Hillsborough County Commission chairman surprised to learn powerful builders group won't meet with him in 2017
UPDATE: The Tampa Bay Builders Association has said it would meet with Hillsborough County Commissiner Les Miller and it was an oversight to not include him on the original schedule. Read their comments here. The original post is below.
TAMPA — One of the most powerful business groups in the region has spurned the chairman of the Hillsborough County Commission much to his confusion.
The Tampa Bay Builders Association notified commissioners Monday of its planned list of monthly speakers for its 2017 lunch meetings. Six of the commissioners had dates lined up; three of them were scheduled to address the group twice over the coming 12 months.
Noticeably absent from the list was Commissioner Les Miller, the current board chairman and longtime elected leader who represents many of Tampa’s distressed and low-income neighborhoods.
“It’s ironic that one commissioner, the minority commissioner, is left out,” said Miller, the county’s only black commissioner. “I don’t know what to call it that you include six county commissioners and leave out the one.”
Tampa Bay Builders Association Executive Vice President Jennifer Doerfel did not immediately respond to a call for comment.
The Tampa Bay Builders Association is an influential organization that represents some of the region's largest developers. Their decision not to meet with Miller comes a week before the commission is expected to vote on a new chairman for 2017, a choice that often comes with intense behind-the-scenes lobbying.
Miller, a Democrat, was a surprise pick for board chairman last year. The commission is made up of five Republicans and two Democrats but still chose Miller as its leader, much to the chagrin of some conservative activists and GOP insiders.
Miller has met with the group before he said and he called the association to ask why he was left off next year’s schedule. He said he was told that it was a lottery system and his name didn’t come up.
The group then offered to meet with Miller next September, after all other commissioners had already spoken, including newcomer Pat Kemp. Another commission, Stacy White, was scheduled to have already appeared a second time.
Slighted, Miller declined that invitation.
“It’s hard to me to conceive you have a lottery system that does not include all the county commissioners,” Miller said. “You have a new commissioner but the chair of the county commission you leave off.”