CLEARWATER, FL – Greek-American Mayor of Clearwater George Cretekos completed his term on March 30, and his 50 years of public service along with it, the Tampa Bay Times (TBT) reported on April 12.
Cretekos, 73, is also dedicated to serving at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Clearwater where he supervises the altar boys and when they’re not available, he steps in and assists Fr. James Paris during the service, TBT reported.
“For 35 years, Cretekos worked as an aide to the late C.W. Bill Young, often as head of the congressman’s Pinellas County district office,” TBT reported, adding that “if there was an event Young couldn’t attend, he’d send ‘Congressman George,’” though “Cretekos was never a fan of the nickname, given to him by local politicos decades ago.”
Following his retirement from Young’s office, “Cretekos spent 13 years on the Clearwater City Council, eight as mayor,” TBT reported.
Cretekos became known for listening and working with others to come up with solutions to the issues facing Clearwater.
“In Clearwater’s city manager system, the mayor is just one of five votes on the City Council, and majority rules,” TBT reported, noting that “even though Cretekos has steered the city through major initiatives — laying the groundwork for the $64 million Imagine Clearwater park renovation project, for example — he never did anything alone.”
Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly worked for a decade with Cretekos in Young’s congressional office and told TBT, “There are few people you meet that have what you’d call a servant’s heart. George Cretekos has a servant’s heart.”
“His tenure was not defined by sweeping change, but by what Cretekos fought to keep the same,” TBT reported, noting that “in 2018, he was a prominent opponent of the effort to change Clearwater to a so-called ‘strong mayor’ form of government, similar to Tampa and St. Petersburg. The referendum failed. Even on more mundane matters, Cretekos rarely voted against the recommendations of city staff. For eight years, Clearwater’s highest elected office valued professionals, and professionalism.”
Cretekos “leaves with some regrets,” TBT reported, noting that “relations between the city and the Church of Scientology sit at the lowest point in recent memory. Without communicating with the city, companies tied to the Church in recent years have bought up $103 million in downtown property. The vast majority of the purchases were made in cash. Mark Bunker, a strident Scientology detractor, was recently narrowly elected to fill a seat on the council.”
“And despite over a year of pushing, Cretekos never secured nearly $70 million in city, state and county funding for a refurbished Philadelphia Phillies spring training complex in Clearwater,” TBT reported, adding that “critics of Cretekos’ efforts said the stadium, built in 2004, was too new to warrant tens of millions of dollars’ in taxpayer-funded improvements.”
Cretekos was born in Tarpon Springs in 1947 to a Greek-American working class family, TBT reported, noting that Cretekos “grew up in the home where his father, Nick, was born and later died.”
“‘Georgie,’ as he is still known to some of Tarpon Springs’ most senior citizens, spoke Greek before he could speak English,” TBT reported, adding that Cretekos “was a Boy Scout” and “still counts the day he shadowed the Tarpon Springs city manager as one of his most formative,” inspiring his career choice.
Greek-American Mayor of Clearwater George Cretekos. (Photo via Facebook)
“His mother, Frances, and father worked for the local post office to support George and his sister, Leah,” TBT reported, noting that his father “also pulled extra shifts at a sponge packing house, and, at night, a dog racing track.”
“That’s how I got to go to college,” Cretekos told TBT.
While in his junior year at Davidson College, he worked for Congressman Bill Cramer, a St. Petersburg Republican, in Washington, DC, TBT reported, and “that summer, Cretekos was at his grandmother’s store on the Tarpon Springs sponge docks when Cramer’s office called to ask if he would work the Republican National Convention that August in Miami Beach.”
It was the late 1960s and while many Greek-Americans, including the Cretekos family, were Democrats, the young Cretekos would have to register as a Republican to work at the convention and “never looked back,” TBT reported.
Cretekos has also “donated more than 63 gallons of blood,” TBT reported, adding that “he’s graduated from giving red blood, which takes about 20 minutes, to donating plasma, which takes at least two and a half hours,” and “at least once a month, Cretekos lies down in a chair at the OneBlood center and puts a historical drama on the TV while phlebotomists hook him up to whirring, beeping machines.”
Reflecting on his time working for Young, Cretekos noted that “That generation has been lost, hopefully not forever,” as Young “had a reputation for compromise even as Congress grew more and more partisan,” TBT reported.
“Other Republicans with Cretekos’ disdain for hyper-partisanship have taken to criticizing President Trump,” TBT reported, adding that Cretekos has not, but “also won’t disclose how he voted — not even to his wife, Carolyn.”
“Clearly Trump’s politics have resonated, he says, including in Pinellas County — which went red in 2016,” TBT reported.
With the arrival of the coronavirus, Cretekos responded to “scores of angry messages, many from out-of-towners, chastising leaders for keeping Clearwater’s world-famous beach open to both spring-breakers and infectious disease,” TBT reported, adding that “at an emergency meeting, the City Council appeared headed toward keeping the beaches open.”
Cretekos had just two weeks to go in his term as mayor and spoke in a somber tone, TBT reported, “We are suspending our meetings for 30 days. We’re doing things for ourselves that we’re not willing to do for the community, and for our visitors, and for our reputation. And that weighs on me an awful lot. I would hope that it would weigh on you.”
“Before Cretekos took the floor, the council looked like it was headed toward a 4-1 vote to keep the beach open,” TBT reported, adding that “instead, the vote was 4-1 to close it.”
“Cretekos had listened, made his case, and built consensus,” TBT reported.