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Ernest Hooper, Times Columnist/East Hillsborough Bureau Chief

Ernest Hooper

Ernest Hooper is the East Hillsborough Bureau chief and columnist at the Tampa Bay Times. Hooper joined the Times in 1992 and has worked as a prep sports writer and editor, TV/radio sports columnist, NFL writer, news columnist and unofficial ambassador, representing the Times as an emcee, judge or keynote speaker at hundreds of nonprofit events and civic functions. Hooper added the role of East Hillsborough Bureau chief in 2012. He oversees news content for the Times' regional edition east of Tampa, the SouthShore & Brandon Times, and writes two columns a week. His commentaries about family, community issues and political perspectives have helped Hooper connect with readers over the years, but he's probably best known for his signature tagline: That's all I'm saying.

Phone: (813) 661-2440


  1. Hooper: Legislators should fill a teacher's shoes for one day

    Human Interest

    One emotion stands out from an experience I endured a few years ago.

    I don't remember the details of the basic writing presentation I gave at Durant High.

    I don't remember many of the students who sat in front of me, even though I've run into a few since then.

    I don't remember how much caffeine I consumed to remain energized, but I think I started with a cinnamon dolce latte and ended with a Mountain Dew....

  2. Generous efforts mean more smiling faces come Christmas morning

    Human Interest

    In an effort to add to the holidays, I bring glad tidings to …

    all the folks who will step up for Toys for Tots, including Tatyana Frost and Bob Savage, and Herb and Jan Donica.

    For the third consecutive year, Frost and Savage co-produced the Brandon Holiday Charity Ball that netted toys and raised money for the U.S. Marine Corps' annual Christmas effort.

    Meanwhile, the Donicas opened up their Davis Islands home for a Toys for Tots party for the 15th consecutive year....

  3. Southeastern Guide Dogs searching for puppy raisers to give the greatest gift


    The way Mary Jo Keeth sees it, all parents want their children to go to college, learn a trade or develop a career.

    From her perspective, they all want their sons and daughters to meet that special someone, fall in love and begin to build a new life with that spouse.

    "They don't want their kid moving back in with them when they turn 35," Keeth reasons.

    So Keeth and her husband, Brian, share the same goals for the puppies they raise for Southeastern Guide Dogs. Raise them, train them and then send them off to Southeastern, a sort of "Doggie U.," where they can complete the training to become service dogs....

    Actor Charleene Closshey, a Plant City native, plays with puppy Evie Lee, who is in training to become a guide dog. Closshey sponsors the dog and it’s named after a character she plays in the new movie An Evergreen Christmas. The movie will be screened at Tampa Theatre Thursday. Says Closshey: “Seeing how the world opens up when the student connects with his or her new dog friend is truly magical.”
  4. Hooper: A Big Brother can make a world of difference

    Human Interest

    The face of the "little brother" lit up when his "Big" pulled into the driveway.

    In the scene, I recognized the current rancor over police shootings and riots and race won't change if we label it as a black problem or a white problem.

    It's an American problem, and only a collective effort from all who care will make a true difference. The most problematic areas of our country are as much a part of our nation as amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties....

  5. Lennard brings stability to Brandon chamber


    RIVERVIEW — Earl Lennard told the audience at Tuesday's monthly meeting of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce that when he stepped in as interim executive director he received a call of support from longtime resident Dick Stowers.

    Based on the 160 people at the luncheon, Stowers wasn't the only one. When chamber chairman Michael Matthews introduced Lennard, the former Hillsborough supervisor of elections and former school district superintendent received a standing ovation....

  6. Hooper: Taking community policing to the streets

    Human Interest

    The day after violent unrest erupted in Ferguson, Mo., last week, five Tampa Police Department officers showed up in Sulphur Springs — not in riot gear, not in armored vehicles, not even in patrol cars.

    They arrived on bicycles at Community Stepping Stones, a nonprofit organization that uses art to impact the lives of children in the impoverished neighborhood.

    "It's certainly friendlier than a patrol car," said Community Stepping Stones executive director Sigrid Tidmore. "I think the mayor (Bob Buckhorn) and Chief Jane Castor are to be commended for this idea."...

    Tampa Police Department officers paid a visit to Community Stepping Stones in Sulphur Springs last week. Sergeant Mark Delage, Officer Jodie Maxim, Officer Lori Anderson, Officer Kelly Cruz, Corporal Shane Gadoury. 

[Photo courtesy of Community Stepping Stones]
  7. Hooper: Good service is worth paying for

    Human Interest

    After wading through a mile-long line of traffic and conducting a parking space search that resembles the quest for the Holy Grail, we will wait for the tram for 20 minutes and then realize we're not at Disney, we didn't park in Ursula 98 — we're just at the mall.

    We'll endure the crush of people, bump and grind through eager shoppers looking for that perfect gift — I'm certain my wife will love the new Ronco Ready Grill — and then solicit the help of a store attendant hoping to get the same kind of friendly service that once served as a hallmark of this nation....

  8. Hooper: Redlands Christian group steps in to help migrant workers

    Human Interest

    Redlands Christian Migrant Association executive director Barbara Mainster tells the story of a young migrant girl who had only one wish: She wanted her father to come home and take her to the convenience story for Cheetos and a soda.

    But her father isn't coming home. Deported for driving without a license, he's one of the many undocumented immigrants separated from his family. RCMA welcomed President Barack Obama's decision last week by launching an immigration assistance program to help migrant workers with the new rules and help them avoid scam artists....

  9. 'Forever families' celebrate adoptions at Tampa ceremony

    Human Interest


    The moment seemingly called for a mother to comfort her daughter.

    But as Circuit Judge Katherine Essrig finalized Valeishia Mays' adoption of 17-year-old Audris, it was Audris who had to comfort Valeishia as she quietly wept during the proceedings Friday.

    "When I saw Audris comfort her, I almost lost it," Essrig said.

    Asked if she expected her mother to be so emotional, Audris nodded with quiet confidence....

    Katina and Matt Markowski adopted their son Quasan, 11, last year. “Q” has become the older brother to their 9-year-old daughter Penny. The family offered support at the adoption ceremony in Tampa.
  10. Wesley Chapel mom's determination helps her become young adult novelist

    Human Interest

    WESLEY CHAPEL — Amy Christine Parker sat in the car line at her daughters' school when the news arrived in an email.

    Where else would a Wesley Chapel stay-at-a-home mother receive word about her long-held dreams?

    Just before 4 p.m. on that unforgettable day in 2012, Parker's literary agent called and told her to check her email. Publishers had bid on her first novel, a young-adult tale about a teenage girl trapped in a cultlike community with an abusive leader preparing for a doomsday end of the world....

    Author Amy Christine Parker talks to seventh-graders at Dr. John Long Middle School on Monday. 
  11. Hooper: Connect the dots with light rail and a new Rays stadium

    Human Interest

    Sometimes crazy ideas leap from my mind and can't be contained. Even when they should.

    What if the next transportation initiative includes multiple counties and funding for a new Rays stadium? Yes, it could draw even more opposition from people opposed to public financing of stadiums, but it also could draw baseball fans to the ballot who otherwise would sit out.

    Yeah, crazy. Not so crazy: some kind of transportation initiative returning to the Pinellas ballot in 2016. It's still a problem in need of a solution, and a movement in need of an effective strategy. …...

  12. Her mission: Healthy kids taking a stand against tobacco


    Nikki Ross-Inda likes to carry around a plastic container full of thick, brownish liquid.

    A child might mistake it for Aunt Jemima syrup, but Ross-Inda intends to make sure kids understand the "jar of tar" — the approximate amount of tar that passes through a smoker's lungs each year from smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day — represents one of the 4,000 chemicals contained in cigarettes. Sixty of those chemicals are known to cause cancer....

    Nikki Ross-Inda, center, created the Moffitt Healthy Kidz Program, which educates underserved youth and their families through activities addressing mental and physical health.  [Times file photo]
  13. Hooper: Lawmaker to share story of overcoming struggles in school

    Human Interest

    With six weeks remaining as a high school senior, Kionne McGhee had a 1.9 grade point average. School officials labeled him emotionally handicapped and suspended him 20 times.

    Now, he's not only a lawyer and college professor, he's State Rep. Kionne McGhee.

    McGhee, 36, brings his story to Hillsborough Community College's fourth Hope Scholars Summit on Friday. They couldn't have chosen a more inspiring speaker. For details, call (813) 253-7851. …...

    Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, went shopping at a Tallahassee Publix  on a $25 budget in April to call attention to the difficulty of living on a minimum wage salary. Steve Bousquet  |  Times
  14. Founder helps Tampa Hillsborough Action Plan bring his vision to reality

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — It's less than a week before his 85th birthday, but the spry bounce in James Hammond's walk and the ease of his smile belie his years.

    The youthful aura reflects his enthusiasm about the latest chapter in a book of service the longtime civil rights activist has authored throughout his life.

    "I'm a vegan," Hammond said. "I've been a vegetarian for 30 years and a vegan for seven years. I had a portobello sandwich for lunch. I eat vegetables, fruits, nuts. I don't get sick. I stay healthy and I feel fabulous."...

    “I’m really excited about what’s going on. After 26 years, we’re on the threshold of moving forward,” says James Hammond, a prominent local civil rights leader and one of the founders of the nonprofit Tampa Hillsborough Action Plan.
  15. Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce needs to rebuild foundation


    When Michael Matthews was elevated to chairman of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce last month, he received more than 90 emails — many laced with negative rumors and innuendos about the group's future.

    "That's counterproductive," Matthews told chamber members during a monthly luncheon Tuesday. "That's not how the community will rebuild this chamber.

    "Success is not going to be built in back rooms or through gossip on the phone and emails."...