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Political Junkie

Political junkie: Hillsborough tourism board slot goes to GOP loyalist

Hillsborough County commissioners passed over the leader of one of the region's top tourist attractions in making an appointment this week to the county's Tourist Development Council.

They opted instead for a guy known as Alligator Bob.

Commissioners were looking to fill a seat that for several years has traditionally gone to the head of Busch Gardens. Donny Mills, who took over as executive vice president and general manager of Busch Gardens Tampa and Adventure Island in December, had applied for the slot.

Instead, commissioners voted 6-1 in favor of Bob Young of Plant City, a longtime member of the county's Republican Executive Committee who leads eco tours and sells "alligator meat products," such as jerky.

Commissioner Jim Norman, the lone vote in favor of Mills, described Busch Gardens as one of the leading drivers of county tourist tax collections.

"We just kicked their head guy to the curb," Norman said. "I'm embarrassed by it."

Young said Norman is making a fuss because he and the commissioner don't get along. Young said he was a vocal opponent of the county's community investment tax, which Norman helped get on the ballot, as well as the commissioner's $40-million championship park proposal.

"Jim Norman and I have been adversaries for years," Young said. "His vote had more to do with that.''

Young hopes to bring a greater emphasis to the board on ecotourism, a market that he says has largely been untapped.

Norman vs. Ambler?

Speaking of Norman, he did indeed file his papers to run for the state Senate District 10 seat in 2010. The seat is currently held by Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa.

With the campaign season still unsettled for this year, his filing touches off an intriguing campaign for the next election cycle. His pal and fellow Republican, Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Lutz, filed for the same seat a day earlier.

One missing word

At the end of Wednesday's County Commission meeting, board member Brian Blair took a moment of personal privilege. On behalf of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, Blair wanted to let the rest of the commission know that it is "sexual awareness month."

April is sexual assault awareness month.

One person in charge

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio apparently likes the idea of creating an elected Hillsborough County mayor. Or at least she's not a fan of the current commission form of government.

Iorio was asked about the issue, which is on November's ballot, while speaking during a Leadership Tampa alumni luncheon Monday. She said that during her own time on the County Commission, "I could tell that the form of government wasn't very good."

After becoming mayor and working in a government where one person is accountable, it solidified her earlier assessment.

"When everything is scattered and done by committee it's hard to put your finger on who's responsible," she said.

However, she said whether or not the measure passes will have no impact on her.

"I'm not involved," she said.

Times staff writers Bill Varian and Janet Zink contributed to this report.

Political junkie: Hillsborough tourism board slot goes to GOP loyalist 04/03/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 12:50pm]
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