New HART member Mickey Jacob says he can't wait to get started working on transit issues


Architect Mickey Jacob set out for Tampa upon graduating from college more than 30 years ago, and has been been a working architect here ever since. A founding principal with Urban Studio Architects, he's served as Executive Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at BDG Architects since 2013, where he is responsible for the development of the firm's strategic direction and client relations.

He's been able to tour the country and the world over the past four years, ever since he was elected vice president of the American Institute of Architects, and says his travels confirm to him that everyone, everywhere wants the same thing for their communities.

"They want good transportation. They want a healthy lifestyle, great education, prosperity. Everyone wants the same stuff," he says. It's also allowed him how to see other regions handle transportation, something that nobody would dispute needs improvement in Hillsborough County.

"I don’t think anyone will disagree that we have a car-centric transportation system here, and it's a cultural issue, we have to look at the culture of our community to start to change the behavior of everyone to embrace different modes of transportation, and that’s not an easy process," he says.

Jacob's ideas about transportation matter more than ever today, two days after he was voted to serve as the newest member on the HART board. And he's very excited about it.

"I think HART is going to be the key element in our transportation strategy as we move forward in the next decade or two in the county and in our region," he told CL on Wednesday. "They are going to be an integral part of solving our mobility problem, and I think as an architect, as someone who's been involved in urban planning, I’m a huge proponent of creating the urban density necessary to support our public transition systems, and improve them, including rubber-wheel transit, rail transit. All these things that great cities have that I believe our city needs to have. And I think it’s a great opportunity to use my expertise as an architect and bring that to the board."

Jacob said he became interested in applying for the HART board following his stint as the chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce transportation committee. He says he wasn't aware of the controversy that swirled around the potential reconfiguration of the board itself during the summer, which, if followed through, could have prevented private sector people like himself from joining the agency. That's believed to be why the BOCC named one of their own in Commissioner Les Miller to succeed Anne Madden. 

The board went ahead and re-approved Wallace Bowers and Karen Jaroch to new three-year terms on Wednesday. Like Madden, they were chosen from the community to represent the County on the board. Jacob replaces Dr. Steven Polzin, who had served on the board since 2008.

When asked if he supports transit tax referendum that has been discussed by Tampa and Hillsborough officials for 2016 that would pay for road and transit projects, including light-rail, Jacob said he will support "ideas for new modes of transportation," without getting into specifics. 

Sounding a bit like Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Jacob says he's interested in making Tampa more dynamic, so that young people like his son will want to stay here after graduating (his son, an aspiring jazz musician who graduated from USF in the spring, is moving to Seattle). 

"How do we bring them here? How do we find affordable opportunities for living and using transportation?" he asks, saying that's the "big challenge" that Tampa leaders must contend with. He says the HART board is dealing with more than transportation issues. "I think it's a growth management strategy issue," he says, adding that being selected to the agency is a "great honor for me" and he can't get wait to get started.