Paul Wilborn: A Vision But Not A View

Paul Wilborn’s formal title doesn’t tell you much — although it hints at bureaucratic square peg, if not outright oxymoron. He is the city’s “creative industries manager,” a new position for a new administration trying to make the biggest splash possible with a new cultural arts district planned for downtown.

A lot of folks have shortened that appellation to “arts czar.” Hardly, retorts Wilborn.

“That’s sort of a joke,” he says. “I’ve certainly never called myself that. I’m not running a big department. I don’t give arts money away. I diffuse power.”

One more indication — his decidedly un-czar digs. Right now he’s housed in a view-less cubicle on the seventh floor of city hall.

The Tampa native, who recently relocated from Los Angeles to take this $90,000-a-year position, will be a champion of — and expediter for — the arts. He’s a musician, playwright and — until about six weeks ago — journalist, who has returned to his roots. His city hall job will evolve and eventually define itself.

“I’m still figuring out what I need to do,” says the former Associated Press senior writer. “They want creative ideas.”

Foremost among “they” is Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. Early returns credit her with an inspired choice in Wilborn. The affable 51 year old has plenty of friends, fans — and believers.

“I’m all for what Iorio’s doing,” notes former Wilborn colleague, Kurt Loft of the Tampa Tribune. “Paul’s a pioneer in this role. I think we’re all waiting to see how well he works it and nurtures it. The guy has a lot of talent. If anyone can, he can.”

The arts, explains Wilborn, has always been his “passion.” He was intrigued with the opportunity to do it full time.

“The clincher was that I wasn’t going to be her (Iorio’s) ‘press person,'” Wilborn adds. “But I do get to work for someone whose sincerity and intelligence I believe in. She has an incredible amount of good will — and she’s not about to squander it.”

As for pressure, Wilborn says it’s mainly a matter of “working for a woman who likes to see results. She has a great memory.”

The CIM job does come with some broad parameters, ambitious goals and a lot of leeway to make things happen.

According to the letter of agreement he signed, Wilborn’s role is officially “multi-dimensional.” He’s charged with helping “to establish Tampa as a regional cultural center, a cultural destination in itself and to create some unique characteristics to identify the city as such.” There are references to “outreach initiatives” to be undertaken and a “focus” to be maintained upon “both artists and audiences, from all ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds

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