Nick Nuccio

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Nick Nuccio
Nick Nuccio official portrait.jpg
Mayor of Tampa
In office
October 1, 1963 – October 3, 1967
Preceded by Julian Lane
Succeeded by Dick A. Greco
In office
October 2, 1956 – October 1, 1959
Preceded by J.L. Young, Jr.
Succeeded by Julian Lane
Member of the Tampa City Council
In office
1929–1937
Member of Board of County Commissioners of
of Hillsborough County
In office
1937–1956
Personal details
Born (1901-10-10)October 10, 1901
Ybor City, Florida, U.S.
Died August 26, 1989(1989-08-26) (aged 87)
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Concetta Licata (m. 1924; d. 1989)
Children Vincent Philip, Rosalie Mary, Marietta Louise
Profession Businessman / Politician
Religion Roman Catholicism

Nicholas 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) descent, 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 successfully ran for a seat on 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 serving as chairman of 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][3]

Statue of Nick Nuccio in Ybor City

Mayor[edit]

Unsuccessful run[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 defeated Nuccio, winning reelection after national newspaper coverage alleged that Nuccio had close ties to organized crime.[2] Hixon died in 1956 before finishing the term, and Nuccio ran for the office again against interim mayor J.L. Young. Although the Tampa Tribune again endorsed Nuccio's opponent, Nuccio won in an extremely close runoff election (50.1% to 49.9%) to become Tampa's first "Latin" mayor.[3]

First term[edit]

While in the mayor's office, Nuccio continued his enthusiasm for public works projects and strove to keep his neighborhood constituents happy by personally helping to solve problems, believing that government's role was to "have a positive influence in people's lives."[2][3] 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][4]

Nuccio was also known for his unconventional governing style and unusual daily schedule. He regularly ate a breakfast of toasted Cuban bread and Café con leche at a small cafe in West Tampa, sometimes moving on to another 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, and they often left with a promise of help from the city. These conversations could continue into lunchtime, which Nuccio usually ate in his own home, often bringing home visitors to share his wife's home-cooked meal.[3] After lunch, Nuccio often enjoyed a short nap at home, after which the mayor would finally arrive at his downtown office, where he would stay late into the evening.[2][3][4]

Second Term[edit]

Nuccio was immensely popular among the Latin residents of Tampa but was equally disliked by others in Tampa's "anglo" community.[3] During his 1959 reelection campaign, challenger Julian Lane depicted him as an old-fashioned machine-era politician 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.[3]

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.[5]

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.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Nick Chillura Nuccio - 47th and 49th Mayor of Tampa
  2. ^ a b c d e 1959: The natural vs. the athlete
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Kerstein, Robert (2001). Politics and Growth in Twentieth Century Tampa. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida. ISBN 0813020832. 
  4. ^ a b c Hillsborough: Tampa honors Nuccio
  5. ^ Greco vs. Nuccio | Cigar City Magazine