When something in Tampa government stops running smoothly, Santiago Corrada's phone rings.
During his decade at City Hall, two mayors have called on Corrada to put wayward projects back on track or to shepherd major events to their conclusion.
Now Corrada, 48, is considering leaving his post with the city to help put another institution — the nonprofit Tampa Bay & Co. — on better footing. The agency promotes tourism in the Tampa area. It has been without a director since October.
The agency hasn't started soliciting candidates yet. But board members are aware of the success Corrada has delivered for the city.
When, after taking office, former Mayor Pam Iorio wanted to scale back plans for the Tampa Museum of Art, she sent Corrada to bring the museum board onboard.
When Iorio needed to pressure the reluctant board of Lowry Park Zoo to fire director Lex Salisbury for abusing his position in 2008, she sent Corrada to make it happen.
When Iorio needed to rescue the foundering Tampa Convention Center, she put Corrada in charge of it.
His mandate has also included overseeing construction of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, handling the city's side of Super Bowl XLIII and coordinating with the Republican National Convention.
"He's the one that makes the trains run on time," said Mayor Bob Buckhorn. "He can deliver a message but do it without rancor. He does it without leaving a trail of bodies."
Corrada represents the city on Tampa Bay & Co.'s board. He said several board members approached him privately about seeking the director's post when Kelly Miller left after a year on the job.
"I am interested in it," Corrada said. "But I haven't made up my mind yet."
At the moment, Corrada isn't a formal candidate, though he has stopped attending board meetings while the board seeks a new director. Tampa Bay & Co. board members formed a search committee last month and have hired a search firm to vet applicants.
The next step is for the board's search committee to meet, said chairman Jim Dean, who is in the process of arranging that.
"I expect we will get candidates from local leadership and from nationwide," said Dean, who heads Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
Buckhorn is split on the prospect of losing his chief of staff.
"I don't want him to leave. I've said that from day one," Buckhorn said. "But I'm not going to stand in his way."
Corrada came to Tampa in 2004 from Miami, where he ran the city's parks for then-Mayor Manny Diaz.
Before that, he spent years as a schoolteacher and administrator, ending up the principal of Edison Senior High School, one of the city's toughest.
Iorio hired Corrada to oversee the parks, code enforcement and other departments that reached down to the neighborhoods. He quickly became her go-to person for political heavy-lifting.
"As the mayor, you lay out the markers," Iorio said. "But then someone has to go forward and implement the strategy in a way that people can feel OK with it, even if it doesn't represent their point of view."
Corrada is a talkative, easy-going guy with a broad smile. During lunch recently at downtown's Spain restaurant, he chatted amiably with the owners in Spanish while ordering black beans and pork.
Corrada was born in Patterson, N.J., the son of Cuban exiles who fled their island about the time of the revolution. After years of visiting family members in South Florida, the Corradas moved to Miami in 1977 in time for their son to start high school there.
Corrada graduated from the University of Miami with bachelor's and master's degrees. He worked on a doctorate in education before leaving the field.
"It wasn't as much being burned out as being frustrated with the accountability system and its effect on some of the students we were working with," Corrada said.
The jump to city government presented Corrada a new set of challenges, but also let him continue to use the people skills he had refined leading an urban school with 2,400 students and 200 teachers.
Chief among those skills: Persuasion works better than force when it comes to getting things done.
"You've got to understand the way people think, the way people behave and the way people are motivated," Corrada said. "Clear, concise communication is the key. In Tampa, I've had to do that often."
Iorio made Corrada her representative to nonprofits such as the art museum, the zoo, the Tampa Bay History Center and the Museum of Science & Industry.
"He contributes as much as everybody else," said Bob Rasmussen, vice chairman of the zoo's board of trustees. "More often than not, government representatives don't get involved."
Iorio said Corrada would be a "perfect fit" to lead Tampa Bay & Co., given his people skills and his experience with the convention center, museums and major events.
"He has developed a real love for this community," Iorio said. "He's the kind of person who will be able to speak in an authentic way about why Tampa is a special place."