Monday, June 18, 2018
Politics

Hillsborough County commissioners give parting gifts to familiar face

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners presented Chairman Ken Hagan with some parting gifts Tuesday, befitting the diehard sports fan he is as he prepared to hand off the leadership title.

First came a Tampa Bay Lightning goalie stick autographed by players on the hockey team. Last was a puck signed by his fellow board members. In between, Hagan got a Lightning jersey with his name and the No. 5 on back.

Now, some might suggest a goodie bag of Tampa Bay Rays swag might have been more appropriate, if awkward, given Hagan's frequent overtures to the baseball team on the other side of the bay. But he seemed touched nonetheless.

And that No. 5 would prove particularly fitting. Moments later, commissioners voted to select Hagan as their chairman once again — his fifth time in that role — after two of his fellow board members had their names put forward but failed to secure a majority of support.

"Do I still get to keep the gifts?" asked a stunned Hagan, who said he did not expect to be nominated, let alone selected for another run as chairman.

The chairmanship is largely ceremonial but comes with a $10,000 pay boost, putting his annual salary just over $100,000.

Current vice chairwoman Sandra Murman and Mark Sharpe, the longest-serving commissioner who has not served as chairman, both got nominated ahead of Hagan. Murman instead got picked again as vice chairwoman. Commissioners retained Les Miller as chaplain.

The annual organizational meeting came the same day that five of the seven commissioners were sworn in for new terms after surviving the fall elections. Commissioners Murman, Victor Crist, Miller, Al Higginbotham and Kevin Beckner all recited new oaths of office.

Each gave brief speeches, almost all touching on a general air of collegiality that has overtaken the board, which in the past has been marked by partisan infighting.

As if to underscore the point, Hagan's name was put forth by Al Higginbotham, his predecessor as chairman who waged a bitter battle with him last year at this time for the leadership post. Higginbotham went one step further in relinquishing his spot on the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., which seeks to recruit and keep businesses in the county.

"Ken did a good job this year and I'm sure he will continue to do a good a good job," Higginbotham said.

Bill Varian can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3387.

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