For Tampa City Council
Besides three citywide districts, Tampa's City Council includes four seats that represent voters in distinct geographic districts. Voters in the March 1 election should look for the candidate in their district who brings particular light to their specific concerns.
District 4, South Tampa
Harry Cohen is the sharpest candidate running for council this year, and his experience at managing a government agency prepares him to be a leading voice as City Hall navigates the tough economic climate.
Cohen is a 40-year-old Tampa native and attorney who until January was the top deputy to Hillsborough Circuit Court Clerk Pat Frank. In that capacity, he managed some 900 employees and a nearly $60 million budget. The clerk serves the courts, the County Commission and general government offices. By law and practice, the job requires attention to detail. Cohen knows how to curb spending and still provide essential services. And he knows what this largely affluent, mixed-use South Tampa district needs — better stormwater drains, safer streets and sidewalks for cyclists and pedestrians, and a commitment to invest in the city's aging infrastructure.
Joseph V. Citro, a 52-year-old hairstylist, understands small business, and his work as a code enforcement magistrate gives him a feel for local government. Tony DeSisto, 26, an attorney, is a bright new candidate who would energize the City Council. Julie Jenkins, 49, who owns her own marketing company, has strong ties to civic and neighborhood groups. Attorney Dennis Meyers, 42, moved to Tampa 10 years ago and shows a genuine interest in getting more involved in the city.
But none have Cohen's skills. He speaks of the need for elected officials to be transparent and accessible. He treats people with respect and is widely admired in city, county and state government circles for his professionalism. For Tampa City Council District 4, the Times recommends Harry Cohen.
Herold Lord Jr.
District 5, East Tampa
All four candidates in this race bring backgrounds that are well suited to represent the needs of this historically black district, the poorest in the city. Herold Lord Jr. may be the youngest and least experienced, but his agenda and energy level set him apart.
Lord, 26, was born and raised in Ybor City and is completing a bachelor's degree in political science at the University of South Florida. As an aide to then-County Commissioner Tom Scott, Lord learned the ropes of constituent service. He later worked as a voter outreach coordinator for the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office. His background in local government gives Lord a good feel for the bread-and-butter issues that residents care about. He shows maturity in calling on the city to deal with a range of problems that downgrade the quality of life in East Tampa, from mediocre street lighting and mass transit to the blight of illegal dumping and unkempt homes.
Frank Reddick, 55, the CEO of the Sickle Cell Association, has served his community for years and filled a short-term vacancy on the council in 2006. He is open and a consensus builder, but he is not viewed as a lightning rod for action. Lynette Tracee Judge, a 46-year-old social worker, understands the health, human and economic needs in East Tampa, but she has no plan to bring about solutions. Carroll "Carrie" West, a 58-year-old retail sales consultant, has worked to boost the economic vitality of Ybor City. West has a commendable agenda for creating home-grown jobs in the district. But Lord has a broader perspective. He sees the importance of delivering the basics and of having a sense of urgency.
For Tampa City Council District 5, the Times recommends Herold Lord Jr.
District 6, West Tampa
With the council poised to welcome several new members, incumbent Charlie Miranda's common sense and understanding of the city's immediate and future challenges makes his re-election all the more important in this diverse district that ranges from the city's traditionally immigrant enclave of West Tampa to the West Shore business district.
Miranda, 70, eschews technology such as computers in his office. But he has proven himself one of the city's experts on water and growth issues. Few public servants have brought a sharper eye than Miranda, a fiscal conservative, to the council's role in approving the city's annual budget.
Kelly Benjamin, 35, is a freelance journalist and community activist. Benjamin is an intelligent, articulate candidate with a good grasp of the issues facing the city. But Benjamin is unable to make a convincing argument for succeeding Miranda.
A range of complex topics — from pensions and union negotiations to water and growth concerns — await the new mayor and a largely uninitiated City Council. Miranda's steady hand will be valuable not only to the city but to the voters in his district.
For Tampa City Council District 6, the Times recommends Charlie Miranda.
District 7, North Tampa
Voters in this district stretching from New Tampa to portions of North Lowry Park have been poorly served the last four years. Incumbent Joe Caetano's tenure has been marked by personal financial travails and an inattention to his duties. Caetano, 77, points to installation of a streetlight as his most significant accomplishment in the job. Lisa Montelione, 49, would be a dramatic improvement, bringing business know-how and energy to the role.
Montelione works in the construction industry, but she supports implementing green-sensitive and energy-saving building efforts to protect the environment and ensure long-term economic value. She would bring firsthand experience in dealing with the city's often convoluted and time-consuming permit and regulatory process.
Realtor Dean Hale, 44, has done little active campaigning and has never attended a council meeting. Charlie Perkins, 35, is a self-employed businessman who is not short on ideas — most of them myopic. Perkins regards New Tampa and Forest Hills more as suburbs than as intrinsic parts of the city and has little grasp of the nuances of the city's budget process or governance.
Montelione would bring a maturity to the council, and her experience dealing with the city's bureaucracy from a business standpoint would be a benefit.
For Tampa City Council District 7, the Times recommends Lisa Montelione.