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Bill Varian, Times Staff Writer

Bill Varian

Bill Varian became the Tampa night city editor for the Tampa Bay Times in early 2014 after writing about Hillsborough County government and politics for 13 years. He joined the Times in 1999 as a crime reporter in Citrus County after five years of writing about growth-related issues and city hall for the Tallahassee Democrat. A 1990 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., he also has worked at newspapers in Augusta, Ga., and Burlington, N.C. Between school and his first news gig, he had a bartending job that required him to dress like a monk. He lives in Tampa.

Phone: (813) 226-3387

Email: varian@tampabay.com

Twitter: @VarianTimes

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  1. And the winners of this year's Hillsborough Hob Nob straw poll are...

    Blog

    So each election season, Tampa's business muckety mucks hold what they call a hob nob that candidates attend for grip and grin moments. The highlight is a straw poll, though the results at times can be pretty divorced from reality because they depend much on how many supporters they can talk into attending. The crowd tends to run pretty conservative as well. Still, here are this year's outcomes, which show just the winners and not runners-up.

    County Commission, District 2, Victor Crist
    County Commission, District 4, Rick Cochran 
    County Commission, District 7, Al Higginbotham 

    Circuit judge, 13th Circuit, Group 8, Barbara Twine Thomas 
    Circuit judge, 13th Circuit, Group 19, Michael Scionti
    Circuit judge, 13th Circuit, Group 20, Laura Ward
    Circuit judge, 13th Circuit, Group 34, Robert Bauman
    County judge, Group 12, Chris Nash

    School Board, District 2 Michelle Popp Shimberg
    School Board, District 4, Melissa Snively 
    School Board, District 6, Dipa Shah

    US House 15, Dennis Ross
    US House 17, Tom Rooney 

    Governor, Rick Scott
    Attorney General, Pam Bondi
    Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Atwater 
    Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam

    State Senate, District 22, Jeff Brandes
    State House, District 59, Ross Spano 
    State House, District 61, Ed Narain
    State House, District 63, Shawn Harrison
    State House, District 64, James Grant

     ...

  2. Commission candidate first in Hillsborough to qualify

    Blog

    In an early sign of campaign organization, a candidate for Hillsborough County Commission has become the first local office seeker to qualify for next year's election.

    Rick Cochran, a Republican and retiring Tampa police detective, turned in more than 2,200 petition signatures from registered voters to qualify for the ballot by that means for the District 4 Commission race to represent southern and eastern Hillsborough. The official qualifying period is not for another six months, June 16-20....

  3. New Hillsborough Commission candidate hauling in cash

    Blog

    It has taken a little more than two months for Janet Lee Dougherty to catch up on the fundraising front with two fellow Republicans competing to be the next District 4 Hillsborough County commissioner.

    Meanwhile, the board's two sitting commissioners, Ken Hagan and Al Higginbotham, continue to raise the sort of money aimed at warding off serious competition.

    Dougherty, an environmental consultant, has raised $41,600 in a little more than two months of campaigning, a figure that includes a $5,000 loan she made to her campaign. She now has a narrowly lead over retiring Tampa police detective Rick Cochran and current Hillsborough County school board member Stacy White. She has spent less than $3,000 of that....

  4. Mark Sharpe finally picked as Hillsborough County Commission chairman

    Blog

    Mark Sharpe will finally get to serve as chairman of the Hillsborough County Commission in his final year on the board.

    Commissioners voted 4-3 to make Sharpe their chairman, a year-long largely ceremonial position he has coveted for the past few years but failed to win. He leaves the board after eight years in 2014 due to term limits.

    "I'm honored," Sharpe said. "And I'm very eager to serve this board and the citizens in this capacity."...

  5. Bill would let voters abolish Hillsborough PTC

    Blog

    The push to eliminate the Hillsborough County agency that regulates for-hire vehicle companies, such as taxicab, limousine and ambulance operators, is on.

    A pair of state legislators have confirmed that they have submitted a local bill that would allow the voters to abolish the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

    "The Public Transporation Commission has evolved from an agency designed to preserve public safety into an agency that is preventing competition in the market and restricting consumer choice," said Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, who has filed legislation on the House side....

  6. Legislators file bills to abolish Hillsborough PTC

    Blog

    The push to eliminate the Hillsborough County agency that regulates for-hire vehicle companies, such as taxicab, limousine and ambulance operators, is on.

    A pair of state legislators have confirmed that they have submitted a local bill that would allow the voters to abolish the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

    "The Public Transporation Commission has evolved from an agency designed to preserve public safety into an agency that is preventing competition in the market and restricting consumer choice," said Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, who has filed legislation on the House side....

  7. Campaign contributions flow mainly for sitting Hillsborough commissioners

    Blog

    It was another strong campaign fundraising quarter for Hillsborough County Commission candidates who already sit on the board.

    For other candidates, it's been slower sledding. 

    Sitting commissioner Al Higginbotham, seeking to move to an at-large seat from his current District 4 post representing largely eastern Hillsborough, pulled in another $45,976. He's been going pretty much at that clip for each of the three quarters he has been campaigning and has raised $134,441 total. He's spent just more than $10,000 of that, so he's banking the vast majority of it so far....

  8. Governor to make jobs announcement in Tampa Wednesday

    Blog

    Governor Rick Scott will visit Tampa Wednesday to make a "major jobs announcement," according to release from his office.

    The release gives no other details other than the time of the news conference, 2:30 p.m., and the location, 6700 Lakeview Center Drive. That's the location of a nearly 200,000-square-foot office building near the intersection of interstates 4 and 75.

    The Lakeview Center web site indicates it is a three-story building initially constructed in 1984 as the back-office operations center for a Fortune 100 financial services firm. A portion of the building is being marketed on one on-line commercial real estate site as a possible regional or corporate headquarters or call center with space for up to 1,200 seats. The web site for the office building indicates it has additional space available....

  9. Beckner relents on Kemple appointment to Hillsborough diversity committee

    Blog

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner is relenting on including social conservative Terry Kemple, who is running for a school board seat, on a proposed citizen diversity committee.

    Beckner, who is openly gay, had proposed the committee to study ways to make Hillsborough County more inclusive to all people. Fearing it would be a tool for advancing gay rights, Kemple, who opposes that, applied for an appointment....

  10. Hagan says Rays stadium issue "borderline dire"

    Blog

    Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan, who has been active in seeking to position his county as an option for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium, said the situation has become "borderline dire."

    He was reacting to comments made by baseball commissioner Bud Selig Thursday indicating that talks between the team and St. Petersburg city officials have bogged down and suggesting it may be time for the league to get involved....

  11. Buckhorn, Hagan to meet about the Rays Friday

    Blog

    The Tampa Bay Rays will be front and center when Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan sit down Friday morning for a chat in the mayor's office.

    Hagan confirmed he is meeting with Buckhorn to begin discussing what to do now that St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster has said it's okay for the Rays to look outside Pinellas County for a possible future stadium location....

    Mayor Bob Buckhorn, left, and County Commission Chair Ken Hagan talk with reporters about their meeting Friday morning to discuss the potential of a Hillsborough location for the Tampa Bay Rays. Both officials stressed that it was too soon to determine if a move for the Rays could be a reality, but said that the intent is to be prepared for that possibility.
  12. News conference to discuss parvo reports at Hillsborough shelter

    Blog

    Hillsborough County officials will hold a news conference Wednesday to discuss reports of parvovirus showing up at the county's animal shelter on Falkenburg Road in Brandon. The news conference will take place at 2 p.m. in a 26th floor meeting room at County Center, at 601 E Kennedy Blvd. in downtown Tampa.

    Commissioners have a budget reconciliation workshop scheduled to run all day Wednesday, but which is not likely to run past noon....

  13. Tampa needs baseball to be next great city for business, official says

    Blog

    Hillsborough County commissioner Mark Sharpe was looking at one more list of the top cities for business awhile back, and once again he was disappointed that Tampa did not even make the list, let alone rank highly.

    Telling that story as a setup, he posed a question during a budget workshop Thursday to Rick Homans, president of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., the county's business recruiting arm: What will it take for Tampa to consistently appear in the top five, like Austin, say, or Raleigh?...

  14. Hagan winking at the Tampa Bay Rays again

    Blog

    It was just another sleepy budget workshop Thursday.

    Hillsborough County commissioners, still facing depressed tax revenue, were discussing ways to use public-private partnerships to build roads, transit, parking garages and other things that government usually does. The idea is to let a private company pay for all or part of the construction of, say, a road, in exchange for being able to collect tolls from it or gain expanded rights to develop alongside it....

  15. Hagan amps up his fundraising in second quarter of campaigning

    Blog

    Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan officially amped up his efforts to scare off any competition as he seeks a final term on the board.

    Hagan, a Republican, pulled in $125,235 in his second quarter of fundraising, though he has yet to draw a challenger for 2014. That brings his total to $174,410 and he's only spent about $1,500 of it.

    His contributors' list is a who's who of the real estate and development community, from land-use attorney Vin Marchetti, to developer Don Phillips, who gave personally and through his companies. There is also a healthy collection of contributions from cab and limo company operators regulated by the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, on which Hagan sits. Several figures from the Tampa Bay Lightning also contributed....