Bill Carlson Archives - Florida Politics
Bill Carlson - Family

Bill Carlson cracks $50K raised for Tampa City Council bid

Bill Carlson posted another five-figure finance report for August, putting him far in the lead in the three-way race to succeed exiting City Councilman Harry Cohen, who is running in the crowded race for Tampa Mayor.

Carlson started his campaign for the District 4 seat with a bang in June, bringing in more than $31,000 for his bid and followed it up with a healthy $8,145 in July and another $10,640 in his most recent report.

The new money included a $500 check from Southern Strategy Group of Tampa, $500 from Tampa banker Henry Gonzalez and $150 from Orlando-based architect CT Hsu of CT Hsu + Associates as well as numerous individual donors.

Expenditures totaled $2,542 for the month and included a $1,500 check to Dossie Marrone for consulting, $391 for a campaign website via Sky Lake Design Studio and $200 to voter data firm NGP Van. The remaining spending mainly covered credit card fees for donations accepted through online fundraising platform Anedot.

Carlson, the president of Tampa-based public relations firm Tucker Hall, has now raised $50,231 since entering the race and had about $41,000 banked at the end of August.

That gives him a two-to-one lead over this best-funded challenger, Salvatore Guagliardo Jr., who had raised $27,727 through the end of last month and had about $19,000 on hand. Also in the race is David Loos, who has raised $9,045 and has $7,775 banked.

District 4 covers South Tampa running south from San Jose Street to MacDill AFB, including all of Davis Island and Harbour Island. The district is bordered on the west by Old Tampa Bay, on the south by Tampa Bay, on the east by Hillsborough Bay. The northern border abuts District 5 and District 6.

Only John Dingfelder, who has been running to succeed Councilwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin in District 3 since March, has amassed more campaign cash than Carlson has over the past six months — his fundraising total bests the other 16 candidates running in for the seven Tampa City Council seats that will be on the March 5, 2019, ballot.

The only incumbents running for re-election next year are Guido Maniscalco, who is unopposed in the District 6 race, and Luis Viera who faces a light challenge from Quinton Robinson.

If a candidate wins a majority of the vote for a municipal seat in the March 5 election, they will win the race outright. Otherwise, the top two vote-getters will go head-to-head in an April 23 runoff election.

Bill Carlson makes a splash in first finance report

It has been a month since Bill Carlson announced his bid for the District 4 seat on the Tampa City Council, and his first finance report puts him atop the three-person field.

Carlson, president of Tampa-based public relations firm Tucker Hall, raised $31,446 during his first 30 days in the race and ended the month with nearly $30,000 of that in the bank.

Notable names among the one dozen donors chipping in at the $1,000 level include District 3 City Councilwoman Yvonne Capin, as well as Tucker Hall founder Jeff Tucker and chair Tom Hall. In all, Carlson received 105 contributions averaging about $300 apiece.

Expenditures were light, which is not unexpected given the Council seat won’t be on the ballot until March 2019. Of the $1,527 in spending, $1,000 headed to Wendy Cartwright for a consulting contract and another $300 or so paid for printed materials and the balance covered credit card processing fees for Carlson’s contributions.

Carlson faces businessman Sal Guagliardo Jr. and workplace consultant David Loos in the District 4 race. The seat is open in 2019 because of current Councilman Harry Cohen’s decision to run for Tampa Mayor.

Guagliardo has been in the race since March and has raised just over $25,000, with $19,000 of that cash showing up in his inaugural report. He had $21,380 in the bank on June 30. Loos turned in his candidate paperwork on June 29 and didn’t report any contributions for the two days he was a candidate last month.

All seven council seats are up in 2019. District 6 Councilman Guido Maniscalco and District 7 Councilman Luis Viera are the only incumbents running for re-election.

If a candidate wins a majority of the vote for a municipal seat in the March 5 election, they will win the race outright. Otherwise, the top-two vote-getters will go head-to-head in an April 23 runoff election.

Sixth annual list of Tampa Bay’s 25 Most Powerful Politicians

There certainly has been a great deal of change since we published last year’s annual list of the Most Powerful Politicians in Tampa Bay.

First of all, the website we published it to — — is shuttered after the decision was made to focus all of our reporting energies into

Second, and more important as it relates to this list, last year’s #1, former state Sen. Jack Latvala, is nowhere to be found on this list after he resigned in scandal in late 2017.

With the top spot being vacated that obviously means there will be a new #1, but it also likely means there is additional volatility up and down on the list. Who stepped up to fill the vacuum created by Latvala’s exit?

In compiling the 2018 list, Florida Politics queried several of the region’s leading political consultants, activists, bloggers, operatives and local lobbyists to name who they consider the 25 most powerful pols in the area. No suggested names were provided.

For this exercise, the Tampa Bay region is defined as Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco, but can also include Hernando, Polk or Sarasota, particularly if politicians from those counties impact either Pinellas or Hillsborough.

Among those on the 2017 panel: Democratic consultant Tom Alte and Meagan Salisbury of Blue Ticket Consulting, Laura Boehmer of Southern Strategy Group — Tampa Bay, Tucker/Hall president Bill Carlson, Ana Cruz of Ballard Partners, investigative journalist Mike Deeson, political consultant Barry EdwardsMatt Florell of St. Pete Polls, former Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mike Griffin, Tampa Bay politico Carrie Henriquez, columnist Joe Henderson, Democratic activist Shannon Love, political strategist Jennifer Lux, Momentum Strategy Group president Brock Mikosky, former state Rep. Edwin Narain, former state Rep. Seth McKeel of Southern Strategy Group — Tampa Bay, Dr. Darryl Paulson, professor emeritus at USF, Anthony Pedicini and Tom Piccolo of Strategic Image Management, Tom Scherberger of the Hillsborough County Clerk’s Office, Chris Spencer of GrayRobinson, Alan Suskey of Suskey Consulting, J.D. White of Mercury Public Affairs, and public affairs consultant Michelle Schorsch.

Being listed first on a panelist’s list earned 25 points, second earned 24 points and so on. Listing as 25th received one point. Points were then added up and — voilà — the list was created.

In the top four or five slots might be who you’d expect. But once you pass that, the list starts to get truly fascinating.

And a few names not included could indeed be a surprise.

With that introduction, we ask you to please stay tuned to Florida Politics throughout the week as we count down the 25 most influential political figures in Tampa Bay. Follow the list on Twitter with #Top25InTB.

P.S. Thank you to Kate Bradshaw, formerly of the Tampa Tribune and Creative Loafing, for writing the profiles about each politician on the list. And a special thanks to Southern Strategy Group — Tampa Bay, which sponsored this year’s rankings. With their deep involvement in the Tampa Bay community, no wonder it’s signing high-profile clients like the remade ZooTampa.

#1 — Chris Sprowls

#2 — Bob Buckhorn

#3 — Bill Galvano 

#4 — Rick Kriseman

#5 — Wilton Simpson 

#6 — Kathy Castor

#7 — Richard Corcoran

#8 — Jeff Brandes

#9 — Ken Hagan

#10 — Darryl Rouson

#11 — Ken Welch

#12 — Janet Cruz

#13 — Sandra Murman

#14 — Tom Lee

#15 — Gus Bilirakis

#16 — Charlie Crist

#17 — Dana Young

#18 — Bob Gualtieri 



#19 — Janet Long

#20 — Vern Buchanan 

#21 — Andrew Warren

#22 — Darden Rice

#23 — Chad Chronister

#24 — Chris Latvala 

#25 — Les Miller (tie)

#25 — Ben Diamond (tie)

Bill Carlson to run for Tampa City Council District 4 seat

Bill Carlson, President of the giant Tampa-based public relations firm Tucker Hall, said he will run for the Tampa City Council District 4 seat in 2019.

The district covers much of South Tampa and is currently represented by Harry Cohen, who is term-limited on the Council but is a candidate for Mayor of Tampa.

Carlson, who has never run for elected office, told Florida Politics, “I realized I’ve done a lot behind the scenes in the last 25 years. It’s time to take it to the next level.”

Carlson said “community stuff is my passion” but also has experience going after big prizes. He was a key figure in a battle to pursue more flights to foreign locations from Tampa International Airport.

The airport has since greatly expanded its international presence, which Carlson said could lead to an expansion of trade opportunities.

One of his top priorities, he said, will be to continue “making Tampa a global city” while also continuing to support start-ups and entrepreneurs through innovation sectors.

As a South Tampa resident though, Carlson said he is keenly interested in making the city’s iconic Bayshore Boulevard into a safer road for bicyclists and walkers. Last week, a young mother and her baby were struck and killed by a speeding car on the road.

“I have three kids who ride bicycles on Bayshore,” he said. “Every parent looked in horror at what happened last week. It is unconscionable that we only have two crosswalks on Bayshore.”

He said he plans to listen to all sides of a community discussion about the future of the thoroughfare. There is sentiment by some to reduce the number of car lanes while dedicating part of the current roadway to pedestrians and bicyclists.

“In every issue, we have to balance the needs of all groups,” he said.

Small-business owner Salvatore Guagliardo Jr. previously declared his candidacy for the seat as well.

Hillsborough students say they’ve only just begun to focus on gun control

Only 16 days ago, a mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School took the lives of 14 high school students and three adults.

Nevertheless, some believe the gun control debate is “over.”

That’s what Cafe Con Tampa head Bill Carlson was told when announcing the weekly lecture series would focus on three Hillsborough County students inspired to speak out about the issue.

“The whole world is watching us right now,” 14-year-old Safiyyah Ameer said Friday at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa.

The Blake High School student explained why she and many of her classmates are so focused on doing something to prevent another Parkland from occurring.

While there have been countless gun massacres the U.S. over the past two decades, little has been done legislatively to address the matter.

After a shocking mass shooting in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut killed 20 children, many felt something would finally happen; it did not.

In Parkland, however, from the day after the tragedy, several articulate teenagers from Stoneman Douglas have emerged as media stars through their pronounced comments on gun violence.

And politicians appear ready to respond, at least in Florida.

Measures introduced by Gov. Rick Scott and the House and Senate are being debated fiercely with just a week left in the 2018 Legislative Session.

“We have the power to make change, and we’re using that to our advantage and we’re going to go forward and make change,” said Ameer, who was behind last Friday’s Blake High School walkout and the subsequent rally/news conference at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa.

Alex Barrow, a 16-year-old from Hillsborough High School, told the Cafe Con Tampa audience he and his colleagues met with 40 different students from high schools in Hillsborough Tuesday to strategize about their next actions.

Plans include two upcoming protests: one on March 14, and another on March 24 to coincide with the national march on Washington led by students protesting against gun violence.

Barrow said about 40 different students from different high schools in Hillsborough met this past Tuesday to strategize about their next actions.

While the outrage remains high, several adults in the audience asked the students if they were in the effort for the long haul.

“Persistence will be critical to your success,” advised political consultant Gregory Wilson. “How strong do you believe your resolve will be?”

“It’s definitely going to be hard to keep up this resilience that we’ve acquired and keeping up our courage to stand up against what we are for and to stay strong through it all and through the judgments of the people who are going against what we are trying to do,” Ameer admitted.

“This time it will be different,” Barrow promised. “We realize now that the politicians in office will not initiate the change by themselves, and the responsibility has fallen upon us, the students to take action.”

“We’re students. We’re juggling our personal lives, AP classes, homework, and we’re also trying to keep our peers from being killed,” said 14-year-old Julize Diaz from Blake High School, the third member of the group. “So, of course, there’s going to be some bumps on the road.”

The three students, like many in the public education world, said they were vehemently opposed to arming schoolteachers, the most controversial piece of the bills moving through the Legislature. Governor Scott is opposed to that requirement, but it’s uncertain if he would veto a school safety package that includes that item.

The reality on the ground in Florida schools has changed in the wake of Parkland. Barrow said that teachers in all his classes now lock the door when instruction begins.

When asked if they learned much about civics in their classes, Ameer, daughter of St. Petersburg union activist Maria Jose Chapa, said history books only give the “sugar-coated version” of what happened in the U.S.

“I have to learn that on my own and definitely from my mother. She teaches me the real history of America,” Ameer said.

Unlike some venues, where discussions about gun control can get heated, the mostly liberal crowd at Cafe Con Tampa (which included Democratic legislative candidates Bob Buesing and Debra Bellanti and Hillsborough County Commission candidate Kimberly Overman) rarely disagreed with the sentiments from the speakers, starting with many in the audience giving them a standing ovation when the discussion began.

The one time the students were challenged came from a question from New Tampa Republican Jim Davison, an unsuccessful 2016 City Council candidate.

Alluding to measures in the Legislature that would raise the age of purchasing guns from 18 to 21 in Florida (a proposal vehemently opposed by the NRA and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam),

Davison, a self-described baby boomer, said he came from the generation that fought for 18-year-olds to get the ability to vote, drink, smoke and other rights as an adult.

Why should someone who gets trained to be a killer in the military, comes back home at 20 and is denied the chance to buy a rifle, Davison asked.

Diaz replied that the soldier’s job was to kill people when fighting overseas, but when they return home, there was no need for a gun.

Ameer said many soldiers return home with Post Stress Traumatic Disorder, so it would be foolhardy to give them guns.

Barrow believed people should be able to own a handgun, but not assault rifles (Davison agreed).

Tampa mayoral candidate Topher Morrison asked the trio if they were now inspired to get involved in politics when they get older.

Ameer replied that her current activism is just the start of a political career.

Diaz wants to be a journalist; Barrow intends to enter the Naval Academy.

Donald Trump’s unknown policy on dealing with Cuba worries Tampa advocates

There is no region in the country that has been more involved in engaging with Cuba over the past five years than Tampa, but where that relationship goes in the future is now at the whims of President-elect Donald Trump.

“Until a month ago, I thought that the biggest obstacle to trade between Tampa and Cuba was Mayor (Bob) Buckhorn, and now we have a new player and that’s Donald Trump,” said Tucker/Hall head Bill Carlson at Friday’s “Cafe Con Tampa” meeting in South Tampa.

Carlson and La Gaceta editor/publisher Patrick Manteiga spoke on what the change of power in Washington and the death last week of Cuban leader Fidel Castro portends regarding the momentum of relations between Tampa and the Communist nation. Almost exactly two years ago, President Obama announced a diplomatic breakthrough with the Raul Castro-led government, and he’s followed by a series of executive actions to ease the sanctions which still exist.

The president ended the 180-day ban on ships docking at U.S. ports after sailing from Cuba, paved the way for doctors to work with Cuban researchers on medical investigations and allowed Americans to travel to Cuba in cultural exchange programs.

Manteiga said that Castro’s death doesn’t play into the equation at all. “To many people, this changes everything,” he said. “In reality, it doesn’t change anything at all.”

Carlson referred to the surge of activity between Tampa and a contingent from the Tampa Bay History Center is currently visiting the Communist island. Officials with the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce visited Cuba last year, and officials with the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce have made three separate trips.

Since 2011, hundreds of thousands of passengers have made the hour-long flight from Tampa to Cuba aboard charter flights. Commercial flights through Southwest Airlines from Tampa International have just begun, as have commercial flights from nine other airports thanks to President Obama.

Several members of the City Council have also made trips to the island, and both that board and the Chamber of Commerce have backed the idea of having a Cuban consulate located in Tampa, something that Buckhorn has not become involved. The mayor has always sided with the Cuban exile community in Tampa that to this day supports the more than fifty decade-long sanctions, believing that any recognition of the Cuban government is unacceptable until they stop detaining dissidents and allow for a more open society.

Carlson accused the mayor of hypocrisy, noting his recent business trip to China, which in a congressional report listed 2015 as its worst year on record for human rights violations.

Critics of the outreach to Cuba have dismissed the discussions about improving commercial relations, saying that Cuba is a relatively poor country with little to offer the U.S. Carlson says in fact that the nation of 11.5 million have a desperate need for all types of services and products, and it is one of the great business opportunities for U.S. companies anywhere, but especially in Florida with its proximity. “There is an unprecedented investment in infrastructure,” he said.

“The governor and the Republicans don’t want the port to reach out to Cuba, and the Port keeps using the excuse that perhaps there might be funding that might get cut off,” said Manteiga, adding, “They’re not going to cut off the funding for the Port. Our legislative delegation wouldn’t let it.”

Perhaps the single biggest local advocate for improved relations between Tampa and Cuba, Al Fox, is in Cuba this week, but both men noted his current legal situation. Fox faces civil penalties from an agency of the U.S. Treasury Department called the Office of Foreign Assets Control. The agency accuses Fox of arranging two trips to Cuba in 2010 and 2011 without obtaining proper licenses.

“Al is going to fight in federal court to prove that these laws are unconstitutional. If he wins it will benefit all of us and the Cuban people,” said Carlson.

“It’s amazing that they’re still punishing people who want to make a change in U.S. policy,” Manteiga said.

Carlson has frequented Cuba five times in the past two years, and says he sees more and more stores opening up each he visits. “Entrepreneurship is just flourishing there, and my fear is that it will roll everything back.”

Adam Putnam espouses the importance of water to Florida while speaking at ‘Cafe Con Tampa’

If Florida Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam has a central governing philosophy, it might be the importance of having a long-term memory about the Sunshine State.

“Having a longer memory I think helps us maintain the types of protections for our citizens that they expect and that they deserve,” he said while speaking at an hour long town-hall meeting at Hugo’s restaurant in South Tampa Friday morning.

The Polk County native, who just turned 42 last month, loves to talk policy, and if he ultimately chooses to run for Florida Governor in 2018, his intricate knowledge of the state and his prescriptions to improve it will undoubtedly make him a formidable candidate

Citing a statistic that an official with Florida Power & Light told him about 40 percent of their customers didn’t live through the seven major hurricanes that rocked Florida in 2004-2005, Putnam warned about the public becoming too complacent about a major weather event, since so much of the state’s population hadn’t endured what real damage those storms can have.

He took a similar attitude when discussing handling the Zika virus.

“Mosquito control programs are the kind of thing that Dave Barry or Carl Hiaasen would write a joking column about, right?” he told the overflow crowd. “Only in Florida would there be mosquito control programs. Until you get Zika. Or Dengue. Or Chikungunya.”

Putnam also spoke extensively about water policy. He said water infrastructure in the state simply hasn’t received the type of attention it should.

“There is nothing more important to Florida’s health, Florida’s economy, Florida’s future, than water,” he said plainly. He called it the state’s original “tourist attraction,” well before Disney came to Orlando.

Florida faces a billion gallon per day shortfall statewide by 2030, he said, with a third of that shortfall in the Orlando area. He said that the creation and implementation of Tampa Bay Water is a model that needed to be expanded statewide.

He said it wasn’t cheap to convert 1950’s era subdivisions in Martin and St. Lucie Counties to central sewers, “but that’s the best thing that you can do for the water in those communities.”

He also said the state needs to develop more ways to capture and use reclaimed water, create better stormwater infrastructure, and agriculture needs to do its part. And he said, the feds and the state have to fix Lake Okeechobee, what he referred to as the world’s largest retention pond.

Referring to the toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee into Stuart and Jupiter on Florida’s Treasure Coast, Putnam said if he owned waterfront property there, he’d be as angry as those residents right now. “Because they didn’t do anything wrong, and for 40 years it’s going to be fixed. And when it stops raining. And the release is in, people kind of move on to the next shiny object. And that’s why we have to have a consistent, dedication to a comprehensive water policy in the entire state of Florida.”

The crowd – which included Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, Senate District 19 Democratic hopeful Bob Buesing, House District 60 Republican contender Rebecca Smith and former County Commissioner and mayoral candidate Ed Turanchik – was a little larger than the usual Friday morning “Cafe Con Tampa” breakfast events held every Friday at the South Tampa eatery, which is produced by Tucker Hall’s Bill Carlson and Del Acosta, a former historic preservation manager with the city of Tampa.

Turanchik referred to All Aboard Florida, the passenger rail project connecting Miami to Orlando with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. He asked Putnam if he supported to bring that rail ultimately to Tampa.

The Agriculture Commissioner said he did, “How much wider can we make I-4?,” which elicited a round of applause. “Congestion in Florida is becoming in places an inhibitor to economic development and quality of life. And that’s unacceptable. I don’t want Florida to become like Atlanta. I hate Atlanta,” he said, calling the traffic conditions there “a nightmare.”

As he does in most speeches, Putnam discussed how for so many Americans (especially in the Midwest and East coast), Florida is a “reward” for a life well lived.

“Keeping that dream alive, keeping Florida special…is a special burden that all of us who are proud enough to serve in elected office are honored to carry,” he said.

As the event ended, Putnam was asked about his plans for 2018. By every measure, he is considered to be one of the top Republicans who will be running for governor, and is probably the early favorite to win the office, more than two years out.

“Well I think the American people’s appetite can handle only one circus at a time,” generating laughter from the audience, who seemed to be in his corner. “So we’re going to get through November, and then I’ll have some decisions to make the first part of the year.”


David Jolly supports expanded American travel to Cuba

Monday’s official resumption of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba was met with full-throated denunciations from Republican elected officials up and down the Sunshine State, and David Jolly, the latest entrant into the GOP 2016 Senate race, was no exception.

“Look, I oppose the president’s decision,” Jolly told Florida Politics Monday regarding President Barack Obama‘s diplomatic breakthrough with Cuba in December. “I think it has been too aggressive, too quickly.”

There’s one place, though, where Jolly recently has shown flexibility regarding the Caribbean island nation, and that’s in allowing for expanded private travel for Americans.

“I do think that travel is the one piece that we can begin to effectively move on and see where it develops between the two countries in terms of bringing the Cuban people together with the American people,” he said. “The process in Congress right now is that there has been a series of budget votes to restrict funding for implementing the president’s plans. So I have voted to restrict funding for the president’s plan to open an embassy, for normalizing trade with the Cuban government, or for trade with the intelligence services of Cuba.”

But on travel?

“I have actually embraced the current private travel allowances, and have voted recently to allow to expand it.”

Specifically, Jolly voted on an amendment sponsored by South Carolina Republican Mark Sanford and California Democrat Barbara Lee that would strike newly proposed language creating travel restrictions from the FY 2016 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill. The legislation was supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and a host of agriculture-based organizations, but fell on a 247-176 vote.

Jolly was one of just 18 Republicans to support the measure.

In December, Obama loosened restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba, allowing Americans to go under a general license instead of on a case-by-case basis. But it’s still not as easy as going to Expedia and booking a trip to Havana. Any travel still must be for one of 12 official purposes, and tourism isn’t one of them. According to the Treasury Department, “the traveler’s schedule of activities must not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.”

“Congress is clearly lagging behind public opinion on the issue, ” sayid Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, Jolly’s congressional colleague on the eastern side of Tampa Bay. “When you ask the person on the street, should the American government continue to block you from traveling to Cuba without going through all the bureaucracy, when you can travel to North Korea and Syria?”

“We have tried this current policy — we have prohibited travel for about 50 years, and it hasn’t worked,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, said in January. He made those comments while introducing his bill in the Senate to remove the travel restrictions. “It’s time to allow Americans to travel freely to Cuba,” he said.

In recent years, some of the biggest critics of the Castro-led Cuban government have come around to support eliminating the travel ban.

Tampa lawyer Ralph Fernandez is a longtime anti-Castro activist who has represented former political prisoners of the Cuban government. Two years ago he called for the repeal of the travel ban.

“The First Amendment is on the side of ending the Travel Act,” Fernandez said at a 2013 conference in Tampa discussing Cuba. “It would bring a massive influx of dollars to the Cubans.” But, he said, “It won’t bring about change,” adding that between 1977 and 1982 there was no U.S. ban on travel to the island, and it didn’t result in any change with the Cuban government.

Jolly’s support on travel is applauded by Tampa business officials who have been working on building relationships with the Cuban people.

“David obviously sees the benefits to Florida and Cuba,” said Bill Carlson, president of the Tampa-based communications firm Tucker/Hall. “He could lead this out of partisanship and into a meaningful dialogue that leads to greater change. We need to find ways to support the growing number of entrepreneurs in Cuba. Travel will help develop the relationships needed to do that.”

Personnel note: Darren Richards named Tucker/Hall Chief Operating Officer

Veteran newsman Darren Richards has been named Chief Operating Officer for Tucker/Hall, one of Florida’s largest public relations firms.

Richards has been promoted from Vice President and shareholder at the Tampa-based strategic communications company, which he joined in 2009 after a 23-year career as a news executive. As head of Tucker/Hall’s crisis practice group, Richards is accredited by the Institute for Crisis Management, and received training from the Center for Creative Leadership, as well as the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

“Darren has been a tremendous contributor since coming to the firm six years ago,” said Tucker/Hall President Bill Carlson. “Everyday, he is focused on getting results for clients. But he also cares deeply about our firm and the community. I’m excited about the future with Darren in this new role.”

Carlson will continue as President, and founders Jeff Tucker and Tom Hall will remain active shareholders with the firm.

“I’m tremendously excited to take on this new role,” Richards said. “I look forward to building upon all the great work of Tucker/Hall from past 25 years and helping take the firm and our clients to new heights.”

Prior to joining Tucker/Hall, Richards’ career includes stints as news director at WTSP, the Tampa/St. Petersburg CBS affiliate.  He also worked at a variety of TV stations across the country: Ft. Myers, FL; Jacksonville, FL; Phoenix, Denver and North Carolina.

Among his community activities, Richards is a Leadership Tampa graduate, a partner in the Tampa Bay Professional Alliance, a member of the Propeller Club, assistant coach at Palma Ceia Little League, and sits on the committee at Hyde Park United Methodist Church. He is also active in both international and regional groups of PROI Worldwide, the global network of independent public relations firms.

Richards earned his journalism degree from the University of Kansas where he was named the outstanding broadcast student his senior year.  He lives in Tampa with his wife Deborah; they have four children.

More information about Tucker/Hall, with offices in Tampa and Jacksonville, is at

Tampa City Council poised to vote on requesting city hosts U.S.-Cuba signing ceremony

It was eight years ago today, April 15, 2007, when Barack Obama made his first appearance ever in Tampa.

Obama appeared at the Cuban Club in Ybor City on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, giving a speech from the outdoor plaza after the famed Florida A&M marching band opened the program.

But according to Tampa City Council woman Yolie Capin, the long-planned fundraising event (which only cost supporters $25) was almost canceled at the last moment, after officials back at the Democratic candidate’s national headquarters in Chicago learned that black Cubans at one time were prohibited from attending the club due to segregational mores of the times. But a call from her late husband Juan averted the crisis.

“It was a real panic point,” she reminisced on Wednesday.

The event at the Cuban Club was organized by Juan Capin, who along with Yolie were early supporters of the nascent Obama campaign.

Earlier that day at a more expensive fundraiser at the home of South Tampa Democrat Norma Jean Lykes, Capin said to Obama that if there was ever an opportunity for the leaders of Cuba and Tampa to reestablish relations, such a meeting should occur in Tampa, based on its historical legacy with the island nation.

That’s some of the background leading up a resolution that will come before the City Council on Thursday from City Council Attorney Martin Shelby pertaining to bringing “The Tampa Accord” to the Cigar City.

“What were saying in the that we think that based on the history, any accord- should there be one, should be held here,” Capin says. “It could be deciding that if here is going to be a U.S. embassy in Cuba and one in D.C., we’re saying ‘come to Tampa and sign it here.'”

And they’re calling it “The Tampa Accord.”

“I think it’s essential for Tampa to regain its position as the center of U.S. Cuban trade,” says Bill Carlson with the Tampa communications firm Tucker/Hall. “We need this as the base to build our presence in Latin America.”

And Carlson, a longtime supporter of Tampa setting the pace to be in position to capitalize on improved relations between the two nations, says that a major piece of President Obama’s new policy changes is one that promotes trade between Cuban and U.S. entrepreneurs.

“There are more than 400,000 Cuban cuentapropistas and we as American entreprenours and capitalists need to support them so they can support their own economic destiny,” Carlson adds. “To be against the president’s policy, is to be against entrepreneurship and capitalism and ultimately the freedom for self determination.”

The Tampa City Council is already on record as calling for a Cuban consulate to be built in Tampa. Councilwoman Capin says she’ll ask her colleagues on council to put the two resolutions together with a cover letter and send it to the state’s congressional delegation, as well as to Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, and Secretary of State John Kerry & President Obama.

Undoubtedly the reaction from those legislators may be varied about the city’s enthusiasm for bringing Cuban officials to Tampa, based on some remarks from some South Florida Republican members of Congress as well as Senator Rubio.

Carlson says it’s worth it. “It’s time we stop allowing a couple of billionaires in Miami set the policy for Tampa and the U.S.”

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons