To honor its long-serving mayor, Gulfport renamed its recreation center the “Michael J. Yakes Recreation Complex” Saturday morning. Mayor Mike Yakes, called “Mayor Mike” by many, spent the past three decades of his life first as Ward Four councilman (1986 – 1991) then as longest-seated mayor in Pinellas (1991 – 2013). He will voluntarily step down next month.
“When you have somebody serving in a city that is 102 years old and they served for a quarter of that time, that person has put in their time of service,” Vice Mayor Sam Henderson, who officiated the ceremony, told the crowd of almost 200 people in attendance. Mayor Yakes also received two flags flown over the United States Capitol.
Lori Rosso, the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce president, told Mayor Mike, “In a City where we celebrate everything but water bill day, today we celebrate your contributions to Gulfport.” (Read Ms. Rosso’s full speech here.)
Former city manager Bob Lee presented a resolution from the Florida League of Cities honoring Mayor Mike. He said he had initially asked for a resolution comparing the mayor to Dale Earnhardt, but joked that the “apparently they had a few Jeff Gordon fans” on the board of directors. Dr. Lee called Mayor Mike a “tireless advocate for the city and its programs.”
The mayor’s daughter, Dominique, also spoke.
“Growing up, I was often asked, ‘What’s it like being the mayor’s daughter?’,” she said. “Well, it meant not having many boyfriends in high school because they were too afraid to date the mayor’s daughter. It meant waking up at the crack of dawn every weekend to a ringing phone with calls about missed garbage pickups, zoning controversies and re-election campaigns. And let me just tell you, I spent a weekend or two in my youth passing out campaign flyers.”
However, she said, “the hardest part about growing up as the mayor’s daughter was hearing any criticism about my dad. But whether you think he did great things, not so great things, or you’re simply indifferent, no one can argue that he’s leaving a wonderful legacy here in this city which he loves, from the controversial zoning and protection of this very recreation center we’re standing in... to cleaning up Osgood Point, where he grew up fishing, to his support of what we call the ‘Art District’ today, and much, much more. The list of his legacy is long.”
Finally, Mayor Mike spoke.
“In 1986 my family and I decided maybe we could make a difference, maybe we could make a change,” he said. He told the crowd one of the keys to success was “you need to believe in your people.”
“I never felt I was elected to think for you,” he told them “but represent you.”
Missed the ceremony? See it here.