Mark Sena and Linda Saul-Sena

Mark is a communications executive.  Linda is a community advocate and a former Tampa City councilwoman.  They moved into their Davis Islands home 24 years ago on the same day their second daughter was born. From intimate dinner parties to large scale fundraisers, Mark and Linda share a love for entertaining and bringing friends together to celebrate, support their favorite community causes, and enjoy life. Photographed at their home and garden on Davis Islands in Tampa.

What are the three best reasons to live in Tampa?  Linda: The quality of the air from October through April, the Tampa Theatre and walking down 7th Avenue in Ybor City.  Mark: The people and our diverse ethnicity and history. Plus life is easy here!

What is unique about living on Davis Islands?  We think of it as a beach community without the beach.  It’s laid back, not slick.   From where we live we can walk to downtown Davis Islands for dinner and there are more than a dozen ethnic restaurants to choose from.

How did you choose to make Davis Islands your home?  Mark: It chose Linda.  She was born just two blocks away.  This was her grandmother’s house; we bought it from her to keep it in the family.  Linda: It took us so long to make decisions about renovating it we didn’t move in until the day our 2nd child was born.  It was a very hectic day.  Mark: It makes it easy to remember when we moved here.  I know the exact day!

You entertain often in your home.  What makes for a good party?  Mark: A diverse group of people.  A wide mix of ages and backgrounds keeps things interesting!  Linda:  That and lots of booze!

Name a few of your favorite hole-in-the wall restaurants.  Linda: That’s a Mark question – he’s the adventurer.  He likes “divey” places.  Mark: Some of my favorites are in West Tampa on Armenia Avenue–La Cabana, Antioquena and  La Pequena Colombia come to mind.

Mark, any other recommendations do you have for foodies?  Restaurant BT has the most beautiful and exquisitely presented food and a high level of service.  You can’t talk about cuisine in Tampa without recognizing with Mary Ann Ferenc and Marty Blitz did.  More than 25 years ago they raised the bar on food in Tampa. They are still creative and vibrant and opening new places like First Flight in the airport and Sono at the Tampa Museum of Art.

What about wine?  West Palm Wines in Ybor City has a great selection of mostly European wines.  They have a great selection under $10 and then up in the $100s.  There’s also a restaurant on-site called Beaune’s Wine Bar that is superlative.  Classic bistro food.  Soups made from their own stocks.  A limited menu but it’s exquisite.  The most fun part is you pick wine from the retail store and add just $10–no huge wine markups like most restaurants!

What is your favorite thing about your garden? Mark: It’s a series of outdoor rooms with a lot of different interesting little sitting areas. The ficus hedges are the punch line of the garden.  Linda: My favorite is the three Anderson Hibiscus trees.  They were Mark’s idea so we could sit, look through the fountain and always see a splash of colorful flowers.

Linda, after serving 20 years on Tampa City Council, what four things are you most proud of? 

  1. The café ordinance – sidewalk cafes were illegal when I was first elected. It took four years to convince the transportation staff that people could sit at a small round table and drink wine and not be murdered by crazed motorists!
  2. The improvements along Kennedy Blvd.  There’s a photograph of me pregnant with our daughter Eliza saying “We can improve this street.”  She’s now 24.  You have to have vision. 
  3. I’m thrilled we got funding to build the pedestrian bicycle bridge on the Courtney Campbell Trail.  It will be transformative.  Plus it was a cooperative partnership between the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County and Pinellas County – and there are very few examples of such. 
  4. The Channel District, which I helped name and create the plan for.

Linda, what advice do you have for aspiring public servants/politicians?  Have a good home life!

Linda, you write a column in Creative Loafing called “Transforming Tampa Bay”.  What positive changes are you seeing in our urban landscape?   I’m really encouraged by the increased appreciation of design as demonstrated by our newest museums and the Oxford Exchange, the emphasis on making our urban centers more bicycle-friendly and the rediscovery of the Hillsborough River as the centerpiece of downtown Tampa.

Anything else?  Having an active waterfront is fabulous.  I love being able to go out on the Tampa Water Taxi with Captain Larry.  He’ll pick us up on Davis Islands and take us anywhere on the water – to the Straz for a show or dinner on Harbour Island.  On Sundays he’ll take you to the Thai Temple for lunch.  That’s a really special thing and to get there by water is a peak experience!