Tampa-based entrepreneur and civic activist Aakash Patel has filed to run as a Republican for the Hillsborough County Commission District 1 seat in 2018.
Technically, Patel has filed for 2020. However, incumbent Sandy Murman is expected to step down next year to run for another seat, creating the need for a special election next year.
Patel is founder and president of consulting firm Elevate, Inc. and has been extremely active in Tampa Bay-area civic causes in recent years. He currently serves as the chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.
“My story is the American dream,” Patel said in an interview last week. “And that’s one of the reasons I’m running. My parents were of Indian heritage and came to America in the early-70s. They instilled American ideals — such as community service — into me at an early age. And I’m running for the District 1 Commission seat because I want to give back to the city that took me in.”
Patel has graduated from a wide variety of civic programs: The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Tampa, the Citizen’s Academy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Tampa Police Citizen’s Academy, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s Mayor’s Neighborhood University, the Tampa Bay Public Leadership Institute, Leadership Tampa Bay (on the Executive Committee since 2014), Tampa Connection and College Leadership Florida. He is also a current class member in the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership St. Pete program and a member of the Society of International Business Fellows (SIBF) Leadership Academy.
In the early 1970s, Patel’s father arrived in America from Uganda; his mother came from India. Despite neither speaking English at first, the couple later attended graduate school and later opened up their own respective pharmacies.
As a youth, Patel himself grew up in New Jersey before moving with his family to Tampa; he attended Sickles High School and later Florida State University, where he holds degrees in both English Literature and Political Science.
Patel first developed the political bug in 2009, when former District 1 Commissioner Rose Ferlita appointed him to the county’s Citizens Advisory Committee. Later, he was reappointed by Commissioner Victor Crist.
At 33, Patel says if elected, he would bring some much-needed “new blood” to the Board of County Commissioners, whose youngest current member, Chair Stacy White, is 45.
“We need some fresh ideas,” Patel says when asked what he will bring to the board.
District 1 encompasses northwest Hillsborough County, Westshore, South Tampa and most of the southeastern part of the county. Murman has held the seat since 2010, and she was just re-elected to another four-year term November.
However, Murman intends to stick around beyond 2020, which is why she announced recently that she will step down from her seat next year to run for a new four-year term in District 7, a countywide seat vacated when Al Higginbotham departs the scene.
Last week, Tampa City Council Chair Yolie Capin became the first Democrat to file for the seat. Patel is the second candidate to announce.
Undoubtedly, there will be more candidates declaring for the seat over the course of the next year or so.