A year ago, the majority Republican led Hillsborough County Commission crossed party lines to vote for Democrat Les Miller as chairman over the GOP incumbent at the time, Sandy Murman, angering some local Republicans. On Tuesday the board made sure not to repeat the same thing.
Despite a strong speech supporting Miller’s re-election by Al Higginbotham, his fellow Republican colleagues opted to go in a different direction, voting 4-3 to elect District 2 Commissioner Stacy White to lead them in 2017.
“I am absolutely humbled to have been selected as chairman of this board today,” said White, beginning his third year on the board. “I don’t take this lightly. I will be fair and impartial.”
White received support from fellow Republicans Murman, Ken Hagan, Victor Crist in addition to his own vote. Newly sworn in commissioner Pat Kemp, the only other Democrat on the board, voted for Miller, along with Higginbotham.
The irony was that in 2015, it was Hagan and Crist who voted against Murman and crossed party lines to back Miller. Higginbotham opposed that sentiment at the time, saying he believed Murman deserved a second year on the board, and he said that was his same philosophy on Tuesday in arguing for a second year for Miller.
“He’s represented each and everyone one of us well in this community,” Higginbotham said, signaling him out specifically his work in trying to keep the peace after the late August death of 22-year-old Levonia Riggins, an unarmed black man shot to death by a Hillsborough County Sheriff Deputy (who was later cleared in the incident). “It’s the man right here who showed courage to step out, who’s showed the same courage and diplomacy and fairness and commitment and intellect that was needed as chairman,” Higginbotham said of Miller.
But Murman disagreed. Saying that she’s thought a lot about the process since being ousted a year ago, she said it was important that the board kill off the idea of having a chairman stay in power for consecutive years. “We should consider rotating at some point,” she said, before placing White’s name in contention. After White was elected, she came back to say that she believed Miller had done a fine job as chairman.
Murman was later voted on to become vice-chair of the board.
Board members also voted on their placements on the various boards and agencies that they are to serve on. Actually they voted to maintain their current positions on those agencies, with a couple of exceptions. The most notable change is that that Miller will replace Crist on the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission. Crist announced more than a month ago that he intended to resign from the agency, where he has been under intense pressure from the ridesharing and taxi and limousine industry for several years now as that agency’s chairman.
‘I’m going to be a nut,” declared Miller about his decision to join the besieged agency. “Lose my mind. Jump off a cliff, and take the PTC.”
As the newest member, Kemp was asked to accept the same portfolio of her predecessor, Kevin Beckner. But Murman she’d like to serve on the Children’s Board on Hillsborough County, and traded a spot to get on that board while Kemp will take her spot on the TBARTA board.
Hagan also gets to maintain his position on the Economic Development Commission.