About Shumaker Advisors: The Florida group’s public affairs practice provides public and private sector clients services at the federal, state and local levels. In addition to former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and other notable local leaders also recently joined its team.
My parents, Bob and Rita Buckhorn, and I, along with my two younger brothers, were raised in Falls Church Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.
A formative childhood experience was growing up in the D.C. area, where politics was omnipresent. In the 1968 presidential election, Bobby Kennedy was running for the democratic nomination and our family were huge Kennedy supporters. I was 10 years old and I used to have my mother drop me off by myself at the Kennedy campaign headquarters and I would stuff envelopes or put stamps on things. I was hooked from that day forward and always believed that public service was the noblest of callings.
My life motto is, “The only easy day was yesterday,” a saying I borrowed from the Navy SEALS and kept on my desk in the mayor’s office, a constant reminder that every day is a new challenge and a new opportunity and that it didn’t matter how good yesterday was, today is a new battle.
The greatest adversity I’ve overcome was winning the election for mayor in 2011 against all odds and in the face of the conventional wisdom that said that me having lost three prior elections in a race against four significant opponents was never going to happen. Guess they were wrong!
My proudest accomplishments as mayor were leading Tampa through the worst recession since the Great Depression and transforming our city from a place that was losing our best and brightest young professionals to a place that has become a magnet for talent and that city in America where people want to be.
A typical day in my current role with Shumaker Advisors includes working with a great team of attorneys and public policy professionals to deliver for our clients at the intersection of law, government affairs and public affairs, helping clients navigate the complexities of working with governments and positioning their issues in the most favorable light.
My greatest challenges in this position are unfortunately the coarseness and the dysfunction of the political environment at the national level, which has seeped into every layer of government, making it more challenging to find common ground for solutions. The polarization of our society is far worse than when I started and at a time when as a nation we face some serious issues. Now more than ever we need to remember that we are Americans first and partisans last.
My most ambitious goals for the future are to continue to be Tampa’s biggest cheerleader, to engage on issues that matter to me, to never let the momentum we have achieved and the progress we have made be undone by anything or anybody and most importantly, to watch my daughters spread their wings and soar.
People would be surprised to know that I am an avid sporting clay shooter. Until I joined Shumaker recently you would find me at Tampa Bay Sporting Clays at least once a week.
When I travel, the one thing I always do is, as soon as I can, I leave the hotel and just walk the city. For hours I will just walk, taking in the architecture, the design, the amenities, the street grid and the public spaces. It drives my kids crazy, but once a mayor, always a mayor.
My favorite place to visit is Ireland. I just returned from my fifth trip to Ireland, a place I never tire of visiting. It is my ancestral home and one of the prettiest places in the world. The Guinness is not bad either.
The biggest item on my bucket list is to fly with the Blue Angels. From the disappointment of being discharged from U.S. Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School due to a degeneration of one of my corneas in 1982, I had always wanted to be a fighter pilot. I volunteered to serve, was selected and but for what turned out to be a misdiagnosis, my life would have turned out very different. Although, it is actually what brought me to Tampa and the rest is history.
The greatest honor of my life has been to be a dad of two amazing young women, Grace, 21, and Colleen, 17. They give me joy, they give me purpose and they never cease to amaze me. Leaving them a city that they can come home to some day that is alive, vibrant and full of opportunities is a father’s dream come true.
My “perfect” day would be hanging out in the mountains of North Carolina with my family, my dog, a big glass of cabernet, an Arturo Fuente Opus X cigar and a nice cool mountain evening.