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Pam Iorio helps bring HQ of Big Brothers Big Sisters to Tampa

When she left office four years ago, speculation in the Bay area was rife that Pam Iorio would be going on to bigger things in the political world – though she never directly said so herself.

After publishing a political memoir in 2012 that didn’t exactly set the world on fire, the former Tampa mayor was drafted back into later public service later that year as the interim chief executive of the Hillsborough County Children’s Board, which was then in crisis mode.

By all indications she did an impressive job there, but still was looking for something to sink her teeth into. She found that satisfaction a year ago when she took over the helm as new president and chief executive officer for the national Big Brothers Big Sisters of America organization – but it still wasn’t all that she was hoping for, if only because the job required commuting every week to Dallas, where the nonprofit’s national headquarters had relocated after decades in Philadelphia.

Iorio had only committed to two  years, but the national board wanted at least a five-year commitment. That led to discussions that ultimately led the organization to relocate their national headquarters to Tampa, where Iorio now intends to lead them for years to come.

“From a civic standpoint, I couldn’t be more proud that Big Brothers & Big Sisters of America, is calling Tampa home,” she said at a press conference held on the first floor of the Tampa Convention Center on Wednesday afternoon. “And from a standpoint as CEO, I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future of this great organization here in Tampa,” she added, speaking with a constricted voice after waking up with a case of laryngitis.

Moving a nonprofit back to the mayor’s home works out for Iorio, and BBBS. The former mayor says that a host of local companies have donated more than a million dollars in services to pave the way for a smooth relocation, including Parkway Properties, who is  allowing the nonprofit to move rent free into digs at Corporate Center One Westshore District for the next five years. ROF Furniture donated office furniture and the Beck Group provided the design.

Just last week the Hillsborough and Pinellas County Big Brother Big Sister branches merged into one large organization. Stephen Koch, the CEO & President of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, said the main motivation in doing so was to be able to serve more children. “We share a common media market,” he said after the press conference. “We have many volunteers and donors who live in one county but work in another. We finally said,’this is crazy. Let’s come together and share our resources.'”

The organization collectively served just under 3,100 kids in 2014, and they aspire to serve 3,500 this year.

“When I was mayor we used to talk about changing one life at a time, ” Iorio reminisced while addressing the crowd.”That’s exactly how I see Big Brothers Big Sisters. It may not be the flashiest organization. It may not be some brand new idea that everybody just gets excited about. No, it’s the tried and true 110-year concept. That you build a relationship with someone who needs it. In the course of building that relationship, you change a life forever….and so it’s hooked me, because I think that’s worth working for. Isn’t it?”

To illustrate that point, one “Big” (the adult) and one “Little” (the youth) then addressed the audience.

Alan Cohen retired in 2008 after a career spent with corporate giants IBM & ATT. He said at the age of 56, he wanted to give back, and began serving as a Big Brother to a now-13 year Tampa middle school student who goes by Sir Giorgio. “There’s a saying that how do  you break the cycle of poverty and crime? You try to make a difference in somebody’s life,” said Cohen.

Iorio said that while at least two staffers are moving with her from Dallas, there are 20 positions that will need to be filled in Tampa, ranging from accounting to marketing, fund development to IT.

Among the officials on hand to celebrate the occasion were Rick Homans from the Tampa/Hillsborough EDC, Hillsborough County Commission Chair Sandy Murman, and St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, who said “we will be changing the lives of children with this move.”

Missing in action was Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who usually never fails to be present at a corporate or nonprofit relocation to the city. But the mayor apparently had trouble flying in from Tallahassee in time for the activities.

Iorio says she doesn’t miss the political life at all. “I loved it though,” she stresses. “So there’s no negative…I just see life as a series of adventures. And I’ve always seen it that way.”

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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