His name gets more recognition in Australia and Japan than in Tampa.
He’s never run for political office and some of the work he takes the most pride in is inspired by the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.
But it is for these reasons that fitness guru Don Ardell is adding a bit to his typical five-mile run along Bayshore Boulevard and running to be Tampa’s next mayor.
As the former director of the University of Central Florida’s wellness center, Ardell has written more than 15 books, traveled to Australia, Germany and New Zealand and published 64 newsletters to educate the public about staying healthy.
It is a healthy lifestyle that is the basis of his platform. He wants Tampa to be a healthier city with better opportunities for disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Ardell’s platform is also dedicated to make Tampa a city known nationwide as a community that encourages diversity. If elected, he would like to have a Human Rights ordinance developed for voters, to eliminate discrimination and protect the freedom of speech.
But mostly, Ardell is aiming to have Tampa recognized as one of the fittest cities in the United States.
“There’s no one else trying to help the health of the population and my platform is a well-fit Tampa,” Ardell said. “I thought by running for office, I could translate well with concepts. The generation of ideas was my interest in democracy. My focus has always been it could work better than it was in Tampa.”
As for the idea of publishing a quarterly wellness report titled “Ardell Wellness Report,” Ardell said that came from Calvin and Hobbes.
“I read once in a Calvin and Hobbes that everyone is richly entitled to my opinion,” Ardell said.
He said because of that quote, his renewal rates increased for his newsletter and he began e-mailing weekly newsletters to subscribers.
Because of the newsletter, which has been published since 1984, Ardell said he began receiving requests to speak across the nation about fitness.
He said he has partners in Japan, Malaysia and Finland, where his newsletters are translated.
Ardell, one of six mayoral candidates, said he realizes he doesn’t have great name recognition. He said he’s gradually gaining more attention, but he still probably would need more time to win the election.
“I’m better known outside Tampa than I am in Tampa,” Ardell said.
He has been dedicated to fitness his entire life. Ardell said he went to George Washington University on a full basketball scholarship and he later began playing handball. Before coming to the Tampa Bay area, Ardell lived near another bay — San Francisco.
He taught at the University of California, Berkeley and Golden Gate. He later became the editor of Urban Planting and was eventually attracted to head the wellness center at UCF.
Ardell said he noticed some candidates at a recent debate sweating over questions. For Ardell, that is not the way to lead his campaign. He doesn’t want to attend so many debates that he becomes stressed and one of his many goals is to just have fun.
He said he’s thought of running for mayor previously but the timing just wasn’t right. And he doesn’t believe the opportunity would increase for any future election terms if he were to lose this one.
If elected, Ardell said he has already made it clear that he only wants to serve a four-year term. However, he can never rule out a change of heart in the future.
Ardell said the only way his life would change after March 4 is if he is elected. He said he would have to sacrifice writing more books and reports in order to take up responsibilities and serve Tampa.
“The change occurs if I win, because I won’t be able to run the biggest Web site dedicated to wellness and travel as I usually do and giving lectures,” Ardell said. “There will be no change in my life if I lose.”