In some places, choosing the 10 most intriguing personalities of 2008 would be a simple task.
In Tampa Bay, it's a joyful challenge. Where else can you find so many people who piqued our curiosity?
Narrowing the list to 10 was no easy task, given a field that included Renee Benton, Brian Blair, Matt Bryant, Carol Rome Crist, Andrew Friedman, Julia Gorzka, Kathy Harris, Buddy Johnson, Vinny Lecavalier, Jeff Lyash, Lex Salisbury, Frank Sanchez and Ivanka Ska.
But I like my final picks.
Kevin Beckner: Beckner stunned local political circles when he upset Blair, a well-funded incumbent, to earn a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission. Now we wonder how much influence he will have over a board — and a county — that suddenly seems more moderate.
Julie Janssen: The Pinellas schools superintendent assumes control during a colossal budget crisis that looks like it will bring about school closings and massive transfers. Good luck, Julie.
Cornelia Corbett: Corbett rightfully reveled in adulation when officials broke ground on the new Tampa Museum of Art this year. It was Corbett who guided the museum board during the ups and downs of one of the city's most controversial projects.
Joe Maddon: It's not just that he piloted the Rays from a worst-to-first appearance in the World Series. It's the uncanny feel for the game he demonstrated while doing it. Who else would send little-known Dan Johnson to the plate to face Red Sox uber-closer Jonathan Papelbon? Maddon didn't even blink when Johnson hit a home run.
Courtney Courtney: The name alone intrigues, but there's more to her than that. The former Courtney Dempsey made news when the story of her inspiring cancer battle and devoted fiance, Gary Courtney, helped her win a dream wedding from Us magazine. The publicity drew other survivors to Courtney and she has admirably offered advice and support.
Ken Welch: The Pinellas County commissioner could be a potential game changer if he enters the 2009 St. Petersburg mayoral race, but for now, he remains on the sidelines. Still, folks are urging him to jump in and become the likely front-runner.
Malik Filmore: He willingly shared his story of homelessness this fall, explaining how he remained a dedicated Hillsborough Community College student despite the hardships. A tattoo on his arm says, "Laugh now, cry later."
Pam Iorio: Iorio is spending her considerable political capital on advancing the light rail debate, and so far she has achieved positive results. But her deft touch has to remain consistent if she's going to help put the initiative on the 2010 Hillsborough ballot while maintaining regional support.
Brian Lamb: Lamb, 32, went from chief financial officer to senior vice president for Fifth/Third Bank this year, and he's just getting started. Given his intense drive, the former University of South Florida basketball player could one day run this town.
Anonymous: What can be more intriguing than a masked group of protestors whose origins remain unknown? If nothing else, Scientology's latest critics have a captivating style.
Ten names that made us take notice in 2008, and 10 likely to show up in 2009.
That's all I'm saying.