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Apr 2008 - Pam Iorio



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Mayor- Tampa, Florida


"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

 

Just Happy to Lead

By: Jean Harper

 

I arrived at Mayor Pam Iorio's office on February 25, 2008, for my appointment.  When I walked in, the security guard had me sign in, and then directed me to the reception area.  I sat down and looked to the left -- I could see the Mayor through the conference room's glass doors.  A woman standing next to Pam smiled as she bent over and appeared to write on a large document.  Shortly after the Mayor stopped writing, the document was held high and a number of photos were taken with the woman and the Mayor, while a female officer stood nearby.  There was a great exchange of smiles and handshakes, and then the Mayor exited from the side of the room and disappeared from my view.

The woman then exited the room through its front doors and headed in my direction.  I stopped her and asked what had just happened, and she told me that the Mayor had signed a proclamation that would declare, March 21, 2008 "V Day" in Tampa.  The proclamation of V-Day would bring the issue of violence against women and girls front and center in the community for one day every year.  The woman went on to tell me that her mother had died at a very young age due to a violent relationship.  She showed me the official proclamation, and advised me to go the website -- http://www.vday.org/ -- to learn more.  She explained that the proclamation calls for an end to violence against women.  She was very proud, and I felt that I was a part of the celebration just by being there and witnessing the event.

Shortly after, I saw the Mayor in the hallway.  As she came toward me, she greeted me with an enormous smile and invited me back to her office.  The first thing that I noticed about her was how healthy she looked - fit, glowing, and happy.  When we sat down to begin the interview she exclaimed, "I think you may find me a bit boring, as I don't have a lot of interesting or dramatic stories to tell."  I remembered her signing the Proclamation for V-Day just minutes earlier, and realized that what seemed like interesting stories to me were just another day at the office for her.  As I learned more about Pam Iorio, it became clear to me why she looked soPam_I_Mayor.jpg great.  She is a happy person to the core, and has plenty to be happy about.

Pam Iorio, 48, was born on April 27, 1959, in Waterville, Maine, but grew up in Temple Terrace, Florida -- her parents moved to Temple Terrace when she was just an infant.  She describes her childhood as a very happy one, consisting of two great parents, two brothers and lots of friends.  She talked of growing up in the 1960s and spending a lot of time outdoors.  She reminisced about how safe it used to be for children to run around their neighborhood and play outdoors, and she feels blessed for the experiences of her childhood. She also loved to read in her youth, and has always been interested in government and in American history.  Her favorite books are biographies and, thinking back, she recalls that she read every biography that was available at the River Hills Public Library -- and that the librarian took her to the warehouse to get even more.  She was fascinated by the fact that presidents, inventors, leaders and other influential and amazing people started out as just ordinary citizens, but went on to do great things through a series of decisions and circumstance.  She then commented about how all of us are just ordinary people, and that we all have the opportunity to do great things.  In reading these biographies as a little girl, she realized that she, too, could make a difference -- she could help change the world.  This was a very empowering idea for her.  She went on to become president of her high school class in the 9th and 12th grades.  She left the area for college and graduated from American University in Washington, D.C. with a BS Degree in Political Science. Returning to Florida, she later earned a Master's Degree in History from the University of South Florida in Tampa in 2001.  She has published several articles on Tampa's civil rights and political history.

Pam_Iorio.jpgAt 26 years of age Pam became the youngest person ever elected to the Hillsborough County Commission, and thus began her career as a public servant.  She knew that she had found her calling, and she loved it because she knew she was doing something important -- something that mattered.  A year later, she was elected chairman.  After serving two terms on the County Commission, Iorio was elected three times to the office of Supervisor of Elections for Hillsborough County (1993-2003).  In 2000, she was elected President of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, becoming the spokesperson for the supervisors during the 2000 presidential election.  She is currently the 57th and current mayor of Tampa, Florida. Tampa is the 55th largest city in the United States.  She was sworn into office for her second four-year term on April 1, 2007.

Pam was very close to her father, John Iorio, who passed away at the age of 82 in February of 2007, after a battle with cancer.  He was an English professor at the University of South Florida. She says that they had a great relationship -- in her words, "he was a one-of-a-kind dad."  After he died, Pam received dozens of letters from people all over, letting her know how John had impacted their lives. 

Pam's mother, like most women of the time, supported her husband and put her own life on hold to have three children and be a mother, a wife, and a homemaker.  Later in life, however, her mom went back to school to get her bachelor's degree and then went on to earn her masters.  She gives her a mom a lot of credit for being married to a college professor without having a college degree of her own, and acknowledges and admires her for going on to get her degree later in life.  She tells how both of her parents always encouraged her to be her best but never tried to push her past her capacity -- they never misguided her and she is appreciative of that, as well.

Outside of work, Pam Iorio loves the outdoors; she loves to walk, bike, and commented on how much she loves to swim but doesn't swim too much anymore because, she said, laughing, "I don't want people taking photographs of me in my bathing suit at a public pool."  She also loves to canoe and hike with her family.  To stay fit, she works out with a personal trainer three times a week.  She still loves to read and collects books on Florida's history along with other old books.  She also likes movies and getting together with friends, and comments that she is not a "dress up" type of person.

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I asked the Mayor to describe herself as a woman, and she commented that she doesn't like to describe herself -- she leaves it to others to describe her -- but then went on to say that she considers herself to be a resilient, optimistic and happy person.  These facts show through when you are in her presence.  She stands tall, glows with health, and when she smiles you can't help but smile right back!

When asked what she sees herself doing in 5-10 years, she says, "I never live life with a grand plan."  She said that she even had to be convinced to run for Mayor, and got in the race late.  She focuses on the current job at hand and lets life flow naturally.  I asked her if she had any plans to run for president and she laughed and said that she certainly would not be picked to run with Obama, since there are too many vowels in the two names -- Obama/ Iorio.

Pam Iorio's mentors include Fran Davin and Betty Castor. Fran Davin is a former county commissioner, former city council member, a board member of the Tampa Housing Authority and the former campaign manager for the Mayor.  Pam describes Betty Castor as her role model.  Betty was a Florida State senator and soon rose to become the first female president pro tempore of the Florida Senate in 1985.  She was also the first female president of the University of South Florida in 1994.

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Mayor Pam Iorio is known around Tampa for her green Toyota Camry Hybrid, but she is most passionate about mass transportation.  She hopes someday to instrument the implementation of a mass transit program in the Tampa area.  For her, mass transit is about quality of life, or "freedom of movement."  She thinks about the 80 million baby boomers who may someday be no longer able to drive and about the younger kids who, even if they own a car, shouldn't need to use it every day.  She says she will continue to fight for mass transit even after she is no longer Mayor.

Pam Iorio has been married to Mark Woodard, assistant county administrator for Pinellas County, since 1987 (she did not take her husband's last name), and they have two children -- Caitlin and Graham.  She also has two brothers, Jay and Paul.  Jay is a musician and a writer who lives in Hollywood, CA, and Paul is a freelance writer.

 

 

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I asked Pam what words of encouragement she could offer to other women and she gave me two pieces of advice:  First, she says, women are way too hard on themselves; they try to keep a house, work, raise children, and volunteer.  She says you can't be so "super duper" that you don't put yourself first at times.  She joked and said she should write a book entitled Exercise, Eat Well and Get Enough Sleep, and laughed at the simplicity of it.  She certainly fits the title of her imaginary book.  Secondly, she suggests that women figure out what they're good at.  She says, "Don't go into accounting if you hate math; find out what you are good at, and that's the dream to follow."

Mayor Iorio is committed to improving the quality of life in Tampa.  Under her leadership, there has been an increased commitment to public safety, parks and recreation, road improvements and a crackdown on street level drug dealing.  There has been a dramatic decline in Tampa's crime rate, and the city is being physically cleaned up with the establishment of a Clean City division.  This Mayor also welcomes diversity. 

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Pam Iorio is an example of a woman with loads of Moxy- her smile provides an entrance to the inside mind of a healthy, happy and once ordinary woman now doing extraordinary things to change the world. It will be interesting to see what her next role will be in making the world a better place to live. 




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