Urban Excellence award winners make Tampa a better place

Joe Waggoner, the recently retired CEO and Executive Director of the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, is the recipient of the Tampa Downtown Partnership’s 2022 Urban Excellence Awards Christine Burdick Downtown “Person of The Year” honor. 

The honor, Waggoner says, is not only for himself, but for all the groups and agencies who work to make Tampa a better place to work, live, and play – what he calls “different interests working toward a common good.”

The annual Urban Excellence Awards highlight and honor businesses, organizations, individuals, events, and projects that have positively impacted downtown’s growth while contributing to making the area unique, diverse, and prosperous. 

Christine Burdick -- for whom Waggoner’s award is named -- has served 15 years as President and CEO of the Tampa Downtown Partnership (TDP) and launched the awards program in 2007.
In all, 10 awards were given to public and private sector individuals and groups at the 2022 Urban Excellence Awards ceremony held at downtown Tampa’s Straz Center Riverwalk Stage on Feb. 23rd. Each winner was noted for his or her diligent work to make Tampa an economically and socially alive and aware city.

Waggoner, 67, who lives in Apollo Beach with his wife, Ann, says being named the Urban Excellence Awards “Person of the Year” is an honor and he feels it shows his work within Tampa and with the Expressway Authority in surrounding communities has helped foster the area’s livability.
“It’s verification that I was doing the right thing by the (TDP), the city and by our partners and our sponsors,” says Waggoner, who spent almost 15 years with the Expressway Authority.

Joining Waggoner on the awards stage was Kim Puleo, the “People’s Choice Award” winner of the Urban Excellence Awards. Puleo and Waggoner -- and the other award finalists -- were chosen by a group of peers from a pool of nominations submitted from the local community.

For Puleo, the recognition comes through her efforts to bring commerce into the city and more importantly, as she says, “make downtown Tampa a better place to live and work.” She is the Founder and Owner of 1205 on Franklin in downtown Tampa’s River Arts District -- 31 professional office suites located in an historic brick building.
Puleo is a Boston native raised in New York who has lived in Tampa since middle school. She moved to downtown Tampa from North Tampa 3½ years ago.

“I was humbled and honored to know that people in my community recognize the efforts put forth not only by me, but by the organizations I volunteer with,” says Puleo.

As for Waggoner, he built a legacy of organizational leadership, fiscal responsibility, and transit innovation during his career. He says working with the Expressway Authority has always been more than just “transit.”  

“It’s transportation for lots of people and It’s not just roadways for cars, it’s also greenways, parks, and memorials,” adds Waggoner, who’s says he’s looking forward to playing more golf in retirement. “That’s what I think the recognition was really about, it’s not just about a highway that runs through the city, but it’s also the highways that connect the city.”

Puleo is also on the Downtown River Arts Neighborhood Association board of directors, working to establish partnerships with the city and area businesses to enhance streetscapes while working to help curb the area’s homeless population.

“Kim Puleo embodies the community spirit of downtown Tampa, always lending a helping hand, and uplifting the residents and business owners of north Franklin Street to Ashley Drive,” adds Ashly Anderson, director of marketing and design for the Downtown Partnership.

Tampa Downtown Partnership’s 2022 Urban Excellence Awards, Anderson says, are key ways to give attention to individuals, businesses and organizations who diligently work to keep downtown Tampa on the map as a destination for living, working, and leisure. In a written statement, Tampa Downtown Partnership President and CEO Lynda Remund says the awards “recognize the trailblazers” those who help improve Tampa’s downtown district. 

“All of our winners and nominees have played crucial roles in the growth and development of our beautiful Downtown over the past year,” states Remund. “Being able to recognize their accomplishments and achievements is the least we can do to thank them for their contributions which will impact Tampa for years to come.”

The 2022 Urban Excellence Awards are: 
  • Public Sector Project Award: Madison Street Park, City of Tampa Parks and Recreation & the Channel District CRA
  • Private Sector Project Award: Grand Central at Kennedy Courtyard Renovations
  • Downtown Collaboration Award: The Boulevard at West River by Related Group
  • Landmark Development Project Award: Publix Greenwise at Heron Water Street Tampa
  • Downtown Experience Award: Meacham Urban Farm
  • Activating Spaces Award: CRISP at MacDill Park 
  • Gold Star Memorial Marketplace Award: Abbicreates Studio
  • Arts & Culture Award: Glazer Children’s Museum Camp Imagination
  • Christine Burdick Downtown Person of The Year Award: Joe Waggoner, Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority Executive Director/CEO (retired)
  • 2022 People’s Choice Award: Kim Puleo, 1205 on Franklin
The Tampa Downtown Partnership is private, not-for-profit organization that “fosters Tampa’s multi-use neighborhoods, working to create a vibrant 24-hour urban center for learning, living, working and playing.’’ The Partnership also underwrites storytelling in 83 Degrees.
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Read more articles by Paul Catala.

Paul Catala is a freelance writer whose work has been published across Florida, the U.S., and internationally. He has more than 30 years of experience working at the Charlotte Sun-Herald, the Tampa Tribune, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the Provo (Utah) Daily-Herald, The (Lakeland) Ledger, and the Associated Press. He has a degree in broadcast telecommunication from the University of Florida and did post-graduate study in journalism at the University of South Carolina. Now living in Lakeland, Paul is an accomplished musician, playing keyboard and piano both solo and with bands around the Tampa Bay Area.