David Straz, Tampa businessman and philanthropist, dies at 77

Philanthropist turned mayoral candidate David Straz has died at 77. His family announced he died peacefully in his sleep during a fishing trip in Citrus County.

Most recently, Straz lost a bruising campaign for mayor to Jane Castor. His short stint in politics was preceded by a life of charitable giving to the performing arts center bearing his name, the Lowry Park Zoo, and the University of Tampa, to name only a few.

During his run for mayor, just seven months before his passing, Straz said it was all about the city he loved.

"It is a chore that is worth it when we are able to give something back to our city,” Straz said of his race.

As a candidate for mayor, Straz pledged to end Tampa's red light camera program and be a trustworthy mayor. He spent $5 million of his own money oh his campaign.

"People need to judge his life on the totality of it, not just one political campaign,” said former Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Straz came to Tampa in the early 1980s. Worth hundreds of millions of dollars from a banking career which he built from the ground up, he gave millions to restore the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. It was renamed after him in 2009.

"He was an individual who had a big heart and had a big wallet,” said councilor Charlie Miranda. “He helped people out. A lot of people in that area have a small heart and a big wallet. He didn't do that. He tried to help everybody out that he could."

He leaves behind a wife and a daughter, who is a law student. 

The family sent a statement through his foundation that asked for privacy and said: "It is with a heavy heart the Straz family regrets to inform you that while on a recent fishing trip with close friends David A. Straz, Jr. passed away peacefully in his sleep." 

His onetime opponent, Mayor Jane Castor said: “David’s indelible contributions to this city will be a part of our cultural fabric for decades to come.”

His final dream didn't come true in the way he wanted, but no one can say he didn't try.

On the night he advanced to the runoff for mayor, his final words on stage were:

"I want to ask you to do one final thing tonight: Just imagine how great Tampa can be if we all work together."

His family has not announced funeral arrangements.