Punctuated by the wit and wisdom or various religious leaders as well as religious tunes from an amazingly talented choir, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the seven City Council members, all but one of them incumbents, were sworn into office at a packed ceremony this afternoon.
The event, which took place in a large room in the Tampa Convention Center, had such a megachurch vibe that even Buckhorn picked up on it during his dramatic and not-un-governor-esque speech.
"Well, if it wasn't an inauguration it might as well be church," Buckhorn said. "Because I think that choir just blew the roof off this building a little bit."
Buckhorn's speech to the large, diverse crowd focused largely on the narrative he's embraced for some time, one of the city's extensive progress since the start of his first term, which began in 2011 when Tampa was still reeling from the recession.
"There was no blueprint for our economy," he said. "We weren't going to be handed a one-size-fits-all roadmap to our rehabilitation. In fact, we weren't going to be handed anything. We had to be the architects of our way forward. And we were...Four years later, look at what we have done together. We are stronger, we are safer, our potential is greater than ever before, crime is down, hope is up, the core of our city has been activated and is spreading to every other neighborhood. Our investment in our city, and ourselves, have planted us firmly, firmly on the global radar."
Buckhorn has been a popular mayor; he didn't face any substantial opposition in his reelection bid, given his only challenger was a write-in candidate.
He touted the city's accomplishments, including introduction of Copa Airlines' direct flights to and from Panama City and the addition of some 10,000 jobs to Tampa.
He said Tampa is growing at a faster rate than the rest of the state, which of course is something he can point to in a few years when his probable campaign for governor kicks into full steam. He suggested that Florida could learn a bit from Tampa.
"If we care less about who's a Democrat and who's a Republican, we can reshape this state," he said.
With a 2018 gubernatorial run still a ways out, he turned his sights back to the near future, and spoke of the need to turn the Tampa Streetcar into a "real" means of transportation throughout the city as well as the need for rail, which could eventually reach across the bay to Pinellas County.
"We're truly just scratching the surface of who we can become," he said. "We need to take together the ordinary and the visionary and weave them into a future that our children can be proud of."
The only elected city official on the stage who was not being sworn in for the second time in four years was Councilman Guido Maniscalco, who was just elected to his West Tampa seat last week in a runoff against Jackie Toledo.
"Guido, enjoy it, because it's all downhill from here," Buckhorn said.
After the meeting, the council met to discuss who would chair the council.
While it was expected that veteran City Councilman Charlie Miranda, chair until today, would again fill the role, City Councilman Frank Reddick was elected chair in a 4-3 vote. Vice chair will be Councilman Harry Cohen.