Tampa developer, civic leader Al Austin dies at 85

By Ashley Jeffery, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, May 22, 2014, 5:28 PM EDT

Al Austin, one of Tampa's most prominent business and political leaders, died Wednesday night in his sleep.

Austin's wife said doctors confirmed he had suffered a heart attack. He was found Thursday morning in his bed. He was 85 years old.

Austin was an influential Republican fundraiser who chaired the committee that brought the Republican National Convention to Tampa in 2012.

"I can tell you with great certainty that would not have happened, had it not been for the perserverance of Al Austin," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. "We were turned down twice but he never gave up and we got it and put on the best convention any political party has seen."

"That had to be the crowning glory of his life to see the convention come here," said Austin's son-in-law Nelson Guagliardo. "Because the love he has for this city and the love he has for politics, he wanted to marry the two together and I'm so glad he got the chance."

Austin was also behind the development of the Westshore business district starting in the 1960s.

"He saw Westshore as having the potential to be the most dynamic business center in the state of Florida," said Guagliardo.

He served as the head of the board that runs Tampa International Airport and was once named the Tampa Metro Civilian Club's Citizen of the Year.

Austin was a family man who loved his wife of more than 50 years, a political man who always fought for the cause, and an advocate for doing what was right for the community.

"You have to give back to this community," said Guagliardo. "This community is too good to too many people not to give back to, and I'll never forget that message."

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Statements on Austin's passing

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

"Al Austin was a real estate pioneer who shaped the physical landscape of Tampa. He was the first to truly understand the value that being in close proximity to Tampa International Airport and Pinellas County could have on developing the Westshore Business District into what it is today.

"He believed in his country, his party, and the importance of public service. His decades long effort to bring the Republican National Convention to Tampa will continue to pay dividends, and it would not have occurred without his hard work and faith.

"From his contributions to the University of Tampa to his work on behalf of MacDill Air Force Base, Al always put his city first. I will miss his guidance and remain grateful for all of he has done for Tampa.”

Rep. David Jolly, FL-13

"The Bay area lost a friend, a philanthropist and community leader today with the passing of Al Austin. He was a trusted confidant and counselor to so many elected officials and was the driving force behind bringing the 2012 Republican National Convention to Florida.

"But his legacy and imprint on the region goes far beyond politics. Tampa Bay would not be what it is today without the investment Al and Beverly Austin have made in the development of our region, but more importantly in organizations that continue to serve our community and support those in need."

Gov. Rick Scott

"Ann and I are saddened by the loss of Al Austin, one of the most influential Floridians to ever call Tampa Bay home. Never a stranger to hard work, Al invested in the city he loved so much, and our state is a better place because of his vision. He was a champion of growth and development, higher education, and economic freedom for everyone.

"Today, Ann and I join all Floridians as we mourn Al. We send our condolences to his family and those closest to him.”

Former Gov. Charlie Crist

"Al was my friend and a true leader in our community. I am grateful for the guidance he provided to me over my career, and Carole and I are saddened by his passing."