TAMPA — Hillsborough commissioners selected east county Republican Al Higginbotham as their chairman, shortly after three former state legislators officially joined the board Tuesday.
The county held swearing-in ceremonies for former state Sen. Victor Crist and ex-state Rep. Sandy Murman, who are both Republicans, as well as former Democratic state Sen. Les Miller.
Republicans Mark Sharpe and Ken Hagan also were sworn in after winning re-election, with Hagan moving to an at-large seat from his former perch as the District 2 commissioner representing northern Hillsborough.
Higginbotham said he intends to use his one-year assignment as chairman to focus the county on finding ways to spur the local economy.
He acknowledged after the meeting that the post is largely ceremonial, but said "it doesn't have to be.
"I intend to use my next 364 days to transform that role into one of advocacy in working with our economic development folks," he said.
Improving the local economy was a theme echoed by almost all of the commissioners who took office Tuesday. They described a sense of urgency in helping put people to work, and also working to reshape county government in response to slumping tax revenue.
"We have to get results now," said Murman, whose district includes South and West Tampa as well as part of southeastern Hillsborough.
Miller said he intends to create a "kitchen cabinet" of advisors with a specific aim of helping his constituents in the central and east Tampa areas of District 3, home to concentrations of poor and minority residents.
Higginbotham was selected as chairman over Sharpe, who also was nominated for the post. The job pays an extra $10,000 on top of a commissioner's $92,000 salary. Sharpe got only one supporting vote, from Democrat Kevin Beckner, in what is considered a snubbing since he has served as vice chairman for the past three years.
Higginbotham was selected on a 5-2 vote, with Sharpe and Beckner dissenting.
Sharpe then was selected as vice chairman for the fourth consecutive year on a 4-3 vote, with Higginbotham, Murman and Hagan voting in opposition. The three had backed Murman as vice chairwoman after Higginbotham put her name forward.
Commissioners put in requests for appointments to various boards and councils. Among the more coveted posts, Hagan secured appointment to the Tampa Sports Authority, Murman nabbed a spot on the Tampa Port Authority and Crist got put on the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.
Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or firstname.lastname@example.org.