The list of those seeking to replace Lisa Montelione on the Tampa City Council continues to grow as two more potential candidates have declared that they will run for the seat she is vacating to challenge Shawn Harrison for the Florida House District 63 seat, bringing the total to three people who have expressed their interest in running for the seat to Neighborhood News.
As we reported in last issue’s News Briefs, Tampa Palms resident and local attorney Luis Viera had stated that he is exploring a run for the District 7 seat. Joining Viera in expressing their intent to run for Montelione’s seat when it becomes available are Cory Lake Isles Community Development District (CDD) chairman Dr. Cyril Spiro, M.D., M.B.A.; and Tampa Palms resident and La Gaceta (Tampa’s largest Spanish language newspaper) assistant editor Gene Siudut.
Since Montelione has filed to run for the state legislature, state law requires that she resign and vacate her council seat by June 10 of this year, according to Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections office spokesperson Gerri Kramer.
Although all three of the people who have expressed their interest in the seat so far are New Tampa residents, District 7 is actually a large and diverse area which runs north from Waters Ave. to County Line Rd., and includes Forest Hills, Terrace Park, New Tampa and the University of South Florida area.
Dr. Spiro, who has served on the Cory Lakes Isles CDD for nearly five years, is currently the Chief Medical Information Officer at HealthAxis, a Tampa healthcare information technology company that in 2013 bought M.D. Web Solutions — which Spiro founded in 2004.
Dr. Spiro also founded a not-for-profit organization, the Sunshine Board Cooperation, which is designed to make government more effective and transparent and facilitates cooperation between representatives and their constituents through open online workshops, or forums. The Cory Lakes Isles CDD has been an active user of the workshops to facilitate action.
Dr. Spiro also says that as a city council member, he would emphasize technology, particularly online communications between government officials and their constituents, to fight for what residents in an area really want and need.
“I very much believe in using technology for improving democracy,’’ Dr. Spiro says. “We have used (resident) survey systems in Cory Lakes Isles with great success. That’s very exciting to me. It’s something that I think can be carried across the country at all levels of government. It will make government more effective at doing what the people want.”
Dr. Spiro, who received his M.D. degree from the University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore, has also developed Lotterease, software that is used in charter schools to manage their lottery systems, like at Terrace Community Middle School (TCMS) and Lutz Preparatory School and others.
He says he has worked with Montelione on previous issues, including helping with resident surveys in District 7.
“We did some surveys in North Park, between Busch Blvd. and Fowler Ave.,’’ he says. “There, the primary concern is crime. When you go north to New Tampa, it’s transportation. For each of those areas, you have to be aware of what those needs are. Oftentimes, the city will address needs of groups that make the most noise. I’d like to help identify with data and more evidence what’s really in need of most repair.”
Dr. Spiro has lived in New Tampa for 13 years, with his wife of 18 years, Laura. The couple has two children, Arden, 12, and Alenna, 14.
Siudut (pronounced Sue-Dit) grew up in New Jersey before moving to Florida in 1999, where he landed a job at La Gaceta, which is renowned for being the only trilingual (English, Spanish, Italian) publication in the U.S.
As an assistant to the editor and columnist for La Gaceta, Siudut says he has been active on the city’s political scene, as well in the community in and around Ybor City.
“I’m familiar with everyone on the (current) city council,’’ he says. “I feel it’s a job I can do.”
The longtime Ybor City resident, married two years ago to wife Keri and a newly-transplanted Tampa Palms resident, Siudut says the job requires a fighter who is willing to get in the ring for the New Tampa area’s fair share of the city’s budget dollars. He says he would fight for both New Tampa and the USF area.
“New Tampa needs to have a strong voice,’’ he says. “Whatever the issue, you have to keep fighting for those dollars.”
The 42-year-old is president of the Ybor City Lions Club, a Board member of the Ybor City Development Corporation (YCDC) Executive Committee and chair of the Ybor City Retail Arts and Special Events Committee, which operated with a $1.2-million budget.
“The focus of city government is downtown, and everyone has to fight for city dollars to get their fair share, so that’s a good stepping stone,’’ he says.
Siudut has served as vice-chair of the Hillsborough County Human Relations Board (the county’s anti-discrimination board), and has done volunteer work for The Cuban Club Foundation, Cigars For Soldiers and the Ybor Mural Project.
Siudut says he has a strong understanding of how city government works after watching it closely and interacting with the players for 17 years. He says that has helped sparked his own interest in serving. “I actually got the itch about five years ago,’’ he says, adding that he had initially planned to get into politics in 2019, at the end of Montelione’s current term. Her decision to leave the city council, however, expedited those plans.
“This is a window of opportunity,’’ Siudut says. “After 17 years working in Ybor City, I understand that number 1, the squeaky wheel gets the grease and number 2, you have to keep asking. No one is going to ask, ‘You know, I really wonder if Tampa Palms needs anything.’”