Vibha Shevade is one of just two women running for one of the three available seats on the 2019 Tampa City Council, and the only female running “at large” — for the citywide District 3 seat — rather than in her home District 7.
Shevade, a USF graduate and New Tampa resident for more than 20 years, hopes her desire to bring a woman’s voice to the table and professional experience in hot-button issues will translate into a win on Tampa’s Municipal Election Day — Tuesday, March 5.
“I have worked in transportation, housing, technology and safety, and these are things I want to promote in City Council,” said Shevade, who also has served on the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Indian Advisory Council for the past six years, including one year as president, and on the Tampa Police Department’s Citizens Review Board.
Shevade says her priority will be New Tampa neighborhoods. She and her husband send their three children to public schools in our area and want to make their commute safer, especially given the School Board’s new mandate that denies bus service to students who live within two miles of their school.
“Our kids are walking to school before 7 a.m.,” Shevade says. “We have potholes, sidewalks that don’t exist or aren’t connected, and inadequate lighting. These are just basic necessities, and if we can’t meet them, are we really moving forward?”
Shevade says her career background includes handling multi-million-dollar technology budgets and creating a university transit system. She was part of the creation and planning process that eventually resulted in Bull Runner, the bus system at the nearby University of South Florida.
She currently is a realtor at Tampa’s NextHome Discovery, and believes that the City of Tampa has an affordable housing crisis.
“Everyone needs a place to call home, and we have people with disabilities, young graduates and families who have been on a wait list for five years,” she said. “That’s unacceptable.”
Shevade, an active volunteer on the New Tampa Council, started by current District 7 City Council member Luis Viera, pointed out that a better transit system would serve to connect neighborhoods and increase economic development, easing the burden on affordable housing.
“Commuting costs can be a hardship for students, families and individuals with car maintenance, gas and insurance,” she says. “When people have more transit options to easily commute from one place to another for work or school, it frees up funds to invest in a home.”
Helping Women In Business, Too
Another priority for Shevade is promoting female-owned small business growth. She recently went on a Tampa Black Business Bus Tour, a nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness of African-American owned small businesses, and was shocked to discover many female-owned niche shops she had never heard of before.
“Women business owners, especially in Florida, get less funding than their male counterparts,” she said. “We need to fix that.”
Shevade also thinks the city needs more focus on climate change, referencing the recent $250 million floodwater fix that she said didn’t take rising sea levels into account.
“We definitely need new ordinances and other changes that are environmentally friendly, like solar power,” she says. “There are so many little things we can do that will have a big impact on sustainability.”
Raising taxes is something Shevade believes is unnecessary, since the sales tax increases voters throughout Hillsborough County passed in November for transportation and school infrastructure will add millions to the city’s budget. She also is strongly in favor of expanding the New Tampa Recreation Center, which has a five-year waiting list of children and families.
“Our budget is greater than last year, and there’s no reason why we have to cut out things that will increase quality of life,” she says. “I’ll fight for this (Rec Center) expansion because our families have been waiting way too long for this resource. There are plenty of options out there that don’t involve making our residents pay more.”
Shevade’s bottom line is change now, for the sake of future generations.
“If you want change, you need to vote for change,” she says, “and I’ll make sure that every single person has a voice at the table.”
For more information about the March 5 Municipal election, visit VoteHillsborough.org. For more information about Vibha Shevade, visit the “Vibha Shevade for Tampa City Council” page on Facebook.