: 1972. And you stayed when did you retire? RW: Yes. [ summarize the changes that you were able to perceive during this time period? In terms of what you were responsible for, wheth er it be changes in processes, or achievements, any RW: Well I would say during the early years, during Model Cities programs and I have fe deral funds to be spent each year and I liked how we went about it. We systematically looked at needs before we ever decided how these funds should be spent. So it was a lot of good in a number of low income neighborhoods. And there were some very creative people that worked during that time. And then when we were reorganized in the city planning, I think probably just the process of planning itself being a function of city government. Before it was just something that was done by an outside agency on a, on a very peripheral type of basis. So service level analysis process. mak by the state, calling for rewrites.] So we felt like we knew what we were doing and had t r[s] coming in [wanted] from out of the state... ask[ed first] what you can do for the community before you ask for help from us. It did not endear her with the development community, and othe rs that they influenced [but it has made a significant difference in the quality of downtown development, both private and public.] A great example was a bank, a Canadian bank coming in that selected a piece of property ey] wanted to put in a bank that looked like the


15 Riverwalk, any amenities, no landscaping, no public art, no design review. She held fast roposed] Trump Tower that has all of plan that created the 15 foot setback for the Riverwalk.] RK: Were you involved in the effort to get the hotel, along with the Convention Center, or to serve the Convention Center business? lead staff to those committees. So, we provided some support, but frankly not an awful e] in, we evaluated them, organized them, packaged them for man. [started] a small little niche where he does background screening [called Zaeplex Legal at. He wanted me to help him with marketing. He had some revenue goals he wanted to meet watching him succeed. RK: Do you have any overriding impression of how the private s ector differs from the public? In terms of your experience? a lot of differen assignments to each staff member in writing that said what [was] expected and how many communication througho sector. We managed government business [in planning] similar to the way a private firm RK: Thank you very, very much for speaking with me sir.

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Wehling, Roger.
Roger Wehling
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Robert Kerstein.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (52 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman administration oral history project
Interview conducted on June 16, 2005.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Streaming audio.
During the tenure of Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman (1986-1995), Roger Wehling served as the city's Director of Planning. The interview begins with a discussion of Florida's mandated comprehensive planning program. Mr. Wehling also discusses Tampa's Blue Ribbon Committee, the Channelside area, the Florida Aquarium, and the Tampa Port Authority. He also discusses city planning and zoning issues. The interview ends with Mr. Wehling discussing his current (2005) position and how working in the private sector differs from working in the public sector.
Wehling, Roger.
Freedman, Sandy.
2 610
Tampa (Fla.)
Office of the Mayor.
City planning
z Florida
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