A decade ago, John Dingfelder was one-third of Tampa City Council's progressive wing — the other two, of course, being former councilwomen Mary Mulhern and Linda Saul-Sena.
Having termed out in 2011 along with Saul-Sena, Dingfelder announced earlier this month that he'd like another go. This time, he's seeking a citywide seat as opposed to the South Tampa one he represented for eight years.
“I've always enjoyed serving our community in different capacities,” he told CL. “I think I still have a lot to offer and I think the city has a long way to go.”
So far, the Tampa native doesn't have an opponent — not that he thinks it'll stay that way — which is why he's getting in early.
“I don't have any illusions of running unopposed,” he said.
Since being in office, he's gone from serving as a staff attorney for the local branch of the ACLU to some dealing in commercial real estate.
The time away has given him insight on things like red tape (there's too much for individuals and small businesses that can't afford a team of lawyers to navigate it) and transit (start small; let the system expand organically).
But mostly, he wants to once again help steer council conversations toward issues like sustainability, a consideration he says is lacking.
"I think that council — not to point at anyone in particular — but I would say council as a whole, has kind of lacked a progressive voice and I think that there are certain issues that I don't think have gotten a lot of focus in terms of the environment, smart growth,” he said. “I've seen some changes, and most of them are positive, but I think the city sometimes looks ahead too much without paying attention to the folks that are already here.”
Another concern? Safeguarding booming neighborhoods like Tampa Heights so they don't gentrify to the point where those who have been there all along aren't priced out of their homes.
“I was always a big neighborhood guy, neighborhood protector because without strong neighborhoods, I think we're not left with much," Dingfelder said. "I think affordable housing has been an issue I think the city hasn't been paying enough attention to over the years and I think that...if we don't start paying attention to affordable housing and encouraging developers to have a mixed product...I think we'll lose our sense of identity.”
A big challenge for Dingfelder will be connecting with neighborhoods north of Kennedy, something he acknowledges.
“I think [running for citywide office] opens up some new challenges for me," he said. "There are areas of the city that still need a lot of work, a lot of help, including East Tampa and West Tampa, and those are the areas I'm going to start walking in first.”
Tampa's city elections will take place in March of 2019.