Tampa Mayor Jane Castor speaks to a packed house at Coffee Speaks & Tea Talks on Jan. 27.

The night before Tampa Mayor Jane Castor had to fight off a band of pirates looking to take over the city during the annual Gasparilla invasion, she decided to relax at a New Tampa coffee shop.

At the appropriately named Coffee Speaks & Tea Talks coffee shop in the Pebble Creek Collection, Castor told a standing-room- only crowd of 50-60 people that despite the impending invasion, all was well in Tampa.

She touted some of her achievements during her nearly four years in office, and assured the crowd that she was charging forward on improving two of the city’s most pressing issues — transportation woes and the lack of affordable housing in the city.

“We aren’t going to stop,” Castor said. “We are going to find a solution.”

(LThe crowd included Clark Elementary 4th grader Makenna Reel (with microphone) who asked the mayor if she’d join her club at school and help pick up trash in the local neighborhoods. (Photos: Charmaine George)

The Jan. 27 appearance wasn’t as New Tampa-centric as some of her other appearances in the area, but the audience did touch on some HART busing issues, and Castor did say the repaving of Tampa Palms Blvd. is set to begin in the next week or so.

The event lasted just over an hour. Along the way, Castor even committed to helping clean up New Tampa, thanks to the youngest questioner at the event.

Makenna Reel, a 4th grader at Clark Elementary, asked Castor — who told the audience that litter is one of her pet peeves –— that she had started a club at her school dedicated to picking up trash in the local neighborhoods. 

Reel asked if Castor would like to join her later this month when her club gets together to pick up trash along Highwoods Preserve Pkwy. off Bruce B. Downs Blvd. — and the mayor agreed.

The New Tampa stop was part of the “Coffee With Castor” tour, with the mayor dropping in on small local businesses for some good old campaigning, even though the event was held in the unincorporated part of New Tampa (which doesn’t vote in the city’s upcoming election, which will be held on Tuesday, March 7). 

Castor is running for a second term against long-time New Tampa resident and write-in candidate Dr. Belinda Noah (see story on previous page).

Noah, 68, most recently ran in Aug. 2022 for a seat on Florida’s 13th Circuit Court, losing to Wesley Tibbals, despite garnering nearly 88,000 votes countywide.

Speaking Of Elections…

In other city election news, Hunter’s Green resident and District 7 City Council member Luis Viera has already secured a third term after no one stepped up to run against him.

Viera was one of seven Council members up for re-election this year, but was the only incumbent who didn’t draw an opponent. He originally won the District 7 seat by just 65 votes (out of 5,120 cast) over fellow New Tampa resident Dr. Jim Davison in 2016, but beat Quentin Robinson 76%-24% in 2019. 

Districts 3 and 6 each have five candidates running for the seats, Districts 1 and 2 have four, District 5 has three and District 4 has two. Districts 1-3 are elected citywide.

“Citywide, about two dozen candidates qualified for Tampa City Council in a very politically acute time,” Viera said. “The fact that I was re-elected without an opponent in this environment is something I am proud of. I thank my constituents for the opportunity to serve.” — JCC

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