MONICA HERNDON | TimesTampa mayoral candidate Topher Morrison, and his dog Macie, kicked off his campaign on March 12, 2018 at the Tampa Theatre in Tampa, Fla.
During his stump speech at the Tampa Theatre Monday evening before about 50 well wishers, political novice Topher Morrison didn’t trot out a pony.
But, for many of the nearly 24 minutes he spoke, Morrison held his nearly four-year-old Beagle-Brittany Spaniel mix, Macie,by a leash.
Macie was bedecked in a red and white "Topher for Mayor" sweater.
Macie’s leash ended up being held by another prominent part of Morrison’s public debut: a formerly homeless man, Joe Ray, 34, who credits Morrison with helping him get off the streets and starting a handyman business.
Morrison introduced Ray to the crowd and sharing his story.
Late last year, Morrison posted to Facebook to ask residents not to give money to Tampa’s homeless as it wasn’t helping them. Instead, the city should pursue options like Orlando’s Housing First program which seeks to house chronically homeless and then provide social services.
Morrison said he hasn’t given Ray a dime. "I’ve given him respect," he saudm adding he had a four-part plan to end homelessness without going into details.
Morrison also proposed creating a metric-based pay system for city workers. And he said he’d allow the City Council to create benchmarks to regulate his own salary.
Positioning himself as political outsider, Morrison said he favored boosting small businesses and forging closer ties with Cuba.
And in a field likely studded with elected officials past and present and a former police chief, Morrison attempted to upend the conventional wisdom that holding a high-ranking office or position before seeking the top job in Florida’s third-largest city is a good thing.
"Having a political background is exactly the quality that makes you not a good mayor," Morrison said. "Career politicians like to play it safe."
Morrison, owner of a branding and personal speaking training business in Tampa, said the city needed someone willing to gamble. He would "put the pedal to the metal" in a bid to boost Tampa, which he said was uniquely situated. Far enough north to still have "southern hospitality," but down the peninsula enough to pick up some of Miami’s "big-city vibe."
Still, Tampa lacks its own brand, something he would work on if elected in his first run for political office, Morrison said. He promised details later.
A Spokane, Wash. native who moved to Tampa in 2000, Morrison said he wasn’t cowed by the prospect of competing in a potential field including with former police chief Jane Castor, council members Mike Suarez and Harry Cohen, former County Commissioner Ed Turanchik, retired banker and philanthropist David Straz and architect and Downtown Partnership chairman Mickey Jacob.
"C’mon Tampa, let’s do the impossible," he said.