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Tampa Bay's 10 most intriguing of 2010

Every year as I set out to compile a list of Tampa Bay's 10 most intriguing people, I'm struck not only by who makes the list but also by who just misses the cut.

There's no science in the selections, so I struggled in leaving off some of the favorite folks I've encountered this year, such as ESPN's Erin Andrews, Rays owner Stu Sternberg and Plant High senior Abby Taub.

Former Ray Carl Crawford, newly minted U.S. Rep. Richard Nugent, Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats, St. Petersburg City Council member Leslie Curran and Estella Vinson, a 91-year-old volunteer, also drew consideration.

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill almost made it, as did Florida Attorney General-elect Pam Bondi, Quarles & Brady's John Daniels and Datz owners Roger and Suzanne Perry.

In the end, however, this 10 for '10 reflects the area's diversity and highlights some notable personalities — but doesn't take the subject too seriously.

Mearline Norman. The wife of state Sen. Jim Norman got thrust into the spotlight in a scandal over a $435,000 Arkansas lakefront home. Much has been said about her role, but she has offered a public defense.

Julie Janssen. The Pinellas school superintendent heads for a make-or-break year as she strives to reform the district and gain greater confidence from the School Board. Can she implement new ideas or will she be forced to capitulate — again?

Steve Burton. The Tampa lawyer and Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board member first came across as the bad guy when he questioned some of the practices of popular, longtime airport executive director Louis Miller. In the end, however, Burton's inquiries were vindicated when Miller resigned.

Pam Iorio. Tampa's mayor nears the final days in office and we're all trying to figure out what she will do next. No one would blame her if she moved into the private sector after 25 years of public service, but she would be missed.

Kindall Johnson. The 2010 Miss FAMU, a Tampa native, struck a personal chord with her perspective about using her position to help fellow students. She hasn't disappointed, launching a suit drive this month.

Stacie Blake. As executive director of Community Tampa Bay, Blake guided a human rights organization that brought new perspectives to troubling situations at Gibbs High and John Hopkins Middle. Along the way, the nonprofit won recognition and/or grants from the Kellogg Foundation, Bank of America, USA Network and WEDU.

Jeff Vinik. The Lightning owner came in with a reputation for turning around companies, but his Midas touch on the hockey team is nothing short of amazing.

Ashley Moody. First elected at age 31 in 2006, some wondered whether this Hillsborough judge was too young to serve, but she has displayed wisdom beyond her years in advocating for juveniles.

Charles Spetka. He is the CEO of CW Capital, the BayWalk holding company that inexplicably has done little to revitalize the struggling retail center. That makes Spetka one of the area's most intriguing, but I'm not sure if he cares.

The Mystery Monkey. Guess we have to change this list to the 10 most intriguing primates, but no one piqued curiosity like the wayward rhesus macaque whose elusiveness proved charming. I just hope he finds love in 2011.

That's all I'm saying.

Tampa Bay's 10 most intriguing of 2010 12/30/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 30, 2010 11:08pm]
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