The Tampa Tribune strongly urges Republican voters to give Mark Sharpe a chance to continue providing the thoughtful, courageous leadership needed in uncertain financial times.
The incumbent in countywide District 7, Mark Sharpe, is facing well-organized opposition from Josh Burgin, a former executive director of the Hillsborough County Republican Party.
Sharpe is an energetic commissioner who has led the local effort to bring more high-tech and bio-medical jobs to the county. Burgin gives Sharpe credit for that but faults him for supporting a transportation initiative.
Hillsborough is losing business, Burgin says, to counties in other states, such as Tennessee, with low taxes and lax rules. He favors across-the-board cuts for county departments.
Sharpe, a former naval intelligence officer and natural leader, avoids simplistic solutions, such as flat cuts on various county functions.
“Some things we should do better,” Sharpe says, “and some things not at all.”
Sharpe has been brutally forthright in voicing his opinion of leaders when he concludes they deserve to be replaced. Most recently, he led the effort to require County Administrator Pat Bean to resign. He has been relentless in cutting waste and seeking to streamline operations. He consistently challenges the status quo.
He wants to make all department heads reapply for their jobs and get rid of deadwood.
While a proven fiscal conservative, Sharpe broke ranks with some Republicans to support giving county voters a chance in November to increase the sales tax.
The revenue would be used mostly to improve buses, pay for long-delayed road projects and begin a rail service. Most business leaders, including the Tampa Bay Partnership, support a plan they believe will generate jobs and attract new businesses to a county whose traffic congestion is considered among the worst in the nation.
Sharpe shares that belief but stresses the ultimate decision should be taxpayers’. Regardless of the outcome of the transportation vote, he can be counted on to be an enterprising leader in bringing jobs and businesses to the county.
Sharpe has worked tirelessly to make the county more appealing to new employers in life-sciences and other fields and has helped repair the county’s relationship with USF.
He is open, accessible and independent.
Burgin, a one-time aide to former County Commissioner Brian Blair, is an engaging young man, but his resume is slender.
In the general election the winner of the Republican primary will face Neil Cosentino, running with neither party affiliation nor much visible support and a write-in.