Make us your home page

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: A governing board might be just what DCF needs

    Human Interest

    In the 20 months that Kelley Parris has served as executive director of the Children's Board of Hillsborough County, three people have led the state's Department of Children and Families.

    Imagine the dysfunction of a football program with three coaches in 20 months.

    Parris, the ex-director of the Alabama Department of Child Abuse Prevention, said she thinks current DCF boss Mike Carroll is doing a good job, but worries the constant changes have hurt DCF. Her solution? A governing board to oversee DCF and provide a specific focus....

  2. Renee Vaughn wins prestigious leadership award

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Eileen Sweeney, the Buccaneers' director of community relations, was still a relative newcomer when she met Renée Vaughn in late 2012.

    Sweeney needed a guide and she found one in Vaughn, president of the Williams Consulting Group and chairwoman of the Leadership Tampa 2014 Class.

    "She knows how the city works and she's willing to share that perspective," said Sweeney, a member of the 2014 class. "She's made a difference in my work and personal life and I don't know where I would be without her guidance."...

    Renée Vaughn, president of Williams Consulting Group, is this year’s recipient.
  3. Hooper: MaryEllen Elia ouster was decided on Nov. 4


    The Hillsborough County School Board taught a civics lesson with its dismissal of superintendent MaryEllen Elia.

    The vote to terminate Elia occurred Tuesday, but the decision actually came on Election Day.

    When Sally Harris pulled off one of the more stunning victories in the history of county politics by knocking off well-funded Michelle Shimberg in the District 2 school board race, Elia's fate was sealed....

    [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
Hillsborough County school superintendent MaryEllen Elia listens to a supporter at the meeting Tuesday, Jan. 20. The board voted to fire Elia.
  4. Hooper: On MLK Jr. Day, speaker urges all to fight for justice

    Human Interest

    Of all the quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — and there are many — one resonates with me more than any other.

    "An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

    Nationally syndicated radio host Joe Madison surprised Monday by not using the King quote, because he certainly spoke of modern injustices in his keynote address at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast, the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs' 35th annual breakfast....

  5. Hooper: Paying MaryEllen Elia to leave is ill-advised

    Human Interest

    The rancor revolving around the potential dismissal of Hillsborough schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia will crest at Tuesday's School Board meeting, but I don't think it will come to a vote.

    And it shouldn't.

    Paying Elia $1.1 million to go away stands as fiscally irresponsible. And Elia, though not perfect, doesn't deserve to be fired.

    Raising the issue, however, should prompt Elia to form a better relationship with the disenchanted board members and work on employee morale....

  6. Star singer will shine at Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival


    She looked in the mirror and tears began to roll.

    Ledisi, the mononymous R&B singer with a string of Grammy nominations on her resume, worried about having the acting skills to portray Mahalia Jackson in the new movie Selma.

    Though she appeared in the 2008 George Clooney movie Leatherheads as a singer, this role required acting and singing.

    Could she expand her talents, meet a new challenge?...

    Recording artist Ledisi will be at Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on Sunday.
  7. It's time for children's safety to be a priority in Tallahassee

    Human Interest

    Florida is failing its kids, and I don't think a single elected official in Tallahassee cares.

    From the moment we learned Phoebe Jonchuck's father tossed her to her death from the Dick Misener Bridge, we knew word would come to light that the Department of Children and Families received warnings.

    Our leaders claim to care but they have allowed DCF to be a broken agency for too long. No more excuses and explanations....

  8. Hooper: A beacon for students sailing into the real world


    At the beginning of every semester in his career development class, University of South Florida professor Jay Zalinger passes out letters to his senior students.

    He gives no advance notice. No warning. When some of the students realize the object of each letter, they react in horror.

    "It's two years of my rejection letters," said Zalinger, unabashed about his struggles to find a faculty position after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., with a doctoral degree....

  9. Hooper: Reason and equality trump anger and excuses

    Human Interest

    If ever something needed to become contagious, it's the spirit radiating from the New Year's Day march organized by former Hillsborough County Commissioner and pastor Tom Scott.

    The Jan. 1 gathering included Tampa police Chief Jane Castor and Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and it showed that like-minded people can speak out against police brutality and still pray for the safety of law enforcement officials. We can craft care and concern for every life. We can ask police to meet their own high standards and still support them. Anger and angst is not a substitute for calm and reason. …...

  10. Mission of Miss Buckle-Up Princess emerges from an accident

    Public Safety

    Ani Hudgens began to seethe as the car in front of her on Bloomingdale Avenue weaved in and out of its lane.

    Her outrage grew when the car came to a stop at the corner of Bloomingdale and Kings Avenue and she realized the driver did not have her young child firmly secured in a child safety seat.

    She wanted to confront the driver.

    "My husband, Chris, did not let me get out of the car," Hudgens said. "That's what saved her."...

  11. TiViTz looks to fund college education funds with Game-a-thon


    After intense, silent moments of competition last year, parents exhaled and rejoiced as their kids celebrated TiViTz Tournament victories and a share of $15,000 in collegiate scholarships.

    Now the popular math board game's makers have produced an online version and crafted a new way for kids to earn dollars toward a college education.

    SAS Games now has a program where parents, friends and relatives can pledge a donation for students who play the game, much like they do for walk-a-thon or dance-a-thon....

  12. Director brings pop star showmanship to circus



    A man who helped produce elaborate stage spectacles for the likes of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Flo Rida might seem out of place trying to get Mongolian strong men to move in syncopation to an upbeat EDM song.

    Here's a hint: Getting guys who juggle weighted balls to pop about like they're in a Broadway chorus line requires more than snapping your finger and exclaiming, "5, 6, 7, 8 — here we go."...

    Gemma Kirby practices being a human cannonball at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ rehearsal hall at Feld Entertainment Studios in Ellenton.
  13. Hooper: Top 10 most intriguing people of Tampa Bay in 2014

    Human Interest

    If I drove a van through 2014 and turned the corner toward 2015, who would be the most intriguing personalities to come along for the ride?

    Who sparked our imaginations, provoked our thoughts or left us wanting to learn more about their future aspirations?

    The Hooper Mystery Machine of Intrigue had to leave some at the stop: philanthropist Julie Weintraub (she's so much more than jewelry), Attorney General Pam Bondi (Pam, come back to us), Florida Sentinel Bulletin publisher S. Kay Andrews (her control of Tampa Park Apartments may be the key to a new Rays stadium)....

  14. Hooper: Tampa Bay trumps Orlando area with this list

    Human Interest

    Adrienne Cutway recently wrote an article for the Orlando Sentinel listing 25 reasons why Central Florida is better than Tampa Bay — and she didn't mention Cuban sandwiches, Ybor City, Honeymoon Island or the Sponge Docks.

    Clearly, her assessment is misguided, but it's not her fault. She doesn't know our story. Maybe she's visited a couple of times, but she hasn't lived in Tampa Bay. Living here involves more than having your mail delivered to a Tampa Bay address. It means embracing all that gives this area true character....

  15. Hooper: Tampa Bay Rays' Matt Silverman sensible about stadium talks

    Human Interest

    You can easily sum up the advice offered by Rays president Matt Silverman about Tropicana Field negotiations between the team and the city of St. Petersburg: R-E-L-A-X.

    Silverman adroitly struck the right chord Friday. This isn't the time to excoriate council members as short-sighted or Rays officials as arrogant. The team's potential exit won't come in a quick solution.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman needs to engage council members during the negotiating process, instead of letting them learn of the terms through the media....