Three years after his tenure as the mayor of Tampa came to a term-limited close, Bob Buckhorn is back shaping economic development and public policy strategy for the region.
Shumaker Advisors announced Monday that Tampa’s 58th mayor is joining the firm’s Florida team as a principal. According to its website, the Florida group is a public affairs practice providing public and private sector client services at the federal, state and local levels.
Buckhorn was first elected to public service in 1995, serving two terms on the Tampa City Council. In 2003 he began working as a lobbyist for Dewey Square Group before starting his own firm in 2007. Buckhorn then led the City of Tampa from 2011-2019. He told the Catalyst his new role enables him to continue serving the region.
“I think the opportunities for this community, whether I’m the mayor or not, are huge,” said Buckhorn. “And just because I’m not the mayor, I still want to be involved in what goes on here and help shape Tampa’s next chapter.
“I think I’m going to get to continue to do the types of work that I was doing – I just won’t get to do it as mayor.”
Buckhorn said the culture at Shumaker Advisors was a good fit for him and called his colleagues at the firm a great collection of professionals. Shumaker Advisor is a subsidiary of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, one of Tampa Bay’s largest law firms.
He said the advisory group focuses on the intersection of business and politics. While there is a lobbying aspect to the firm in Tallahassee and Washington D.C., he said the group is more involved in shaping public policy and helping companies navigate local government and communities.
Buckhorn will focus on economic and urban development while working with clients to improve the quality of life across the Tampa Bay region and state. Buckhorn said he hopes to spend most of his time working on urban development and called the advisory group a great compliment to an established law firm with clients who have particular needs.
“I think institutional knowledge is a valuable commodity,” said Buckhorn. “I have been involved with city government off and on for 30 years.”
Buckhorn joins several other members of Shumaker Advisors with local institutional knowledge. The firm recently hired former Hillsborough County Commissioners Les Miller and Sandra Murma, along with Pinellas County’s former U.S. Rep. David Jolly.
The release credited Buckhorn with leading Tampa out of the Great Recession. It also noted Buckhorn faced a $30 million deficit upon taking office before balancing the city’s budget for eight consecutive years. In addition to helping guide the city through tough economic times, Buckhorn said he helped create the vision and lay the foundation for Tampa’s recent success.
“I think knowing how Tampa became Tampa – in its current iteration – is valuable,” said Buckhorn. “Having been there and done that for 30 years, I think is a value add to any client and any corporation that’s looking to either come into this marketplace, to relocate here or to navigate through the local landmines.
“I’m going to enjoy doing that – it’s just I’m going to do that in a different capacity.”
Buckhorn said the Tampa Bay region has transformed over the last decade, in large part due to a mutual understanding between him and former St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman. He said the two mayors recognized they could accomplish more through cooperation and that their respective cities are stronger together.
Buckhorn said that for the first time in about 50 years, the animosity that has persisted between the neighboring cities has mostly dissipated. He said the strengths of the two communities complement each other, allowing them to grow stronger together as one region.
“They’re going to be successful together,” said Buckhorn. “And I think the end result of that will be a mega-region that will compete with any mega-region in the country over time.”
Moving forward, Buckhorn said his goal is to be of value to his clients and the residents of Tampa Bay. His life has been great, he said, and he has nothing left to prove – he simply wants to continue the same type of work as when he was mayor, in a different environment.
Buckhorn added that he loves the city-building business and believes his track record speaks for itself.
“But I did it out of passion, you know, not for any other reason,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to be able to look back and for my kids to look back and be able to say, ‘my daddy made a difference.’”