Earl Lennard not returning as Hillsborough elections supervisor after 2012

TAMPA — Earl Lennard said Wednesday that he will not seek another term as Hillsborough County supervisor of elections.

Lennard, 69, said he wants to retire while he's still in good enough shape to enjoy more leisurely pursuits.

"I love this job," said Lennard, the former superintendent of the Hillsborough County School District. "I think we've done some good things in office. When I took this job, I made it clear that I didn't intend to make this a second career."

He confirmed his planned retirement after his chief of staff, Craig Latimer, filed paperwork Friday indicating he will run for the office in 2012. Lennard, who informed his staff last Thursday, said he will stay on until the end of his term in early January 2013.

Lennard, a Republican, and Latimer, a Democrat and former Hillsborough County sheriff's major, both applied to replace Elections Supervisor Phyllis Busansky after her death in June 2009. Latimer had been chief of staff for Busansky, who had been in office for just six months when she died at 72 of natural causes.

Then-Gov. Charlie Crist, then a Republican, picked Lennard.

By law, Lennard had to face voters at the next general election following his appointment. He did last year and won without opposition.

Latimer, 58, who was in law enforcement for 35 years, said he takes pride in helping to turn around an office that was the subject of ongoing controversy under Buddy Johnson. Johnson, a Republican, faced accusations of spending tax money inappropriately, bungling election returns and promoting himself incessantly as supervisor.

Busansky, a Democrat and former county commissioner, defeated him in 2008. After her death, Busansky's family and supporters urged Lennard to retain Latimer, which he did.

"She specifically brought me on board to restore the integrity of this office," Latimer said. "Putting this office back to where it needed to be has been very rewarding."

In recent months, Latimer's name has been featured on stationery from the supervisor's office as well as its website. Both Lennard and Latimer said the addition of his name was made in the interest of being transparent about elections office operations and before Lennard decided to retire.

They said it had nothing to do with promoting his candidacy.

A spokesman for the office, Travis Abercrombie, said the stationery change was made last summer and the website addition of Latimer's name directly below Lennard's happened early last month.

Lennard said he will be removing Latimer's name from both now that he has declared his candidacy so that it does not appear that the office is favoring any candidate. Democrat Jackie Beiro and Republican Julianne De Priest also have filed to run for elections supervisor.

"If he is going to be a candidate," Lennard said, "we are going to ensure that that does not become an issue."

Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or varian@sptimes.com.

Earl Lennard not returning as Hillsborough elections supervisor after 2012 07/06/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 7, 2011 8:38am]

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