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In 2012, several used their influence in the right way

The pool for Tampa Bay's most intriguing personalities of 2012 proved to be a mix of folks well-known for the right reasons and popular for the wrong reasons. In narrowing it down, I chose influence over infamy.

Sorry, Jill Kelley. Here's my take:

Santiago Corrada, city of Tampa chief of staff. Corrada has handled a number of roles since joining the city in 2004, often dealing with huge problems. He stabilized the Tampa Museum of Art's search for a new site, brought calm to Lowry Park Zoo after its director came under scrutiny and took over at the Tampa Convention Center when it needed a new director. Now Tampa Bay & Company may tap Corrada after the tourism agency's executive director resigned after just 11 months. Call him "the Fixer."

Willie Taggart, University of South Florida football coach. Fans enthusiastically welcomed Taggart after the firing of Skip Holtz. But can he pick up the tattered pieces of two losing seasons and create a winner?

Will Weatherford, speaker of the state House. At 33, he's the youngest speaker in history, but Weatherford's youth seems to be more of an asset than a liability. The Wesley Chapel representative speaks with a tone of bipartisanship, but the proof will come when the session starts.

Charlie Crist, the once and maybe future governor? Crist's bid to revive his political career drips with intrigue. Governor? Congressman? Or just a lawyer "for the people"? Crist is in the running, along with Ronda Storms, for my most intriguing Hall of Fame.

MaryEllen Elia, Hillsborough County school superintendent. Elia has guided the county's largest employer for seven years, but her critics grew louder in 2012 and certain members of the once-pliant School Board are more willing to attack. Elia may survive the storm, but how much longer will she want to remain in charge?

Michael Grego, Pinellas County school superintendent. Elia may have her challenges, but Grego inherited a far more problematic district. His willingness to "run into the fire," as one veteran teacher put it, makes him incredibly intriguing.

Carolyn Filippone, former human resources director for the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser. She indirectly influenced four different political races, helped revive some political careers and put a few others in limbo. The resulting revelations from Filippone's sexual-discrimination complaint against her boss, Rob Turner, made her the most influential person in Hillsborough politics, and we hardly know anything about her.

Mitch Kates, political consultant. After making a name for himself with several successes, Kates stepped away in the middle of a huge election year to help with a campaign in Georgia. That's the Republic of Georgia, and he ended up on the winning team there.

Greg Celestan, incoming chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Celestan, chief executive officer of his own defense company and a West Point graduate, was a solid choice before the scandal hit at MacDill Air Force Base. Now he's poised to help heal the damage and maintain the community's strong ties with the military.

Anthony and Shaneka Langhorne. The Langhornes, formerly of St. Petersburg, now of New York, overcame early struggles while raising their two children to get back on the path to higher education. Now they're both enrolled at Columbia University. They not only intrigue with perseverance, they inspire with heart.

That's all I'm saying.

In 2012, several used their influence in the right way 12/30/12 [Last modified: Sunday, December 30, 2012 10:24pm]

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