Mayor Bill Foster put on his innocent look. Council Chair Leslie Curran shrieked secrecy and back door deals. City Council ran for cover.
Then there is an interesting name, Rick Musset, that surfaced.
It is no stretch to say that Musset, a senior administrator with city development, is probably as close to a genius as anyone on the city staff. Beginning with the Dome and Bay Plaza right up to BayWalk, Beach Drive, the downtown condo renaissance and the Shops at BayWalk you will find Musset's fingerprints on virtually every major city development project in the last three-plus decades.
Musset has an insatiable work ethic. A former City manager once told me, "Rick is my kind of guy. He is here when I get here, here when I leave, and usually answers his office phone on Saturday if I call." Musset was deeply trusted by two other notable dealmakers: Rick Dodge and Rick Baker.
Serving city mangers, strong mayors and councils since the 80s, save a brief stint up north, Musset has always been the consummate behind the scenes planner, problem solver and dealmaker. In my experience the only people who knew what was going on are the people Musset wanted to know and they only knew what Rick wanted them to know.
What is going on?
City staff is hobbled with a lack luster Mayor and a dysfunctional City Council. Right now my bet is most of the serious work is being done way behind the scenes. Staff can't trust the Mayor to keep his mouth shut about the deals in work; City Council is suffering from a serious case of talking too much, doing too little and ignoring the constituency. Curran, Council Chair, has lost any shred of public respect and provides no leadership. It is not particularly surprising they are not in the loop on anything big.
The fact that the entire elected City administration is not respected or trusted is evidenced by the fact the Darryl LeClair went to the County Commission about the Gateway project before coming to the St. Pete elected body.
It would be hard to believe that Musset would not be involved in something as big as this since the project would ultimately need a lot of City support. Musset is the principle dealmaker and can string together a series of seemingly impossible situations to make a deal work.
Musset plays chess not checkers. Curran has been around long enough to know that. When Rick Musset asks you to change something like a formal request from the Council Chair there is always more on the table than there is on the plate. Ask a few questions.
Just maybe if City Council and the Mayor listened to the people, paid more attention to the details and postured a little less, the serious people in the city with the ability to make things happen would include them.
They call that confidence.
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