Tampa businessman Aakash Patel files to run for Hillsborough County Commission
TAMPA — Aakash Patel, a Tampa businessman and Republican, is jumping into an increasingly intriguing race for Hillsborough County Commission.
Patel filed to run Friday afternoon for the District 1 seat, the first Republican to do so. Tampa City Councilwoman Yolie Capin, a Democrat, announced her bid last week.
At 33, Patel said he will bring a “younger voice for the community” on the commission. Patel is the president of Elevate, Inc., a consulting firm that helps businesses connect within Tampa Bay, and he’s known in political circles as a hyper networker.
“We’re going to turn the next page,” Patel said. “What I’m going to do is bring a voice of reason for my peers.”
He said he also brings a unique perspective as the son of Indian immigrants.
"My story is the American dream,” he said.
District 1 is currently represented by Commissioner Sandy Murman, who was re-elected last year. But her recent decision to run countywide for District 7 has unexpectedly created an open seat on the commission that is attracting considerable interest already.
This is Patel’s first foray into elected office, though he has served on numerous boards including an appointment by Gov. Rick Scott to the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County. As it is, he said he’s still researching and listening to constituents on some of the county’s hot-button topics like how to solve the transportation quagmire that has vexed past boards or whether the county should help pay for a Tampa Bay Rays stadium in Tampa.
On transportation, he said change is needed to support the businesses moving and growing here, and he believes there’s a road to consensus, though he doesn’t know where that is yet.
“We’ve gone in circles,” Patel said. “We’ve confused our bases. There will be a way to fund it within our county but we need to find the right balance.”
Patel is a former employee of the then-St. Petersburg Times' Tallahassee bureau, where he worked part time as an editorial assistant while attending Florida State University.
The 2018 election season is already shaping up to be a busy one in Hillsborough County. So far 10 candidates — including four incumbents — have filed for the four scheduled commission race and the one that will be announced once Murman is forced to resign her seat next year.