Bob Buckhorn was the mayor of Tampa, Florida from April 1, 2011 until May 1, 2019. Under his leadership, Tampa is a city that has been recognized as a top city for entrepreneurs (Forbes), the best city in the southeast (Money Magazine), one of the hottest cities for startups (Fortune), top city to invest in housing (Forbes), and one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the country (U.S. Census). From its vibrant and rapidly expanding urban core to the unending charm of its diverse neighborhoods, Tampa’s time has come.
After a long history of service to the City of Tampa, Bob Buckhorn was elected as the 58th mayor of Tampa, where he leads over 4,300 dedicated, hard-working, and forward-thinking civil servants.
A proud alumnus of Penn State University, Buckhorn was first introduced to the Office of the Mayor in 1987, when he served then Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman as Special Assistant. In 1991, he was selected to Chair the MacDill Reuse Advisory Committee and led the effort to save MacDill Air Force Base from closure. In 1995 Buckhorn began his first of two terms on the Tampa City Council, where he gained citywide recognition for his leadership, initiative, and progressive policies. In 2003, after having completed his second term, he left public office and joined the Dewey Square Group, a public affairs company with a national reputation. In 2007, he opened Buckhorn Partners, his own public affairs firm based in Tampa.
In 2011, Bob Buckhorn was elected mayor of Tampa, the nation’s 53rd largest city and the 3rd largest in Florida. On April 1, 2011 he was officially sworn into office. Since that time, Mayor Buckhorn has led the city out of the largest recession since the great depression. He has annually balanced the budget while making strategic investments; under his leadership, the City of Tampa has seen twelve credit rating increases.
One of his first acts as mayor was to create a diverse panel of local business people and community activists to help reshape how City Hall does business. He improved online access to city services and struck a valuable public/private partnership to provide free Wi-Fi service throughout downtown.
Mayor Buckhorn set a tone of inclusiveness in Tampa as the City acted as a pioneer for equality by establishing one of Florida’s first Domestic Partnership Registries, enacted paid family leave for city employees, and started the process to become one of the nation’s first Autism Friendly City with the help from C.A.R.D. (Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University of South Florida).
After four successful years, Buckhorn was elected to a second term as mayor, receiving 95% of all votes cast. It was clear that Mayor Buckhorn had a strong vision for Tampa, and the voters chose to continue that progress.
Buckhorn has made it a priority to focus on public safety, strong neighborhoods, and economic growth while working diligently to improve the overall quality of life in our community. During his time in office, the crime rate in Tampa has dropped by over 23%. Through his leadership, Buckhorn is revolutionizing the way the city does business. His One-Stop Permitting Shop has streamlined the permitting and regulatory process, permitting $2.4 billion in new construction in FY2015 and $2.1 billion in FY2016 permitting over $11 billion in projects since 2011, and making opening up international markets to Tampa’s small businesses a top priority.
A $3 billion, a 40-acre development project in the Channel District is underway. It will include a new hotel, 650,000 square-foot office tower, retail, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The new district will be WELL Certified, the world’s first health and wellness-focused city district that will include the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine that is relocating to downtown Tampa as well as an urban technology accelerated powered by Dreamit. This will create an environment where students and medical professionals will have immediate access to Tampa General Hospital and the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation.
Through his vision, the Hillsborough River will soon become this city’s center point. With community involvement, the West River Redevelopment Plan, a part of the InVision Plan, was created to transform the area west of the river. Substandard public housing will be replaced with more suitable places to live at all levels of affordability. Improvements will be made to streets and there will be increased access to the river including the newly opened, nearly-25-acre, Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park.
Mayor Buckhorn has also made it a primary focus to create a safer atmosphere for Tampa’s youth. Through his Stay and Play initiative, operation hours at various community centers throughout Tampa have been extended and free recreation cards are now provided to area youth. Since the program launched in the summer, there has been over 100,000 visits from kids who have chosen to be a part of these safe and fun environments.
During his time in office, he introduced Water Works Park, a $7.4 million dollar downtown park that offers picnic areas, boat slips, a kayak launch, a dog park, and a giant water bucket and splash pad.
Buckhorn also ensured that Perry Harvey Sr. Park underwent a full renovation showcasing the history of the African American community in Tampa with statues, a history walk, music, a modernized skate park, also known as the world-famous “Bro Bowl”, and a splash pad.
Mayor Buckhorn has laid the foundation for Tampa to compete with other top-tier cities by fostering a culture of inclusiveness, responsiveness, and determination. From strengthening our neighborhoods through programs like Mayor’s Neighborhood University to the completion of the Tampa Riverwalk, Mayor Buckhorn is empowering Tampa residents in all corners of our city.
Mayor Buckhorn has received a number of awards for his achievements and dedication to the community. He is the recipient of the 2012 Award of Excellence from AIA Tampa Bay, the Moffitt Momentum Award from the Moffitt Cancer Center, and the 2014 International Person of the Year award from WIT Tampa Bay. The Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc. have also awarded him with the “Friend of Free Enterprise Award 2012”, and the USF National Academy of Inventors certified Mayor Buckhorn as an Honorary Member—granting all rights and privileges of the Academy.
Other awards include 2014 Share the Road Leadership award from the Florida Bicycle Association & Bike Florida, and the 2014 CREW Excellence Award for Civic Leader of the Year from CREW Tampa Bay/IP Capital Partners.
He also earned several Creative Loafing Best of the Bay awards in 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018 -- including the Best of the Bay Local Politician (Reader’s Pick), the 2014 Local Hero award, and the 2018 Best Mayor award. The YMCA Community Impact Award honored Mayor Buckhorn with the Community Leader award (2015), Prevent Blindness Florida awarded him with the Person of Vision Award (2016), and the American Planning Association Florida Chapter honored him as the Outstanding Local Public Official (2016), and he’s a proud recipient of the 2018 Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizen award. Mayor Buckhorn also received USF Health Morsani College of Medicine’s Dean’s Award for his commitment to advancing the economic, educational, and healthcare of Tampa while supporting USF—a legacy that will benefit the community for generations.
For his 30 years of commitment to Visit Tampa Bay and promoting Tampa tourism, Mayor Buckhorn received their glass key (2018). He has also received the 2018 Hillsborough River Stewardship Award from the Hillsborough River Interlocal Planning Board. With Mayor Buckhorn’s support, Tampa earned the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s top 2018 award: the 1st Place Large City Livability award for the City of Tampa’s Parks & Recreation “Stay and Play Program.” Finally, yet importantly, Mayor Buckhorn is also a recipient of the 2018 “Chairman’s Award” from the International Economic Development Council for championing economic development.
Mayor Buckhorn serves on the boards of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, University of Tampa Board of Trustees, Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, Tampa Bay Partnership, Tampa Port Authority, and Hillsborough County Tourist Development Council. From 2011 to 12, he was a fellow for the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use.
Mayor Buckhorn is married to Dr. Cathy Lynch Buckhorn, and he is the father of two outstanding young women, Grace and Colleen. It is his personal goal to create a city in Tampa that is dynamic enough that, after exploring the country, his own kids will choose to return to live, work, and raise their families. In his “spare time,” he enjoys fishing and walking his new German Shepherd Ciaran.
Through the leadership of Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Tampa is providing a blueprint for success for cities across the country to emulate. Tampa’s story is truly that of an emerging modern city.