Nick Nuccio

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Nick Chillura Nuccio
Nick Nuccio official portrait.jpg
In office
1956–1959, 1963–1967
Preceded by J.L. Young, Jr., 1st term;
Julian Lane, 2nd term
Succeeded by Julian Lane, 1st term;
Dick A. Greco, 2nd term
Personal details
Born October 10, 1901
Ybor City, Florida
Died August 26, 1989(1989-08-26) (aged 87)
Tampa, Florida
Spouse(s) Concetta Nuccio

Mayor of Tampa 1956-1959, 1963-1967

Nick Chillura Nuccio (Oct. 24, 1901 - Aug. 26, 1989) was a two-time mayor of Tampa, Florida in the 1950s and 60s. He was the Tampa's first mayor of "Latin" (specifically Italian) decent, having been born and raised in the immigrant neighborhood of Ybor City.

Early life and career[edit]

Nick Nuccio was the son of Sicilian immigrants who were among the first to populate Ybor City. As was common at the time, he left school after the 8th grade to help support his family, taking a job in the Tampa shipyards during World War I. After the war, Nuccio dabbled in real estate and insurance, then became a clerk in the Ybor City post office.[1]

In 1929, Nuccio was helped by the many connections he had made when successfully running for the Tampa City Council as a representative from Ybor City. He was reelected several times before moving on to the Hillsborough County Commission in 1937, a post he held continuously until 1956.

While on the county commission, Nuccio found a novel method of increasing his local name recognition. A strong proponent of neighborhood improvements, Nuccio managed to get the words "Nick C. Nuccio, County Commissioner" stamped on every public works project he had approved. For several subsequent decades, his name was visible on sidewalks, park benches, seawalls, and virtually every other piece of concrete laid by Hillsborough County during his long tenure[2]

Statue of Nick Nuccio in Ybor City

Mayor[edit]

By the mid-1950s, Nuccio had built up substantial support in Tampa, especially among Latin voters in Ybor City and West Tampa, and decided to run for mayor. In 1955, he challenged incumbent Curtis Hixon, who had been in office since 1943. Hixon easily won reelection after national newspaper coverage alleged that Nuccio had close ties to organized crime.[2]

Hixon died in 1956 before finishing the term, so Nuccio ran again, winning a special election against interim mayor J.L. Young.

While in the mayor's office, Nuccio continued his enthusiasm for public works projects, believing that government's role was to "have a positive influence in people's lives."[2] and to keep his neighborhood constituents happy. Nuccio successfully pushed for the construction of many libraries, bridges, fire and police stations, public pools, and parks (most notably Lowry Park Zoo), among other projects, many of which are still in use today[1][3]

Nuccio was also known for his unconventional governing style. He regularly ate an early breakfast of toasted Cuban bread and Café con leche at a small cafe in West Tampa, then moved on to a cafe in Ybor City later in the morning. Constituents were welcome to sit and talk with the mayor about their issues in English, Spanish, or Italian, often leaving with a promise of help from the city. These conversations could continue into lunchtime, which Nuccio took in his own home. The midday meal was often followed by a short nap, after which the mayor would finally arrive at his downtown office.[2][3]

Nuccio was immensely popular among the Latin residents of Tampa but was equally disliked by others. Challenger Julian Lane depicted him as an old-fashioned machine-era politician during the 1959 mayoral campaign and easily defeated the incumbent with a pledge of "honest government" and "sound business practices".[2]

Racial unrest and problems with flooding along the Hillsborough River had damaged Lane's popularity by 1963, when he sought a second term. Nuccio came out of retirement for an electoral rematch and won a close election to regain the mayor's office.

Times had changed by the late 1960s. Nuccio's personal political style was not as effective in what was Tampa's first mass-media election campaign, and he lost his 1967 reelection bid to the much younger and more media-savvy Dick Greco, Jr., another native of Ybor City whom Nuccio had long regarded as a political protégé. In 1971, Nuccio again ran against Greco for the mayor's office but was again defeated.[4]

Despite these losses, Nuccio was still extremely popular in Tampa's Latin community in retirement. He died in 1989, and a large bronze statue of the former mayor holding his trademark hat and large Tampa cigar was dedicated in Ybor City's Centennial Park in 1999.[3]

References[edit]