TARPON SPRINGS, FL – On the evening of March 15 in Florida’s frenzied political atmosphere, most eyes were fixated on the presidential primary: namely, whether U.S. Senator Marco Rubio would win his home state and continue his quest for the White House. He didn’t, and he quickly dropped out after finishing a distant second.
But in Tarpon Springs, a city on Florida’s Gulf Coast that boasts the largest percentage of Greeks per capita in the United States, with an aesthetic aura resembling that of a Greek Island, Chrysostomos “Chris” Alahouzos won a landslide victory over local chiropractor Dr. Frank Di Donato to become the first Greek-born mayor in the city’s history.
“I am going to be the mayor for all of the people,” not only the Greeks, Alahouzos promised throughout his campaign, and reiterated to TNH, amid detractors’ contentions that because he is Greek he would only look out for the Greek community. Alahouzos pointed to numerous local and state officials who endorsed him, and most are not of Greek descent.
Having gained nearly 60 percent of the vote, it is evident that Alahouzos captured far more than the “Greek vote,” as Hellenes comprise only about 10 percent of the population.
Nonetheless, Alahouzos acknowledged and welcomed the warm support he received from his fellow Greek Tarponites, describing their enthusiasm about his victory further rendering the city a true “Elliniko horio – Greek village.”
Alahouzos takes office on April 5 and he can’t wait to get started. Drawing upon his vast experience in the business world – he recently retired after spending 42 years managing a Fortune 500 company – he told TNH he plans to run the city like a corporation. “We are going to have goals and objectives, and an action plan on how to achieve them.” He also emphasized that he will not address just one issue at a time. “Everything is important, and so we will work on multiple issues at once.”
The centerpiece of Alahouzos’ campaign was threefold: attract more businesses to Tarpon Springs, improve the quality of life for seniors, and create more opportunities for families. These three issues, taken together, will result in Tarponites spending more time within their city, Alahouzos says: working, going to restaurants and playgrounds, picnicking, boating, and shopping, rather than spending their time and money elsewhere.
A popular tourist attraction for its historic Sponge Docks, quaint Downtown shopping district, and overall Hellenic feel, Tarpon Springs could use a boost in that respect, and Alahouzos has the solution: “a hotel right on the Sponge docks.” To those who think that building a hotel in Tarpon would cause the city to lose its charm, Alahouzos promises that any progress will be in line “with our heritage,” and will not tarnish the city’s charming and unique local flavor.
Grateful for his resounding victory, Alahouzos spent the morning after the election contacting those who helped him along the way, expressing his profound gratitude. His team of volunteers campaigned hard for Alahouzos, joining him in the daily task of knocking on doors throughout the town. “I’ve been to every house in Tarpon,” he told TNH. That included homes with signs bearing his opponent’s name prominently displayed on their front yard. That didn’t deter Alahouzos, as he was going to spread his message to everyone, and besides, he plans to be the mayor for all of the people, not only the ones who supported him.
In emphasizing that his win was not achieved singlehandedly, Alahouzos described it with a Kalymnian saying he remembers from his parents: “Enas kokoras den fernei tin avgi – one rooster (alone) does not bring dawn.”