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Pasco residents implore state Rep. Mike Fasano to stay in Legislature

After announcing that he might be interested in changing jobs, state Rep. Mike Fasano heard a clear message in return: Keep the one you have.

Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said last week that he is interested in being Pasco County's next tax collector, replacing Mike Olson, who died June 26 after 32 years in office.

Reaction popped up on social media sites, and several of Fasano's constituents emailed him directly to voice their lamentations.

"Fasano would do a great job as Tax Collector, but I'd hate to see him leave the legislature," former state Sen. Paula Dockery tweeted Friday.

Pasco resident Barry Cohen shared his thoughts in an email Sunday.

"While I think you would do a wonderful job as Pasco County Tax Collector, we need you up in Tallahassee to be a voice for the people of Pasco County; a voice of reason and sanity. You have been there for the people of Pasco County for 19 years! Don't stop now!"

Margarita Romo, 77, a Dade City activist who advocates for migrant workers, said Fasano is in a class of his own, standing up for people who need help, especially seniors.

"He's really a fighter, and he's a good person," she said. "I've never seen him stick up for something that's wrong."

Chris Sprowls, a New Port Richey prosecutor who plans to run for a House seat in 2014, said Fasano's work in the Legislature has been instrumental in curbing pain pill abuse in Pasco and Pinellas counties, and that his absence would be felt regardless of where he goes.

Fasano "is such a strong public servant, people are going to want him in any capacity," Sprowls said. "When he says stuff about looking out for seniors and the little people, some say that as a cliche, but he really means it, and people know that."

Fasano, 55, returned to the House last year after a decade in the Senate and eight years before that in the House. He has a reputation for responding to all manner of constituents' needs and does not shy away from bucking his own party's leaders when he thinks consumers' interests are being ignored.

By law, Gov. Rick Scott will appoint the new tax collector, who will serve until a special election is held in 2014. The winner would then have to seek re-election in 2016. If Fasano is tapped, he would have to resign from the House. Scott would have to then call a special election for Fasano's District 36 House seat. A spokesman for Scott said Monday that no decision had been made about the appointment.

Reached by phone, Fasano said he has received only positive comments about his potential move — with one common theme:

"Most of them have been asking me to stay," he said.

His decision, he explained, was not a sudden one. He has been eyeing the position for quite some time and planned to throw his hat into the ring after Olson's retirement in a few years. He said Olson's sudden death simply moved up the time frame.

"There's no one right now that is more concerned about leaving the Legislature than me," he said. "I have made it clear to the governor if I don't get the appointment, I'll continue to be a state legislator fighting for my constituents, and I would most probably seek it in 2014 when it does come open."

He's not, however, the only person seeking the position. Fasano said he got two calls from people interested in the job, and deputy tax collector Eileen Ferdinand and defeated 2012 candidate Ed Blommel both said they've turned in resumes.

Regardless of who gets the position, Fasano said he won't just fade away.

"I think everyone knows you can't get rid of Mike Fasano that easy," he said, "and you can't get rid of him voicing his concerns."

Times staff writer Lisa Buie contributed to this report.

Pasco residents implore state Rep. Mike Fasano to stay in Legislature 07/08/13 [Last modified: Monday, July 8, 2013 10:11pm]
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