Hillsborough County commissioners sworn in Tuesday
TAMPA -- Hillsborough County commissioners meet for one of their most politically charged get-togethers of the year Tuesday.
The main order of business is swearing in three new commissioners and two returning ones. The newbies are all former state legislators: Republicans Sandy Murman and Victor Crist; and Democrat Les Miller. The returnees are Republicans Mark Sharpe and Ken Hagan, the latter of whom has moved to one of the three at-large seats from District 2, in which he represented northern Hillsborough. They join Republican Al Higginbotham and Democrat Kevin Beckner, who didn't have reelection races this year.
But after a reception, the fun begins, as commissioners reconvene to pick their chairman, vice-chairman and chaplain, then make committee assignments. For weeks, commissioners have been quietly floating their preferences, and their backers in the community have been trying to exert their influence. Among the more coveted committee assignments are to the authorities governing Tampa's pro sports arenas (free suite access to Bucs games and Yankee spring training tickets!), the port and airport.
Both Commissioners Al Higginbotham and Sharpe have made clear they want to be chairman. Each has made past overtures for the one-year assignment -- which comes with an extra $10,000 in pay -- only to get passed over. Insiders say Higginbotham appears to have the edge, but the jockeying typically continues right up to the time of the vote.