Mary Mulhern has served as a Tampa City Councilwoman for seven years. A Democrat, she was elected in 2007 to the District 2 seat after spending 13 years as the Art Administrator for the Art Institute of Chicago. A native of Detroit, Mich., Mulhern owned a fine arts management company and a graphic design and copyrighting business before getting involved in Tampa politics.
During her time in office Mulhern has made waves as a pragmatic progressive, speaking out against the city’s panhandling ban and the $2 million purchase of surveillance cameras in preparation for the Republican National Convention. She has one year left in her second term.
The 55-year-old mother of two is an artist and freelance journalist (she served as a visual art critic for Creative Loafing
when it was the Weekly Planet
). She serves on the boards of multiple organizations, including the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, Hillsborough Head Start Community Foundation, Florida Aquarium, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, City Council Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee and Florida Green.
She and her husband, WMNF Community Radio co-founder Cameron Dilley, live in South Tampa.
Favorite appetizer menu: SideBern’s.
“I like to go there for happy hour. It’s in my neighborhood and they have really affordable hors d’oeuvres that you can make a meal out of.”
Favorite place to meet up with friends: Mad Dogs and Englishmen
. “They’ve got really good pub food and it has a nice little patio outside. It’s very cozy. You feel like you’re in England, minus the palm trees. I don’t drink, so my favorite watering holes have to have good food.”
Favorite place to be at sundown: Bayshore Boulevard
. “Even though it’s facing east the reflection of the sunset in the clouds is so beautiful. It gives you a different kind of perspective. The colors of the clouds and the buildings in that reflection are fantastic.”
Favorite local celebrity: Joe Maddon
. “I’m a big baseball fan and he’s just a solid person, such a good, good guy … and an awesome manager.”
Favorite way to spend a day off: At a spring training game
. “We’re so lucky to have all these spring training games at different locations all within driving distance. I’m originally from Detroit, so I like to go to Lakeland to watch the Detroit Tigers play.”
Favorite Tampa Bay event: WMNF’s Tropical Heatwave
. “It’s so unusual and so ‘Tampa.’ I love the variety of the acts. There’s always some new band you’ve never heard before that blows you away.”
Favorite Tampa institution: Bern’s Steak House
. “It’s legendary. After all these years the quality of the cuisine is still there and the service is unbelievable. It’s just world class.”
Favorite place to pig out: Cappy’s Pizza
. “It’s the best. The crust is awesome. It’s not super thin. It’s just sort of a NY-style pizza, and they have a really good Greek salad.”
Favorite outdoor adventure: Hiking Blackwater Creek Nature Preserve in Plant City
. “It’s something a lot of people don’t do. My husband started this adventure. It’s absolutely beautiful out there. It’s a kind of bubbling brook type creek that’s part of the real Florida people don’t see much of. People often take their visitors to the beach. We like to take them here.”
Favorite Tampa claim to fame: Its cigar-making history
. “Even though smoking is not such a great thing anymore, I think a lot of people are proud of this history. I have friends who are fifth and sixth-generation Tampans who come from Tampa’s working-class cigar makers.”
Favorite local getaway: Don CeSar Hotel
. “It’s so beautiful and old, and you can get a massage on the patio overlooking the water. I haven’t done that yet. It’s still a fantasy.”
Favorite Bay area publication: Creative Loafing
. “Either the paper or the website [cltampa.com] are our go-to sources for events and great stories. We pick it up at City Hall every Wednesday.”
Favorite family-friendly activity: Tampa Bay Grand Prix Indoor Go Kart Racing
. “Both my kids loved it. It’s sort of like bumper cars and they have miniature golf. We’ve done birthday parties there.”
Favorite place to collect signatures: Britton Plaza near Dale Mabry Highway and Gandy Boulevard
. “It’s a real working-class strip mall with a lot of parking, so there are all kinds of sidewalks to stand on. That was my place for a while. In one stop I’d get a lot of petitions signed.”
Favorite concert venue: Tampa Theatre
. “The theater is beautiful. The artists who come to perform there just look around and go, ‘This is incredible.’ It’s small and intimate and there’s not a bad seat in the house. I went with my daughter when she was a teenager to see John Legend. We sat up in the balcony right in front of him. At one point he took his shirt off and man, was he ripped. All the girls were like fainting.”
Favorite place to buy a souvenir: Gift shop in the Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa
. “It’s a good little gift shop. You can get jewelry, books and thing having to do with the history of the hotel. It’s very Victorian-ish.”
Favorite downtown building: Tampa Museum of Art
. “Architecturally it’s the most beautiful one. I love what [architect] Stanley Saitowitz did with it. It’s a nice minimal space. The materials and the outside lightshow that takes place on that aluminum [façade] are just gorgeous.”