Kevin Beckner’s passion, rational voice and fiscal responsibility on the Hillsborough County Commission are a few of the reasons he jumped nine spots to #13 on the 2014 SaintPetersBlog list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians.
Also assisting the Democrat in his second term — one of two in a distinctly Republican group – was an impassioned speech made in June by the openly gay commissioner against the county’s ban on public promotion of LGBT events. The ban was subsequently overturned in a unanimous vote.
On gay rights matters in Tampa Bay, Beckner may be reaping the benefits of changing societal attitudes, but that shouldn’t detract from getting credit for accomplishing what many others have failed to do. And it certainly is not the only issue on Beckner’s agenda.
Fixing the region’s transportation system, cracking down on fraudulent medical clinics and community safety have all been priorities for Beckner, as well as extending health-care benefits to domestic partners of county employees and protections from discrimination over sexual orientation. On the last two, the commissioner has not yet been successful.
But after a 2011 vote requiring medical clinics to obtain a county license if they primarily treat people in automobile accidents, fellow commissioner Al Higginbotham (#20 on this year’s list) praised Beckner for his work.
“I’ve never seen anyone bear down on issues like you, sir,” Higginbotham said. “We all have areas of interest and advocacy and — where we find things that are important and that we’re passionate about, and you put 15 months into this.”
“And that’s incredible,” he added.
Next up for Beckner is the re-imagination of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, as part of an overall strategy to expand service, construct new roads and possibly develop light rail. Beckner sits on the Transportation for Economic Development Policy Leadership Group, along with other commissioners and three Hillsborough county mayors, formed to examine the future of transportation in the region and beyond.
For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who comprised the panel which assembled it, please read here.