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Former colleagues battle for District 2 commission seat

A dozen years ago, state Sen. Victor Crist appointed business owner Linda Pearson to review audits for some of the county's biggest budgets.

Now the two will face off in the Republican primary for the Hillsborough County Commission District 2 seat, an area that stretches from Westchase to eastern Hillsborough.

"She did a good job," Crist said about Pearson's work on the county's legislative delegation audit oversight board.

But when it comes to overseeing the governance of county residents, Crist says he's better suited for the position.

"I have a tremendous amount of experience in a broader range of areas," said Crist, 53, R-Tampa, who has been a state legislator since 1990.

Crist, who is president of the advertising agency Metropolitan Communications Inc., has reached the term limit for his state job.

Pearson, a certified planner who worked as a zoning coordinator and later a legislative aide for three county commissioners, said her connection to the area makes up for what some may perceive as a lack of political savvy.

"I'm not trying to be a career politician," said Pearson, 60, who was born and raised in Plant City. "I think the public wants their board to be concerned with the community and not their egos."

Pearson and Crist have similar stances on issues facing the county. Both agree economic development should be a priority for the commission and growth needs to be addressed. Neither supports a sales tax increase to fund a light rail project.

Crist, who served as the president of University of South Florida's Community Area Civic Association, said he would like to see more attention paid to the county's urban corridors.

"There needs to be balance when it comes to growth," said Crist, a USF graduate. "If all we do is sprawl, we're going be creating economically-depressed communities in our urban centers."

Pearson said the commission needs to refine current rules. She points to the Palm River area as an example. Property owners in Palm River prefer larger lots, yet the county lists the section within its urban service area. The designation makes it difficult for property owners to expand.

"Those land owners are stuck between government rules and regulations," Pearson said. "So why do we keep that rule?"

The winner in the GOP primary Aug. 24 will face Steven Morris in November. Morris is running with no party affiliation.

Nicole Hutcheson can be reached at nhutcheson@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3405.

Former colleagues battle for District 2 commission seat 07/15/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 3, 2010 7:28pm]
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