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Political outsider announces run for Tampa mayor

TAMPA – Professional speaker and business owner Topher Morrison has filed to run for mayor of Tampa in 2019.

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William March
, Tampa Bay Times Correspondent, Tampa Bay Times

TAMPA – Professional speaker and business owner Topher Morrison has filed to run for mayor of Tampa in 2019.

A political outsider making his first run for office, Morrison said Monday he hopes to start "a movement … to take the city of Tampa into the future."

He said he would seek innovative solutions to problems by looking beyond current technology, create "a brand identity" for Tampa, and use his skills at persuading people on opposite sides of issues to work together.

Morrison, who is about to turn 49, runs a speaker training company and the local chapter of Key Person of Influence USA, a personal branding and career development company.

"The most influential cities in the world are all known for something," while Tampa has no such national identity, he said. He promised to create "a brand that makes people want to travel from all over the world to see the city."

Numerous other business and political leaders are considering running for mayor, including City Council members Harry Cohen and Mike Suarez, former police Chief Jane Castor, retired banker and philanthropist David Straz and former county Commissioner Ed Turanchik.

Unlike most of them, Morrison hasn't been involved in the government boards or commissions that often lead people into local politics.

But he said he has wanted for more than five years to run for mayor, and held off in the 2015 election only because he admired the work of Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

He has been involved in civic activities including Leadership Tampa Bay, the Centre for Women and training programs at the University of Tampa.

Morrison said the city's three worst problems are transportation, the lack of a national brand and the inability of city and county leaders to work together.

He said he believes he can get the city and county "to play in the same sandbox," but that the city should start with its own solutions, including reviving the Cross Bay Ferry and creating an app to facilitate cross-bay carpooling.

"Everybody says it's impossible" for the city and county to work together on transportation, he said. "I love the impossible … small business owners eat the impossible for breakfast every day."

He has also talked on social media about problems caused by homeless people downtown. He said offering them food or money merely "makes it easy for them to be homeless," and the city should instead focus on ways to "make it easier for them to be homed," mentioning the "housing first" initiative operating in Orlando and other cities.

Morrison graduated from high school in his native Spokane, Wash., and then quickly entered what he called "the world of entrepreneurship."

He said he decided to move to Tampa 18 years ago after a brief vacation visit convinced him he loved it.

"I live here because I choose to, not because I was born here," he said.

He's single and lives and works downtown.

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