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Noteworthy people in 2015 from whom to expect more intrigue next year

Once again, I'm rounding up the 10 personalities who made 2015 a fantastic voyage of intrigue.

While some, including community activist Dianne Hart, artist Bryant Martinez, Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward and do-it-all tech promoter Jennifer Whelihan, just missed the cut, we've got a provocative passenger list as we head into 2016.

Jeff Eakins and Michael Grego. No two men will wield greater influence over Tampa Bay in 2016. The school superintendents for Hillsborough and Pinellas must guide their respective districts through a set of challenges with, quite frankly, a Legislature that does more harm than good. We need Eakins and Grego to succeed with earnest efforts that solve problems, not hide them. Good luck, gentlemen.

Laila Abdelaziz. You expect the CAIR Florida's legislative and government affairs director to be an outspoken voice on Muslim affairs, but she intrigued when she spoke out at a town hall about the strained relationship between the Tampa Police Department and the African-American community. Her presence spoke to the common ground we all share.

Danny Alvarez. The local attorney earned an appointment to the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority in 2015 after making a mark in the community. The Republican's efforts to reach across the aisle and build broad support indicates he may be headed for an even bigger profile in 2016.

Beth Leytham. The controversial Go Hillsborough initiative kicked up accusations and innuendos about Leytham, one of the area's most successful public affairs practitioners and a guiding force behind the effort. As the dust begins to settle, the 5-foot-1 Leytham is still standing while her opponents are drawing more scrutiny. How it all plays out in 2016 will be pivotal to Tampa's future.

David Jolly. Jolly's bid to become Florida's next U.S. senator will hinge on proving his conservative bona fides to GOP primary voters, but his occasional flashes of independence intrigue, such as when he excoriated Congressional colleagues who pushed out House Speaker John Boehner.

Jim Norman. The former Hillsborough County Commissioner and state senator is making an audacious bid to return to the board even though he limped away in 2012 after being tainted by scandal. Voters will have to decide if they want to go forward with promise or backward with scandal in 2016.

Anna Rodriguez. The Clearwater resident has become one of the state's leading advocates as the founder and director of the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking. She continues to draw praise on an issue that remains an intriguing problem.

Jameis Winston. The Bucs' rookie quarterback has lived up to the on-field hype and minimized the off-field distractions. Let's hope he stays on the path of new-found maturity.

Shawn Becklund. This Town 'N Country fitness instructor didn't make major headlines in 2015, but her courageous breast cancer battle — and the way the community rallied behind her — left me so intrigued, awed and inspired I'm going to drag my aging bones into the gym when she returns to lead her first workout. Promise.

That's all I'm saying.

Noteworthy people in 2015 from whom to expect more intrigue next year 12/27/15 [Last modified: Sunday, December 27, 2015 6:41pm]
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