Tampa, Fla., Mayor Bob Buckhorn is a mayor in real life, but he also has a chance of earning the title of “mayor” through Foursquare.

Foursquare, the popular real-time, geolocation Web service that allows users to “check-in” at local hot spots such as restaurants, parks and sports stadiums, is now making its way into the political scene. The service gives users the opportunity to earn the title of “mayor,” which can be accomplished by visiting a place repeatedly.

Tampa’s Foursquare users are now competing against real-life Mayor Bob Buckhorn for a “mayor” title on the Web service. Buckhorn launched his own Foursquare account earlier this month in an effort to engage citizens on his whereabouts. Foursquare users can follow Buckhorn’s account and find out what he thinks of the local restaurants, shops and other attractions.

“While the mayor of one of the nation’s largest cities can’t check in everywhere he goes, he will be sure to let citizens know when he’s meeting with other city leaders, working in his office and on occasion, enjoying a night on the town,” according to the city of Tampa.

Will Buckhorn’s Foursquare presence strengthen government transparency? Tampa Public Affairs Director Ali Glisson said it’s uncertain, but it should help citizens stay connected on what their mayor is doing.

“Mayor Buckhorn already posts on Facebook and Twitter what he’s working on that week, for instance. This will just provide him with another venue to let folks know what he’s up to,” Glisson said in an email. “I think it will help people know that he’s out in their communities. He'll also be checking in to public meetings and City Council meetings, so more people will be able to know what’s going on in Tampa.”

Aside from checking in to Tampa hot spots, Buckhorn has written tips for 33 different places in Tampa for users to read and learn about. He’s already written about his own office, a fire station, restaurants, and last week, Buckhorn posted a tip about Raymond James Stadium.

“Catch a Tampa Bay Buccaneers or a USF Bulls game in a world-class stadium that has twice hosted the Super Bowl,” Buckhorn wrote on Foursquare. “You’ll love hearing the pirate ship’s cannon boom after a touchdown.”

A Google map function on Foursquare plots each of the sites Buckhorn has visited.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took a similar approach to citizen engagement earlier this year with the launch of the City Hall in Your Community map function available through the official city of Chicago government website. The map pinpoints locations where Emanuel has visited, and provides photos and descriptions of why the mayor visited a particular place. Below the map function, users can submit suggestions for recommendations on where Emanuel and city officials should visit in the community in the future.

Glisson said following the Tampa mayor on Foursquare is a good way for people visiting the city for the first time to find recommendations on places to go and eat.

“Tampa is hosting the 2012 Republican National Convention next August, and during that week, we'll have thousands of first-time visitors in Tampa,” Glisson said. “Hopefully, they’ll agree that the mayor’s picks are some of the best places to go in Tampa.”

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.