Just outside Tampa and not far from the University of South Florida, Temple Terrace is a pretty city all its own, an old-school golf course community with shady oaks and a river running through it.
This might not be where you’d expect political sparks to fly, though tonight they just might, should the good citizens show up at the City Council meeting expecting answers about their mayor’s impressive resume.
And it is impressive.
Over the years Mayor Mel Jurado has won appointments, including two gubernatorial ones, to more than a dozen state and local boards.
She has headed the Florida Office of Early Learning and served on the state boxing commission and the USF Athletic Association’s board of directors. Last year, she got elected mayor of Temple Terrace, where she and her husband run a human resources consulting firm.
Okay, so about the degree of her degrees.
The Tampa Bay Times’ Christopher O’Donnell, Philip Morgan and John Martin recently reported that the mayor’s credentials include a Ph.D. that’s been listed on job applications and her official mayoral biography on the Temple Terrace website.
Around town, folks know her as Dr. Mel. Heck, she had "AskDrMel" as her email address and once drove a car with a personalized license plate that said "DRMEL."
The city website said her Ph.D. came from the University of Illinois. Her LinkedIn page said it was from LaSalle and had the logo of the respected Catholic institution in Philadelphia.
The Times inquiry found her degree came from an unaccredited correspondence course and notorious diploma mill also called LaSalle University. This LaSalle, in Louisiana, was raided by the FBI and shut down months after she got her degree.
Jurado told the Times she did the required work, didn’t know it was a diploma mill and was unaware of anything hinky going on.
Then came the question of one of two master’s degrees she said she got from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — the one in exercise physiology and sports medicine. The university had no record of that degree.
Jurado told the Times she had proof, but did not provide it despite repeated requests.
With that, did the city of Temple Terrace, on behalf of its citizens, respond with a measured call for answers?
It did not.
The official statement was essentially: Who cares? She works hard and has proven herself.
Which apparently negates any need to determine accountability or integrity in a politician.
Tonight a citizen group that focuses on their town’s economic future, called Re-Imagine Temple Terrace, is expected to ask for the mayor’s resignation. Nice to see someone wanting a response here, though I sincerely hope they are not holding their collective breath.
Is inflating one’s resume — if that’s what happened — a capital offense? Perhaps the people of Temple Terrace would ultimately respond with: Meh. Just fix the potholes.
Or maybe they expect answers and a clear explanation from the person they elected to run the place on the credentials listed on her resume.
The good people of Temple Terrace deserve at least that.