tampabay.com

Friends, family - and even Democrats - join the party

By JONI JAMES
Published January 3, 2007


Don't call him governor

When Tuesday's swearing-in ceremony took a short hiatus to ensure Charlie Crist would take office right at noon, Crist and his lieutenant governor, Jeff Kottkamp, stepped off the dais into the crowd.

But when someone called Crist "Governor," he corrected them: "It's Charlie."

Crist spent several minutes thanking people and signing autographs before being pulled back onto the stage.

"We're gonna go get sworn in now, we're gonna make this official," Crist explained, as the crowd began chanting, "Charlie."

Democrats for Crist

Tangela Sears, a Miami community activist, had been an ardent Rod Smith supporter back when the Democrat was running for governor in the primary. But in the general election, she backed Crist over Democrat Jim Davis, in part because she liked Crist's pledge to automatically restore felons civil rights.

On Tuesday, she had near-front row seats at Crist's inauguration in Tallahassee.

"I'm impressed with the messages that Crist has been giving," said Sears, who drove through Tallahassee to hit the inauguration on her way home from visiting family in Atlanta for the holidays.

The White House next?

That's the hope of some Tampa Bay folks who traveled to Tallahassee to celebrate Tuesday.

St. Petersburg developer Brent Sembler, Crist's chief fundraiser, said he has expected since meeting Crist in 1978 that his pal would wind up in the Governor's Mansion. And Pinellas GOP chairman Tony DiMatteo, who helped host a Tampa Bay GOP bash Tuesday night in Tallahassee, suggested Crist's political rise is just beginning.

"To us, he's still Charlie, and it's kind of nice to be on the first-name basis with the governor," DiMatteo said. "We're very proud to share him with all the state and the rest of the nation, and a lot of us feel he will go farther than this."

Hardest working band

It could be the Marching Cowboys from Tampa's Gaither High School. Just two years after their trip representing Florida at the 2005 inauguration of President Bush, the navy-suited performers were one of four bands (along with St. Petersburg High's Green Devils) to participate in Tuesday's inaugural parade.

But it wasn't much of a party for the performers this time.

"We're going straight back," said freshman and trombone player Emily Dowling, 15, as she huffed back to the bus after the nine-block parade. When had the band arrived from Tampa? Just an hour before show time.

New bachelorpad

After changing from his dark suit into jeans and sweater to greet people at the Governor's Mansion Tuesday, Florida's most high-profile bachelor acknowledged living solo in the 13,000-square-foot mansion will take some getting used to. "You have no idea," Crist said. "I mean, I'm there last night alone just kind of rattling around this big place."

Crist is the first bachelor to move into 700 N Adams St. since Claude Kirk did in 1967. Until recently Crist had been dating St. Petersburg banker Katie Pemble.

Governor's barber

Crist went out of his way at the mansion to introduce a St. Petersburg friend to reporters.

"He has been cutting my hair since I was in high school," Crist announced, his arm wrapped around Carl Troup, 62. "He's my great friend and I'm honored and privileged that you're here."

Troup, a lifelong Democrat who voted for Crist, wore a Nikon camera around his neck and a broad smile. He last cut Crist's white locks for the inauguration, but he also bragged he first began cutting Crist's hair "when it was dark."