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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott names Rep. Fasano as Pasco's new tax collector



Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday morning offered Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, the post of tax collector for Pasco County, replacing the late Mike Olson, who died in June.

"He's passionate. He cares about our state. He cares about our constituents," Scott told reporters. "He's going to be very customer-oriented."

Fasano, who had quietly campaigned for the position for the weeks, said he was grateful for Scott's faith in him.

"I thanked him and told him I would do my best and will keep the good customer service," Fasano said.

Scott's office confirmed that he placed a phone call to the veteran lawmaker shortly after 8 a.m. and offered him the position effective Wednesday, after Fasano resigns his seat in the Legislature. Fasano will hold the office through November 2014, when he will have to run for a new term.

The post pays more than $138,000 a year, or nearly five times as much as Fasano earns as a state legislator. Scott's decision will require a special election to fill Fasano's District 36 seat in the Legislature, and the Pasco-centered seat leans Democratic. President Barack Obama carried the district in 2008 and 2012.

Scott interviewed Fasano for the post last Friday when the two men met face-to-face at a Hilton Garden Inn hotel in Boca Raton, and the governor also conferred with a key Pasco County political leader, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

Weatherford was one of about a dozen Pasco leaders who signed a letter endorsing Fasano for the job. Some of those who signed it were eager to send Fasano packing from the Capitol, but when that letter reached the governor's office late Monday, it signaled that momentum had swung in Fasano's direction.

Fasano, 55, a Republican, is an unconventional choice for the position because he has been such a harsh critic of Scott, especially on issues such as the pace of Medicaid expansion, privatization of prisons and homeowners' property insurance. Fasano made the awkward transition in 2012 from the Senate, which had been his home for a decade, back to the House, where he soon locked horns with Weatherford by calling the speaker's choice of a lawmaker to chair the House Insurance Committee a lackey for the industry. Despite his seniority and extensive knowledge of policy issues, Fasano was not given a significant House committee chairmanship.

Fasano also is renowned for his commitment to strong constituent service, which is a cornerstone of any tax collector's position. Scott plans to travel to Pasco Wednesday morning and personally announce the appointment at a 9:30 a.m. ceremony at New Port Richey City Hall.

Scott received dozens of letters about the appointment, with a number of people, including office employees, supporting Eileen Ferdinand for the position. Ferdinand was the top deputy to Mike Olson, a Democrat, who died June 25.

"I'm comfortable that Rep. Fasano will do a great job," Scott said.

[Last modified: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 12:44pm]


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