It seems Catherine Lynch’s only downtime is at 7 in the morning, when she relaxes with her hot cup of coffee and opens the newspaper to read about the city spinning around her -— her city.
The associate vice president for women’s health at USF, associate dean for female faculty development and medical school professor became the first lady of Tampa on April 1, 2011, a role she had never anticipated in her lifetime.
Fifteen years ago, after a friend hounded her continuously for three years to meet Bob Buckhorn, then a Tampa City Council member and self proclaimed politician from the age of 10, Lynch remembers asking herself, “Who is that and why do I want to be involved with a politician?”
When Lynch and her friend were having lunch one day, Buckhorn happened to be eating at the same restaurant and the two were finally able to meet. Lynch got her answer.
Buckhorn walked over to say hello and introduce himself on the way out.
He thought she was, “smart, beautiful and way more than I deserved,” Buckhorn said in an interview with The Oracle.
She thought he was, “dressed nicely and had a good handshake,” she said.
A few dates later, Buckhorn said Lynch had to meet his Siberian Husky.
“I had to meet the dog to make sure,” she said. “If I didn’t like the dog and the dog didn’t like me, the dog was staying.”
Lynch and the dog were compatible, and since then she has played the supporting character in the life of an ambitious politician and current Tampa mayor, as well as the promising star in her budding career as a physician and professor.
Apart from maintaining her role as first lady, Lynch is a gynecologist and practices out of Tampa General Hospital and the South Tampa Center for Advanced Healthcare, where she also teaches USF medical students.
Though her career has taken her through performing Cesarian sections on orangutans and delivering babies with students at 2 a.m., Lynch said she finds being the mayor’s wife particularly “entertaining.”
“It’s a lot of fun and you get to meet people from all different walks of life doing all different sorts of things,” she said. “I have been at more than one event that somebody has passed out and people say, ‘Where is Bob’s wife?'”
Though there are no defined responsibilities for her, Lynch said she often finds herself unable to meet every expectation that comes with being the mayor’s wife.
“Certainly there are a number of events the mayor’s spouse is expected to be there in attendance,” she said. “But, most of the time, my work day (takes up) my day. The City of Tampa elected Bob and certainly knew when they elected him that I was a practicing physician.”
Lynch and Buckhorn have two daughters — Colleen, age 6, and Grace, age 10 — who are involved in a swimming team and have competitions around the Tampa Bay area.
Weekends at the Buckhorns are busy, filled with swim meets, hospital practice and socialite events. But every night the family tries to eat dinner together.
“Most of the time, we have dinner together at home five out of seven nights of the week,” Lynch said. “My husband and I both feel it’s very important to have family dinner time.”
The family may eat a little later than others, Lynch said, but that is how each of their schedules work out.
“(My oldest daughter) gets home from swimming at about 7:15 and I might have gotten home from work between 6:30 to 7, and if Bob has events he usually is able to be home between 7 to 7:30,” she said. “We then sit down to have dinner together at about 7:30, or so.”
Buckhorn said he would love to have Lynch with him at all of his events, but said that the couple values parenting more than their harried schedules.
“My job is not to be the best mayor,” he said. “My job is to be the best dad. Cathy feels the same way. It doesn’t matter if she’s a great first lady or physician if she fails as a mom. Both of us keep that at the top of our list of priorities.
“When (my children) see her juggling all that she juggles and doing it so well, then I think that’s an example that they could emulate,” he said.
Lynch is not the only one who juggles.
The mayor has been to several resident graduations and for Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) meetings, a gynecology honor society.
“In terms of being at places where its important for her that I be there, I try and do it as much as I can,” he said. “I don’t get in and make recommendations regarding surgery, (but) I don’t think you want that to happen.”