Kevin Beckner, first openly gay Hillsborough County commissioner, says goodbye
TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioners said goodbye Wednesday to one of their own.
Kevin Beckner, who left his mark as the county’s first openly gay commissioner and as a champion of LGBT rights, attended his last meeting as an elected official. He reached the end of his term limits and will be replaced next week by incoming commissioner Pat Kemp, who won the District 6 seat in the Nov. 8 election.
Beckner’s colleagues honored him with a glowing tribute that outlined his many victories as a commissioner, from lifting the gay pride ban and adding sexual orientation protections into the county’s human rights ordinance, to his work on public safety and the environment.
“You brought diversity to our county that was sorely needed," Commissioner Sandy Murman said. “We needed to diversify ourselves so every resident in our community has dignity and is treated with dignity."
The lighthearted ceremony also included gifts from Beckner to commissioners — he gave them each a bobblehead doll in their own likeness accomponied by a gag gift — and a tolken of appreciation from the board to Beckner. Commissioner Victor Crist, in a purple suit he donned especially for Beckner's final day, gave him a special lapel for statesmen and a painting of Oz made by Hillsborough children.
For his part, Beckner thanked his colleagues for working with him on many issues that as a minority member — one of just two Democrats on the seven-member board — he couldn’t have passed without them.
"There are two things that bound us together as a board,” Beckner said, “And that is respect and civility."
Read tomorrow's Tampa Bay Times for more on Beckner's final day and his legacy in Hillsborough County.