Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough commissioners sworn in, with a first

Judge-elect Caroline J. Tesche, left, swears in Kevin Beckner, right, as a Hillsborough County commissioner while his partner, Gil Sainz, center, a sergeant and 23-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, watches the ceremony on Tuesday at the County Center in Tampa.


Judge-elect Caroline J. Tesche, left, swears in Kevin Beckner, right, as a Hillsborough County commissioner while his partner, Gil Sainz, center, a sergeant and 23-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, watches the ceremony on Tuesday at the County Center in Tampa.

TAMPA — Hillsborough County's first openly gay commissioner was sworn in Tuesday, with his partner at his side.

Democrat Kevin Beckner took the oath of office before a standing-room-only crowd that spilled into the first floor at County Center.

Like the two other commissioners sworn in, Beckner thanked his parents and supporters. He singled out a 96-year-old activist who collected 400 signatures to get his name on the ballot and another woman who campaigned for him while battling cancer.

As he joined a commission that three years ago voted to ban gay pride displays on county property, he also recognized his partner of 10 years.

Beckner disclosed his sexual orientation on the campaign trail, but did not identify his partner other than saying he worked in law enforcement. On Tuesday, he thanked Gil Sainz, a sergeant and 23-year veteran of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office who works in recruitment and screening.

Beckner, 37, is a financial planner and former police officer in Indiana. He defeated Republican Brian Blair, a one-term incumbent, by a 10-point margin Nov. 4.

In addition to Beckner, returning Commissioners Ken Hagan and Al Higginbotham were sworn in for new terms after easily winning re-election. Commissioners unanimously selected Hagan to serve another year as the board's chairman, Mark Sharpe to return as vice chairman and Higginbotham to serve as their chaplain.

Commissioners also settled on assignments to related boards, a process that has been contentious in the past, but was handled cordially Tuesday with most of the incumbents returning to positions they held last year.

Jim Norman returns to the Tampa Sports Authority. Rose Ferlita takes over a slot on the Tampa Port Authority she lost to Blair last year. Higginbotham returns as chairman of the Environmental Protection Commission, with Beckner as vice chairman.

Commissioners offered a few words — highlighting goals and welcoming the newbie — with Sharpe getting the big laugh.

"Enjoy this crowd," he said. "The next time you see a crowd this large, they're not going to be smiling."

Bill Varian can be reached at or (813) 226-3387.

Hillsborough commissioners sworn in, with a first 11/18/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 6:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Car bomb kills 13, injures 24 in Baghdad; Islamic State claims responsibility


    BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad just after midnight today, killing 13 people and wounding 24, hospital and police officials said.

  2. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia


    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  3. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  4. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber


    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  5. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant


    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]