Pam Iorio looks back with pride

- "I gave it a lot of thought," she said, "but, you know, the tough thing about politics at the statewide and national level is how awfully partisan and how very negative it can be and I'm not either of those two things."

Being mayor, though, that was life-changing. 

Sometimes the more painful memories come to mind.  This year marks a somber anniversary for her -- the loss of her longtime friend and bodyguard, Tampa Police Officer Juan Serrano. 

"It's been 10 years," she said, looking down. "February 25th, 2006. I live with that. I think about him all the time."

Then came the losses of Corporal Mike Roberts and patrol officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab.  That, she said, opened her eyes in a way she never expected.

The view from where Pam Iorio sits these days looks pretty good.  From her Tampa office window, she looks out over the runway at TIA, a place she travels away from more often than she'd like.

"Every time that plane comes in over our beautiful water, I look down and I say, 'Wow, there's no place like home because there is no place like home," said Iorio.

And she'll never leave.  These days, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America keeps her busy. She won't say it, but as CEO, she has single-handedly turned around the organization.

"This is pure service," she said, smiling. "It's all about, 'How do we help mentor children across this country?' I like being part of a bigger mission and so, yes, I'm very happy where I am." 

And Big Brothers Big Sisters is happy, too.  They moved their headquarters from Dallas to Tampa just for her. It's paid off for both.

She stays out of the fray -- far away from politics, which is the way she prefers it.

She certainly had her choice of what to do after her reign as Tampa mayor was over.  And though it was speculated for a while, a run for governor just wasn't in the cards. 

"The way this whole community supports our law enforcement family, the way we came together, it's so gratifying. I'll always feel like I'm part of the law enforcement family because of how they brought me in and how close we are," she said proudly.

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But most people will remember her for the positive mark she left on Tampa forever.  And, on this particular matter, she will take a moment brag.

"Curtis Hixon, which was our big project, the Tampa Museum of Art, the Glazer Children's Museum, all of that," she continued.

And to think it all started with a gamble -- a race she got into just six weeks before the election and a campaign she wasn't even sure she would win.

"I had to be really convinced to ever enter the mayor's race," she said, "I wasn't sure if that was the right step for me."

She says other people believed in her, even when she didn't believe in herself.   And we were all better for it.

She's paying that forward now, putting her belief in the children of our generation at Big Brothers Big Sisters.

And that's all she's ever wanted to do -- live in the city she loves, fighting for a cause close to her heart.

"To me, it's not about the office or the title," she said. "It's about how you can best serve and how you can make the world a better place.  Isn't that what it's all about?"

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