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What's in a name?

He ran city hall and fought it, too

Bill Poe's contributions range far beyond his spat with the Glazers.

By MICHAEL CANNING
Published October 3, 2003

To younger Tampa residents, he's probably known as the man who fought the Glazers. But Bill Poe doesn't mind.

He still thinks it was wrong for Malcolm Glazer to threaten to move the Bucs from Tampa shortly after buying the team in 1995 unless a new stadium was built. So Poe filed a lawsuit to stop a new tax for the stadium and found himself back in the headlines, where he had not been since serving as Tampa's mayor.

A Tampa native, Poe grew up in Seminole Heights, graduated from Hillsborough High School in 1949 and studied business at the University of Florida. After graduating in 1953, he served in the U.S. Air Force for two years and was stationed at a base near Tokyo.

Poe returned to Tampa and started the W.F. Poe Insurance Agency, where his interest in public service grew. He held his first public office in the late 1960s when he was appointed to a four-year term on the Tampa Port Authority.

In 1973, he launched Poe and Associates, a public company that became Florida's largest retail sales insurance company and the 12th largest in the United States.

The following year he was elected to complete the term of Mayor Dick Greco, who left office a year early to work for mall developer Edward DeBartolo Jr. Poe ran again for mayor and narrowly defeated Joe Kotvas in 1975 to win a full four-year term.

In 1979, he returned to lead Poe and Associates. He retired in 1993 after a merger changed the name to Poe and Brown.

In 1994, he formed the Poe Financial Group, a holding company with Southern Family Insurance, Atlantic Preferred Insurance and Florida Preferred Property as subsidiaries.

The former mayor made headlines again in 1996 when he spent $750,000 of his own money to fight the Glazers and the Community Investment Tax-funded stadium deal in court. He lost and Raymond James Stadium opened in September 1998.

Poe says he's not bitter. He loves the Bucs. Always has. "I think they're an excellent team," he said. But he maintains that keeping them here shouldn't have come at taxpayers' expense.

Poe, 72, now shares a home on Davis Islands with his wife, Betty. They have five children and 13 grandchildren. He's still president and chief executive officer of Poe Financial Group.

For fun, he takes occasional fishing vacations with friends and plays tennis twice a week. Look for him playing at the Tampa Yacht Club or the Freedman Tennis Complex on Davis Islands.

His namesake parking facility at 800 N Ashley Drive opened in 1982.

[Last modified October 2, 2003, 11:55:16]

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