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Monday, Oct 23, 2017
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Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Gage helped bring the Boss to Tampa

There's been a lot said in the last few days about George Gage, who passed away last week. The former head of GTE was responsible for much that has happened in this town, including the way it looks. It was Gage who decided to consolidate many of the then Gen Tel operations and bring them downtown. He also helped convince someone else to come to town and make his mark. It was in the late 1970s when New York Yankees boss George Steinbrenner was looking to move his shipping operations to Florida and probably Jacksonville, that he came to Tampa after looking at horses in Ocala. He told me once he really wasn't that impressed with the city on his visit, but when he met some of the leaders, especially lawyer Chester Ferguson, George Gage and Dick Greco Jr., he knew that something was happening here. "They were rebuilding downtown,'' he said, "and they had a spirit that told me they could do just about anything.''
The group helped convince him to move everything from the shipping business to the Yankees to town. This year three Tampa women are among the 10 finalists for this year's inductions into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame. The final decision is up to Gov. Rick Scott, who can place up to three of the finalists into the hall. The first is Clara Frye, and you wonder that she is not already in the Hall of Fame. It was back in 1901 that she came to town and established what would become the first hospital for black patients. She would fight for years for better medical facilities before dying an impoverished woman in 1936. Dottie Berger MacKinnon, former Hillsborough County commissioner and one of the founders of Joshua House, is among the nominees. Although battling cancer herself, she works tirelessly for the children of the region with projects such as "A Kid's Place.'' Two-term Mayor Pam Iorio is the third Tampa nominee. A former county commissioner, she left office with an 87 percent approval rating and a legacy of leadership. The governor could just name all three and do OK in my book. I think my hero of the week is Jeannine Maridon. I don't really know her, but she must be something of a free spirit. "Well, I was down at the Department of Motor Vehicles, which was packed,'' she says. "I was sitting there and I said to myself that it is always like this and why does it have to be a bad experience? "Anyhow, I encouraged a few of the people around me and pretty soon we had the wave going and we had most of the people in the building doing it. "The security guard came over to me and told me I was a security risk and had to go outside and wait for my turn, which I did. At least they let me back in when my number was called.'' Finally the big national news this week was the decision by the International Chili Society (ICS) to allow beans in their competition chili. I guess the world is changing and not always for the best. You can also put beans in your chili if you are entering the 23rd Steve Otto Chili Cook-off Nov. 10 at Curtis Hixon Park. Just remember I will be one of the judges.
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