Crowd welcomes new Hillsborough commissioner
Judge-elect Caroline J. Tesche (left) swears in Kevin Beckner (right) as Hillsborough County Commissioner District 6 while his life partner Gil Sainz (center) watches during the Investiture Ceremony at the Frederick B. Karl County Center. [Chris Zuppa, Times]
TAMPA -- Democrat Kevin Beckner, the first openly gay Hillsborough County commissioner, was sworn in Tuesday with his partner of 10 years standing at his side.
A standing-room-only crowd that spilled into the first-floor lobby at County Center erupted into applause upon his investiture.
Echoing a theme of some of the other commissioners, Beckner promised to help usher in less partisanship on the commission. He also urged supporters to continue to push for their interests.
"Helping me get elected was not the end, but just the beginning," Beckner said.
Beckner took the oath of office from Circuit Court Judge-Elect Caroline Tesche. By his side was his partner, Gil Sainz, a sergeant and 23-year veteran of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office who works in recruitment and screening. Beckner, 37, a financial planner, was previously a police officer in Indiana.
Beckner defeated incumbent Republican Brian Blair by a comfortable margin Nov. 4. Blair was among commissioners who have been openly hostile of gay rights initiatives.
In addition to Beckner, returning commissioners Ken Hagan and Al Higginbotham were sworn in for new terms after easily winning reelection. Commissioners unanimously selected Hagan to serve another year as the board's chairman.
-- Bill Varian, Times Staff Writer