Greco waxes nostalgic at women's club meeting
By SUSAN THURSTON
© St. Petersburg Times,
TAMPA PALMS -- These days, Mayor Dick Greco does a lot of reminiscing about simpler times when Tampa was a small town and everybody knew everybody.
Back then, he didn't have to worry about terrorist attacks or to study up on anthrax.
"Things have really changed," he told members of the Tampa Palms Women's Club on Thursday. "I've spent a lot of time listening to "what ifs."'
The 68-year-old mayor returned to his former neighborhood to speak on everything from security to Steve LaBrake. Between jokes, he urged the women to get involved in local issues and to help others who are less fortunate.
"I hope some good comes out of the bad that has happened to this country," he said. "We need to love ourselves, our families, our neighbors and our public officials."
A Tampa native, Greco said a lot has changed since he was a boy growing up in Seminole Heights. Cars have power windows, houses have air conditioning and people communicate via computer, not face to face.
"You hardly have to move to survive these days," he said. "If your remote control on your TV breaks, you go nuts."
At least twice, he said his car is nicer than his first house.
Greco became one of the few Tampa mayors to live north of Seminole Heights when he and his wife, Linda, bought a house in the Reserve section of Tampa Palms in 1998. The long commute forced them to move back south, but he still speaks fondly of the area.
"You've got parks, sidewalks and space," he said. "It's a wonderful place to live and a wonderful place to be."
But not perfect. Greco knows firsthand about the gridlock in New Tampa and asked for patience while more roads are built.
"I know the traffic out here is tough, but it's getting to be a big city," he said. "We're going to have to be inconvenienced as we grow."
The mayor ends his second term in 2003 and cannot seek re-election. He was disappointed Tampa didn't make the cut for the 2012 Olympics, but said the city benefited from the exposure. He admitted the games seemed a long ways off.
"It was for hard for me, honest, to be excited about 2012 deep inside. In 2012, I'll be eating mashed bananas," he said, drawing laughs from the crowd's many retirees.
On a more serious note, Greco tried to defuse criticism about his handling of city housing chief LaBrake, who is at the center of a controversy involving his new house in South Tampa. Despite urgings that the mayor fire the 16-year employee, Greco said he couldn't act that harshly toward someone who hasn't been charged with a crime.
"I'm not protecting him. I'm protecting his rights as a human being," he said. "I've seen him cry. It's not a pretty sight."
Greco called LaBrake a hard worker who "obviously embarked on a strange journey" with a coworker, Lynne McCarter. He warned the audience to be careful about rushing to quick judgments.
"You can't just live life based on the smattering of what we see," he said.
Incoming club president Edith Dutz said Greco's comments were timely and entertaining. After speaking, he had lunch with the 40 women on the veranda of the Tampa Palms Golf and Country Club.
"Most of the ladies that I talked to were very impressed," she said. "It was nice to put a voice and a face with the name."
- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3463 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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