Third time the charm? Joe Citro tries again to serve on the Tampa City Council

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Joe Citro really, really wants to serve on the Tampa City Council.

The hair salon owner is running for the District 2 seat in next winter’s municipal elections in Tampa, the citywide seat that’s being vacated early next year by a term-limited Mary Mulhern.

“I’m ready. I’m set. No on-the-job training. I’m ready. Give me the job!” he said with bravado while speaking to this reporter at a fundraiser in Hyde Park last week.

If serving on a host of non-glamorous civic boards demonstrates commitment and dedication to Tampa, then Citro might be your candidate.

He has served on the city’s Variance Review Board and acted as a magistrate for the Code Enforcement and Civil Services boards. He’s the past president of the Ybor City Rotary Club, the past president of the Tampa Tiger Bay Club, and a former president of the Tampa Republican Club. Currently he’s serving on the Ybor City Redevelopment Corp. and is the chairman of the Ybor City Museum Society.

“I’ve paid my dues, I’ve done my apprenticeship. People now realize it’s time for me to take the next step,” he says.

But will he be able to? This is his third go-round,  and the voters in Tampa have not been kind to him in his two earlier attempts doing the election thing. In 2007, he finished third in a three-candidate race for the South Tampa District 4 seat. In 2011, he came in fifth in a five-candidate race for the same seat.

He’s certainly not devoid of new ideas in this campaign.

Although the bulk of job creation efforts go through agencies like the Tampa/Hillsborough EDC, the Hillsborough County Commission and Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s office, Citro says he’ll work to get major corporations to relocate to Tampa.

“What I would like to see is Council bring in more Fortune 500 companies,” he says, referring to the paucity of any of those corporations in Tampa, with the exception of WellCare Health Plan. “With those Fortune 500 companies, we’re going to have more careers, not just jobs, careers. We’re going to get the corporate sponsorships that are going to be able to afford our museums, our arts, and especially that thing called baseball that most people in Tampa want to get here. We don’t have the corporate sponsorships to take care of baseball, football, hockey,” he adds, referring to companies that purchase season-ticket packages.

He is the stepson of a mechanical engineer with a nuclear physicist degree during the apex of the Vietnam War. Citro’s early childhood was peripatetic, as his family picked up from city to city. His stepdad worked for a variety of big-time companies and agencies, such as NASA, DuPont, McDonnell Douglas and Texas Instruments. “We’d go someplace, stay for six months, fix what was going on, and then move someplace else.” He said he attended 36 different schools growing up before settling down in Tampa in 1974. “I’m from Tampa,” he declares when asked where he’d call home. “Yo soy Tampano. Not Tampa Bay.”

Citro isn’t enamored with the idea of a transit tax in Hillsborough County in 2016, if you were wondering.

“I have to keep asking myself this: Is it a necessity, or is it a luxury,” he says of a possible referendum on roads and transit. He says if it’s a necessity, there should be light-rail stops in places like Town N Country and East Tampa. “It should be going to those places where people need it the most, and most of the plans (in 2010 anyway) showed it going from the airport to Westshore to downtown.”

He says he’d rather see funds go to upgrade HART service. “We need to make sure that those are running at peak efficiency before we even think about light rail.”

Despite his prior defeats at the ballot box, you’d think that Citro would be sitting pretty running in District 2, considering he’s the only candidate to file for office (update: Now he’s not. On Monday Julie Jenkins announced her candidacy for District 2).

For now anyway.  Conventional wisdom has it that longtime council member Charlie Miranda will announce his candidacy for District 2 sometime before the qualifying deadline on January 2.

Citro says he met with the 74-year-old Miranda last spring and asked him what his plans were. Miranda replied to him (as he has to everyone) that he wasn’t certain. Citro says with a straight face that it doesn’t matter who he’s running against.

“If I don’t get my message to the people and have them believe in me the way that I believe in Tampa, I haven’t done my job. So it doesn’t really matter who jumps into the race at the last moment. I’ve been planning this for years. I filed three months ago, my heart has been in it for years, so it doesn’t matter who jumps in.”

With the deadline for all potential City Council candidates to qualify just weeks away, Citro, and the rest of us, will soon learn if it does matter or not who gets in the District 2 race.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.