A Last Hurrah?

Among those taken aback by the recent public speculation about former Mayor Dick Greco making a political comeback was – Dick Greco.

Greco, who has been elected four times (1967, ’71, ’95, ’99) as mayor of Tampa, dismisses most of the talk as predictable “political season” palaver.

“It’s not at all abnormal for people to talk to me about running,” says Greco. “And it was a thrill when I came back and did it again (in 1995) after 21 years. “But I haven’t sat down with anybody. I’m not being coy, but I would have to talk seriously with my wife, kids, best friends. And I haven’t. In fact, my son called me after those newspaper stories came out and said, ‘What are you doing?’

“As I said, this is the political season and it’s not unusual for people to ask.”

But if the right people – say, serious business interests still on the lookout for an alternative to Pam Iorio – were to do the formal asking, how would he answer?

“I’d have to honestly search my soul,” responds Greco, sounding not unlike a man who misses the mayoral limelight — and appreciates the flattery of the buzz.

Greco’s reputation was built on personal charisma, a hands-off managerial style that was heavily reliant on a coterie of long-time loyalists, and an uber salesman’s instinct for cutting the big deal. Even his cronyism critics will concede a can-do legacy.

But it’s not the same City Hall he left in 2003. The culture has changed and key operatives from the Greco administration are no longer there. And Greco has never been 73 years old before. And the incumbent is popular.

Greco’s Tampa legacy includes a perfect elective record: one city council and four mayoral races. Soon to be added: a bronze Greco statue. A fund-raising campaign is now underway. Is this the time for a last hurrah?

“Dick Greco is the best known politician in Tampa,” points out John Belohlavek, a USF history professor and political analyst. “He’s seen as a great booster for Tampa. His reputation is for doing the big stuff. He has lots of friends, especially in the business community, and his supporters would give him enough money.

“But would he want to go through the day-to-day of being mayor in his 70’s?” wonders Belohlavek. “And don’t forget he wouldn’t have that built-in (personnel) structure that enabled him to be Dick Greco.

“The bottom line,” underscores Belohlavek, “is why jeopardize the legacy? Will he run? Probably not. Could he win? I don’t think so.”

But should Greco confound the skeptics and make another mayoral run in early ’07, he won’t need some ad agency to think up a snappy campaign slogan. Courtesy of an acquaintance, he already has one: “Gimme Five.”

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