Ashley Bauman likes to joke that she’s been to more groundbreaking and ribbon-cutting ceremonies than most members of Congress, which is funny because it’s probably true.
As the City of Tampa’s director of marketing and communications under former Mayor Bob Buckhorn and current Mayor Jane Castor, Bauman, for nearly six years, had a front-row seat to one of the past decade’s greatest runs of economic development: the rise of Tampa and the Tampa Bay region as one of the nation’s most desirable places to live, work and start a business.
“There’s no greater job in politics than working for a mayor,” she says. “I miss having my finger on the pulse of the city.”
Bauman helped shape the narrative around big — and now wildly popular — projects such as the completion of Tampa’s Riverwalk and the construction of Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, and she had a hand in organizing the now-legendary Hillsborough River boat parades that celebrated the championships won by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Lightning.
But it’s the more mundane, everyday challenges, she says, that made her job so rewarding.
“I might as well have been the city helpline,” Bauman says with a laugh. “I’d get calls saying, ‘There’s flooding outside my driveway — can you point me in the right direction of who to call?’ And then you could give them a name [of someone] to talk to who would help figure out how to remedy their situation.”
That hyper-local job was a far cry from her earlier gigs in politics, such as working as a field organizer for the Obama campaign in 2008 and then serving as press secretary for the Democratic Party of Florida in 2010 and communications director for the Democratic Party of Virginia from 2011 to 2014. She parlayed all that experience to land her current role: senior vice president of Mercury, a public affairs and government relations firm with offices in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale as well as global power centers such as London, New York and Washington, D.C.
At Mercury, Bauman isn’t as directly connected to the political world but it’s still part of her portfolio of public relations and crisis management responsibilities.
“On any given day, somebody could come to you and say, ‘I have this issue,’ or ‘I want to uplift this project’ or ‘Something really bad has happened,’” she says. Her job “could be anything from being a fixer to finding funds for affordable housing. It could be entering new businesses into a community. Or it could be just being on retainer to make sure shit doesn't hit the fan.”
With all that experience under her belt at such a young age, would Bauman consider running for office someday?
“No, I don't think so,” she says. “It's never been something I've aspired to do, but just like every politician, I’ll say, ‘never say never.’”
Name: Ashley Bauman
City of residence: Tampa
Employer: Mercury Public Affairs
Title: Senior vice president
Years in the area: Eight
Marital status/children: Long-term relationship
Alma mater/degree: University of Florida/bachelor's degree in political science and government
Are you working from the company office, home office or hybrid? Home
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had? Working live entertainment at Cedar Point where I lived inside the amusement park
What’s your top tip for being productive? I suggest drinking a lot of caffeine and being flexible.
If could have a side hustle, what would it be? Singer in a cover band
What’s your favorite off-hours activity? Boating
What’s the most significant item on your life bucket list — and what’s keeping you from completing it? Traveling to exotic destinations — being busy with work.
What’s your favorite podcast? Going West/Only the Rich
At what percentage on your phone to you start to get low battery anxiety? I always carry an external battery or batteries with me.
What are the top three apps used on your smartphone? Google Drive, Twitter and Instagram
What’s your go-to music genre, band or act to be inspired? I love all music. Right now it’s a mix between yacht rock/classic/pop/country and R&B.
Who would play you in the movie of your life? Blake Lively or Amy Schumer
Where is your happy place? Anywhere with crystal-clear water
Describe yourself in three words: Loyal, authentic, funny
Who is your mentor for your career and why? My mother
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your mentor? Despite not being in politics, my mom’s work ethic and ability to adjust her sails when the economy shifts and get creative has really been the most eye-opening and has taught me the most. My former boss, Mayor Jane Castor, always says, “There’s plan A, plan B and what really happened,” and I tend to heed that advice daily.