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Hillsborough Commissioners reject idea of rotating board chair

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Hillsborough County Commission opted on Wednesday not to support Les Miller’s proposal to make the selection of a Chair rotated between each member.

Commissioners selected Stacy White last month to serve as their chairman for the next year, but also agreed to review an alternative way of choosing their leader.

Under Miller’s proposal, District 2 Commissioner Victor Crist would automatically become Chairman in late 2017, with District 7 Commissioner Al Higginbotham serving as Vice Chair. Under his scenario, Higginbotham would then move up to serve as Chair in 2018 with District 6 Commissioner Pat Kemp serving as Vice chair. In 2019, she would become chair, continuing in descending order for the years to come.

Miller’s plan didn’t go down well with his GOP colleagues.

“As a longtime board member I’ve benefitted from the current system, but I’ve also been the recipient of fierce criticism and lobbying against me,” said Commissioner Ken Hagan. “While this can certainly be one of the most political issues that we confront every year, I prefer this system over simply awarding who was next in line.”

“The selection of a chair is not a comfortable process,” said Commissioner Chair Stacy White, conducting his first meeting in his new leadership position. “To me, this policy could make what’s already an uncomfortable process even more uncomfortable,” he said, adding that Miller’s proposal would allow board members to override the automatic placement of a commissioner to serve as chair if they opted to do so.

Newly-elected Democratic Commissioner Pat Kemp backed Miller’s motion, noting how Democrat Kevin Beckner was widely respected during his eight-year term, yet was never voted by his Republican colleagues to chair the board (something they did do a year ago with Miller).

Commissioner Sandy Murman, who was unhappy after her colleagues ousted her as chair in 2016 and said last month she was ready to move on a rotating chairmanship model, changed her mind at Wednesday’s meeting, irking Miller.

Murman acknowledged her flip flop, but said she had heard from her constituents that they liked things the way they are, and thus would now be opposing the measure. “I do believe that every single year there should be a vote by this commission,” she said, whether it was their turn or not.

Miller was visibly upset at Murman’s reversal, saying that she was allowing five critics (that was the number of emails he personally received opposing the rotating concept) to dictate policy before the entire county. “Let’s start realizing that a handful of people are trying to control this county commission and what policies we should put into place that benefit the entire 1.4 million people in this county,” he said with a clear edge in his voice.

The board split their vote on the proposal, 3-3. Miller, Kemp and Higginbotham were in support, while Murman, White and Hagan were in opposition, effectively killing the idea.

The Board Chair position offers more than additional power – it also comes with a nearly $10,000 boost in salary from the $96,000 that the rest of the board makes.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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