What You Missed August 2016 General Meeting
by Rob Earhart
My Life as Mayor
Mayor Dick Greco
August 2, 2016
“I was mayor for the first time in 1967, and things have changed, some for the better and some not,” began Mr. Greco. “I’m just lucky to be here to talk to you.”
My Mother and Dad had a hardware store in Ybor City and a lot of languages were spoken there. I learned a little from each conversation.
Real estate has been up and down. Our first house was on Corona because it was cheaper than land on Davis Island. “Recently my wife bought me a nice Versachi outfit that cost more than my first house.”
We moved to St. Petersburg and determined that “whatever happens in each city benefits all of us in the area.” “We just have to work together.”
Dick explained, “When I was on the city council, I looked forward to becoming Mayor.” When I was running, my Mother commented that “she had never not voted,” and she voted for me.
At the hardware store, people sometimes had no money to pay, but Mom wrote it in a book and eventually they paid every cent back. That is how she ran her life, helping people.
Then things began to change. “I hired the first black woman in the police force, and the first black fire chief,” proclaimed Dick. “We helped each other because we cared.”
The reason I’m bringing this up is because we are in the middle of an election period that would make you puke. Over 60,000 people voted for Mayor when I first ran. In the latest race, only 40,000 people voted. “We have to get involved or we’re in trouble,” warned Mr. Greco.
The police department received 150,000 trouble calls last year and 178 committed suicide.
We have 260,000 kids in school and the parking lots have more cars owned by kids than the administrators. Now in schools, they don’t pledge allegiance nor do they allow prayer.”
When I was first Mayor, things were different. One of the first large companies we talked to about moving here was Metropolitan Insurance Company. Some cities were wining and dining them but we entertained them by going to a private home and catching mullet off the dock. Once they had a few drinks and some mullet, we became friends. We even played tennis, and when I told them “my partner was ill but my neighbor was available, I neglected to mention that he was the national champion and we naturally won.”
Everything was done on a personal basis. The City even bought a bankrupt golf course so it would not be closed down, and now it’s a good recreation area.
“Then, 20 years later, I did it again,” Dick said, explaining how he ran for Mayor once again. “We had two people working drugs the first time I was Mayor, but when I left, there were 52 people working.” “Things were quite different.”
Liberal or Conservative, Republican or Democrat, we are first Americans. We used to sing songs like God Bless America, but no more. Irving Berlin wrote the song; he was an immigrant growing up in poverty.
Dick told the story about the wise man coming to town who would answer any questions. “Two boys decided they would fool him with a canary. The boy told his friend that, if he held the bird in his hand and asked the wise man if the bird was dead or alive, they would have him. They asked the wise man and he answered, “You have the bird’s life in your hands.”
What are the percentages of houses that are rented vs. purchased? Dick explained, “things go up and down, but if we have another bubble, we’ll have a problem. When real estate goes bust, everything goes bust.”
Dick asked how many people were born here. Five of 40 raised a hand. “Back then it was reversed, but we are more transient now,” mused Dick.
“I never had an issue vetoed or anything that went to council that did not pass,” said Dick, “and the reason is that we talked it through before we voted for anything and had a meeting of the minds beforehand.”
“You need to stay involved, write letters to senators and congressmen, and call them.” “If they get enough letters, we can change things,” encouraged Dick.
I used to go to the projects with my kids and take presents. We got to feel good about helping others and my kids learned about helping others.
We need to talk to each other and communicate. We don’t even attend our own kid’s graduations.
“Never look down on a man unless you’re helping him up,” he said, quoting Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.. “That is my favorite quote,” proclaimed Mr. Greco.
My father had a saying: “Never become a prisoner to the boundaries of your own ego.” That was what my father typed and handed me.
I had an illness and, when I went to the hospital, there were 280 people who came to see me. I was in there for several weeks, but just laying around and watching TV was way too boring, so I had to get back to work.
A question was asked about the Rays. There are 182 games with 81 home games and that’s a lot of games to see. Here in Florida, we have a lot of things we can do all year, so the games are not well attended. Moving the stadium, we would have to make sure that traffic would not be a problem. “We just want to make sure the Rays do not leave the Tampa Bay Area.”
When people are thinking of relocating here, they ask about the school system, and then about the arts. They want their kids to have all the benefits that they had, so arts are important.
“Thanks for having me and I love you all,” exclaimed Mr. Greco as he closed the meeting.