TAMPA The Tampa area's chief tourism agency has hired Mayor Bob Buckhorn's chief of staff to be its next chief executive. Santiago Corrada will move in early May from City Hall, where he has worked for two mayors over the past decade, to Tampa Bay & Company's offices in the SunTrust tower. “I am so excited about the possibilities and opportunities with Tampa Bay & Company,” Corrada said. “It gives me another way to contribute to this community.” Corrada was chosen after a three-month search and multiple interviews.
“We are confident that Santiago's abilities, experience and diverse background will benefit Tampa Bay & Company,” Jim Dean, the organization's chairman, said in a written statement. Dean is president of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Buckhorn was on vacation in the Florida Panhandle with his family on Tuesday. He released a statement praising Corrada, who came to Tampa from Miami, for his work on behalf of the city. “For an adopted son of Tampa, he has given this city his all,” Buckhorn said. “I am confident that he will do a great job for Tampa Bay & Company.” Corrada has spent two years as Buckhorn's chief of staff, supervising 50 city departments from his office on the top floor of the Municipal Office Building. Buckhorn, like Mayor Pam Iorio before him, has relied on Corrada to do a lot of heavy lifting over the years. Most recently, Corrada was the city's chief link to the organizers of the Republican National Convention. Before that, he was the city's point man on the 2009 Super Bowl. Under both mayors, he has represented the city's interest on the boards of The Florida Aquarium, Lowry Park Zoo and the Tampa Museum of Art, among other cultural institutions. Iorio said those experiences, along with his insider's grasp of the city's convention center, will help Corrada sell Tampa with authority. “He will be able to talk about Tampa Bay in an authentic way,” Iorio said. “He will pour all of his energies and his heart and soul into this position.” Corrada's plans for promoting Tampa abroad – particularly his focus on Latin America – echo the desires Buckhorn expressed in his “State of the City” address last week. Tampa, a city fueled by Cuban and Spanish immigrants a century ago, needs to remind Latin Americans of that shared heritage, Buckhorn said. “I'm not going to play second fiddle to Miami,” he told his audience, which included Corrada. “It's our turn.” Corrada said he wants Tampa to get a piece of the Argentinians, Colombians and Spaniards now heading to South Florida and Orlando. As the New Jersey-born son of Cuban immigrants, Corrada plans to draw on his own heritage to build economic bridges to Latin America. “I speak the language. I eat the food,” Corrada said. “I can go on those sales missions and genuinely speak of the attributes of our community. My job will be to get more people on planes and more people in hotel rooms.”