Joe Henderson: Keep an eye on Mike Moore, a man on the move in Pasco

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If you don’t know Mike Moore yet, chances are you will soon enough. For now, he is content to be chairman of the Pasco County Commission, but former House Speaker Will Weatherford believes his friend and neighbor is destined for bigger things.

“When you’ve been around politics and people as long as I have, you learn to spot talent pretty quickly,” Weatherford said.

“Mike has that kind of upward mobility you look for. He has great depth, he takes time to understand issues, and he has a great ability to articulate those issues.”

By any standard, his is a rapid rise; Moore has only been on the Commission for two years and it is his first turn at elected office. Still, I asked Weatherford, does he see Moore running for the state Legislature at some point?

“I’d be disappointed if he didn’t,” Weatherford said.

State Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Dade City Republican, added, “Mike clearly understands how to work with people. He has been a real boon for Pasco County. If Mike were to choose to run (for the Legislature), he would have a good base of support for whatever position he ran for.”

To which Moore says, “Right now, I’m only focused on the county. In the future, I can look at other things.”

Translation: Keep an eye on him.

Moore is making a name for himself there by focusing on the issues that come with Pasco’s rapid growth as well as Tampa Bay area-wide issues like transportation.

He is working with other commissioners to bring what he calls “careers, not just jobs” to Pasco. He is fiercely proud of his adopted home, which has transformed in just a few years from a sleepy, rural suburb of Tampa into a connected, tech-savvy county with its own identity.

“When I first moved to Wesley Chapel, we had to travel to Hillsborough County for all our needs,” he said. “Now, people in New Tampa are traveling to Pasco for what they want. For years, Pasco was said to be a bedroom community to Tampa. I hate that. Here, we’re thinking about the future. Let’s not react. Let’s be proactive.”

In addition to being inquisitive and smart, ideas come spilling out Moore. He gets excited about issues like storm water drainage and highway connectors, mostly because they are problems that need to be solved. The fact that they can be tedious and exasperating only makes them more important.

“He is not scared to jump into the stickier issues,” Weatherford said. “A lot of politicians won’t do that, but Mike will roll up his sleeves and go to work. When I think of him, it’s like the old political saying – do you want to be something, or do you want to do something? He wants to do something.”

He has a compelling personal story, too. He was raised by his mother after his father left when Moore was about 10 years old. They moved into his grandparents’ small, 2-bedroom home in Winter Haven; Mike and his mother, Alice, had to share a room.

“She is a saint of a women,” Moore said.

His mother went on to earn a Master’s degree and worked in the Polk County school system until retiring. Moore went to Polk Community College and graduated from UCF.

He started a medical supplies business, which he later sold. He and his wife, Lauren, have three kids – Aubrey, 13; Aiden, 10; and Amberlee, 7.

“He is a great dad,” Weatherford said. “I have seen him out on the soccer fields in Wesley Chapel, coaching and supporting his kids. He was active in the community before he was interested in politics.”

They also have three dogs, which may explain his interest in animal issues. He pushed for the county to adopt an ordinance last year requiring anyone putting animals up for adoption to click on a computer to the Pasco Clerk’s office. It will tell the seller if the potential buyer has a record of animal abuse.

Add it all it up and it becomes the picture of a man on the move. Not too fast, though.

“I love what I do,” he said. “Things are hopping here. People are happy. I sleep well at night.”

Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.