When Charlie Crist wanted someone to run the state Division of Elections and the other duties under the secretary of state's jurisdiction, the governor-elect picked the longtime and highly regarded supervisor of elections in Pasco County, Kurt Browning.
A month later, when he wanted someone to fill Browning's large shoes in Dade City, Crist turned to Republican Brian Corley, human resources director at the Pasco Sheriff's Office, to continue the tradition of well-run local elections.
Nearly two years after those appointments, Corley, 38, faces voters for the first time as a candidate, but it won't be the first time he is tested as an election supervisor. His office made a smooth transition to new optical scan balloting and electronic poll book systems in the Aug. 26 primary and has administered two municipal elections and the January presidential preference election, reporting results timely and accurately in each instance.
That hands-on experience — four elections in 17 months that Corley calls the free trial period for voters — is what gives the supervisor a distinct advantage over his Democratic opponent, attorney Pat Carroll of Wesley Chapel.
The transition from Browning to Corley has been seamless and Corley has picked up the mantle as a cheerleader for democracy. His office works hard to encourage high school students to register and participate in the electoral process through Corley's vote-in-honor-of-a-veteran program and other outreach efforts.
He has done an admirable job supervising the staff of 25 and overseeing a $3.6-million budget. Notably, he earned kudos from county commissioners in 2007 when he rescinded a long-planned capital expense to build a new elections center in order to help the county balance its budget amid declining revenues. It was responsible fiscal leadership that was missing elsewhere among some of Pasco's constitutional officers.
There is much to like about Carroll, a former prosecutor, probation supervisor for the Department of Juvenile Justice and child protection investigator for the Department of Children and Families. Carroll, 50, is now a private-practice attorney, doing both civil and criminal work. She brings to the table supervisory experience, a commitment to public service and a willingness to tackle tough assignments.
Carroll moved to Florida in 1988 and to Pasco five years later, but her political career began at age 23 when she won a non-partisan seat on the City Council in Attleboro, Mass. Carroll said she was motivated to run after attempting to address the council four years earlier and being dismissed as an irrelevant teenager.
Sitting office-holders shouldn't be elected without a challenge, she figured then, and it is the same philosophy that led her to run against Corley.
"Voters didn't choose him,'' Carroll said, "he was selected for them.''
She is right, but it was a good selection. Carroll, despite her substantial attributes, can offer no compelling reason to replace Corley as Pasco Supervisor of Elections.
The Times recommends Corley in the Nov. 4 election.