Around here, we do like our retreads, particularly in politics.
In Hillsborough County, elected officials flit from seat to seat, City Council to County Commission or vice versa, maybe throwing in a bid for mayor. (See: Ferlita, Rose; Scott, Tom; and White, Kevin.)
Yes, experience and seasoning can be good things, though sometimes it seems we have such a limited supply of people willing to put up with the political process, we reuse them like rinsed-out Ziplocs.
Heck, also see Greco, Dick, who first ran the city in the 1960s and is rumored to be mulling another mayoral run at a spry 76. We've even had a former commissioner who went to jail in a bribery scandal run for office again.
Do we love this town or what?
So here are some questions about two seats suddenly up for appointment (and then election) on the City Council: Familiar faces or fresh ones? And should anyone who hopes to make the gig permanent even bother to apply, given the stink-eye they might face?
The aforementioned flitting is what got Tampa in its current quandary. Council members John Dingfelder and Linda Saul-Sena abruptly resigned their seats to try to hang onto their spots on the County Commission ballot after both missed an election deadline. Theirs is a complicated tangle, and, in the meantime, the council must fill their chairs.
Did I mention retreads? Among nearly a dozen hopefuls, as of Tuesday, were former County Commissioner Joe Chillura (who notably says he will donate his salary to the city); Joe Greco, 74, and a councilman until 1998; and former City Council member Mary Alvarez, whose wide-eyed naivete on the dais always made me want to follow criticism of her with, "But bless her heart."
Now, question No. 18 on the council application is an interesting query: Do you intend to be a candidate for Tampa City Council in the March 2011 municipal election? No, some wrote. And yes. And undecided.
During a similar appointment in 2006, concerns were raised about naming a person who would then run and presumably have a leg up. But you couldn't exactly extract a blood promise from an appointee not to run, because what if they actually liked it? Or, imagine, turned out to be good at it? So the council included that question No. 18, with each board member considering the answer for themselves. (Uh, oh.)
So here's my question: Do we necessarily want someone not interested in the job long-term? Just asking. And on that 2006 situation: A fellow named Frank Reddick did get appointed, and did run, and lost. So much for a leg up.
There's some possibility in the current lineup, which includes a former assistant city attorney who ran unsuccessfully, the former head of the Hillsborough NAACP, a young jewelry salesman and a businessman who has done admirable battle with the city itself. (Strip club king and perpetual candidate Joe Redner is unavailable, having filed for a state House seat. Sigh.)
The deadline to apply is July 12, and here's a thought for the council: Forget patronage, payback or putting someone on the board whose views look like yours. Forget worrying about political advantage that may or may not be reality.
Me, I'd like to see fresh faces — not to mention new thinking — even if (gasp) they plan to make a career of it.