If you were to throw a dart at the wall-sized map of Florida hanging in my home you’d probably hit someplace I have hiked, kayaked, camped, bicycled, or backpacked. Although I’ve traveled the world, and experienced marvelous natural wonders all over the planet, my favorite places are in Florida—especially here in the Tampa Bay area.
Besides the magical cypress swamps and pine scrubs that are home to wildlife known only in Florida, I love our charming rural communities and historic urban neighborhoods, each rich in unique character, culture and heritage.
My mother’s family tree shares Ybor City’s Latin roots. A 4th generation Tampa native, I grew up on Tampa Bay near Westshore. I now live on Tampa Bay’s South Shore, in Ruskin, at the mouth of the Little Manatee River.
Because of my deep love for the Tampa Bay area, it breaks my heart to see all that is special around my home being threatened by dumb growth management and costly sprawl. Many people are concerned about this, but most feel helpless to save our county from those who would ruin it. Having worked as a community advocate for years, I’ve gotten a lot of help from the activists who got involved before me. I try to pay that forward and help others learn how they can get involved, so that together we can protect our natural resources, our communities, and our quality of life from those politicians who seem hellbent on turning this whole county into one bland blob of cookie-cutter subdivisions and strip plazas, snarled with honking traffic jams.
In 2005 Mariella Smith received the Citizen Planning Advocate Award from the Sun Coast Section of the American Planning Association for her work in several planning efforts in which diverse groups of “stakeholders” (developers and residents) came to consensus on plans that have been adopted into the Hillsborough County Comprehensive Plan. She has also earned awards for environmental activism from both the Florida Chapter and the Tampa Bay Group of the Sierra Club. She serves on various civic and environmental boards & committees, has a Master’s degree in Philosophy (with majors in Ethics & Logic), and has owned and operated InSight Graphic Design since 1988.