Will Hobson, Times Staff Writer

Will Hobson

Will Hobson covers Hillsborough County government, operations, and other things he can convince his editors to let him write about for the Tampa Bay Times.

Born in Miami and raised outside Philadelphia, the Boston College alumnus joined the Times in 2011 after stints as a correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and staff writer positions at the Panama City News-Herald and Daytona Beach News-Journal. He has previously covered the city of Largo and general assignment in Pinellas County, and crime, law enforcement and general assignment in Hillsborough County. He lives in Tampa with his wife, Alex.

In 2014, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting for his work on a series of stories about abusive landlords and squalid housing for the homeless.

Phone: (813) 226-3400

Email: whobson@tampabay.com

Twitter: @TheWillHobson

  1. Legal drama in Patel family over Bollywood Oscars continues

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The last Bollywood star left town months ago but the legal battle behind the "Bollywood Oscars" continues to roil the bay area's most prominent Indian family.

    Chetan "Jason" Shah, 48, filed a fresh set of allegations in Hillsborough Circuit Court this month about his wealthy health care entrepreneur and philanthropist brother-in-law, Dr. Kiran Patel, and demanded a jury trial in the lawsuit Patel had filed against him in May. ...

    Chetan Shah says Patel conspired to scam him out of profits from the Tampa-hosted awards show.
  2. Federal audit: Hillsborough may have to repay $1 million

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County might have misspent more than $1 million in grant money between 2010 and 2013, according to a federal audit, and needs to either come up with documents showing it was properly spent or pay it back.

    The audit, released July 9 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of the Inspector General, criticized Hillsborough's code enforcement and affordable housing departments for incorrectly spending money intended for fixing up blighted areas....

  3. Hillsborough government director finalist for Virginia job


    A department director being forced out of Hillsborough County government is a finalist for a similar job in Virginia.

    Venerria "Ven" Thomas is a one of two finalists to be director of human services at the city of Newport News, the city announced Tuesday. Thomas and one other candidate are interviewing with city officials this week. ...

  4. Former Hillsborough County Commissioner 'Big Jim' Selvey dies

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Former Hillsborough County Commissioner James "Big Jim" Selvey — an oversized man known for gregariousness, Southern witticisms and questionable ethical decisions — died suddenly Sunday afternoon. He was 77.

    Mr. Selvey, a Tampa native who worked in farming and real estate, served on the commission from 1985 to 1992. He was in good health, family members said, but came home to Brandon early from a grandson's Boy Scout camping trip Wednesday, complaining he didn't feel well....

    James Selvey died Sunday, a day after being diagnosed with late-stage leukemia.
  5. Politics, business push social change in Hillsborough

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Before last year, the Hillsborough County Commission was known as a bastion of social conservatism, a body that banned gay pride displays and dismissed efforts to protect gay and transgender people from discrimination.

    Now that reputation is in jeopardy.

    This week's unanimous vote to move forward with a local human rights ordinance is the latest in a series of events marking a new era for Hillsborough County. While the law isn't finalized — the county attorney needs to write it, and the commission will have to approve it — eventual passage is likely. Five of seven commissioners have expressed support....

  6. Hillsborough to draft ban on discrimination against gay, transgender people


    TAMPA — In many ways, it was a replay of a scene that had happened before. Religious people, some of them holding Bibles, some quoting from them, warning Hillsborough County commissioners what would happen if they outlaw discrimination against gay and transgender people.

    The dissolving of religious liberty in America. Founding Fathers rolling in their graves. The wrath of a vengeful God....

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner led the council to move forward with a local law barring discrimination against gay and transgender people during Wednesdays meeting.  "In 2014, no hard-working American trying to earn a living ... should have to live in fear of being fired ... for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance," Beckner said. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  7. Audit critical of MOSI accounting, financial management

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The Museum of Science and Industry is in financial decline, according to a consultant's report, and needs to overhaul an accounting system that is based more on "wishful thinking" than reality.

    Longtime CEO Wit Ostrenko has done a great job, though, says the report, which will be presented today to Hillsborough County commissioners.

    That is the dichotomy apparent in the report, which Hillsborough officials ordered in February to analyze operations at the financially struggling museum, which operates rent-free on county property on E Fowler Avenue. County officials grew concerned when MOSI management asked the county for a $250,000 loan in 2013 when the museum still owed $250,000 from a 2012 loan....

    MOSI CEO Wit Ostrenko, set to retire next year, is called a “big thinker” but a poor financial steward.
  8. A majority of Hillsborough commissioners open to banning discrimination against gay people

    Local Government

    TAMPA — In years past, a proposed county law barring discrimination against gay or transgender people would have been dead on arrival at the Hillsborough County Commission boardroom.

    Not in 2014.

    A majority of the commissioners — four of the seven — have expressed to the Tampa Bay Times their qualified support for expanding Hillsborough's human rights ordinance to also ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in hiring, housing and public accommodations....

    “I feel very optimistic,” said Kevin Beckner, the county’s first openly gay commissioner.
  9. Higginbotham piles up cash in quest for new term on Hillsborough commission


    TAMPA — Early in the planning stages for his campaign to win another four years on the Hillsborough County Commission, Al Higginbotham told his campaign consultant how much money he thought he needed to win: $300,000 to $350,000.

    Higginbotham knew switching from eastern Hillsborough's District 4, where he is prevented by term limits from running again, to countywide District 7 would require a lot of cash. ...

  10. Hillsborough commission to consider barring discrimination against gays, transgenders

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Commission, which has a turbulent history of votes on gay rights issues, will discuss banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity next week, according to an agenda released Thursday evening.

    Kevin Beckner, the county's first openly gay commissioner, proposed the discussion, which will put gay and transgender rights in the local spotlight in an election year. Transgender people are those who identify with a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. ...

  11. Eyebrows raised over Hillsborough commission write-in candidate


    LITHIA — From afar, Christopher Weaver's campaign strategy seems unorthodox.

    The 50-year-old medical technology sales consultant and political unknown is running as a write-in candidate for Hillsborough County Commission in District 4.

    His campaign war chest holds $0. He has no campaign website, not even a Facebook page. And if you drive around this conservative district in eastern Hillsborough, you'll see campaign signs for three Republican candidates, but you'll have trouble finding a "Weaver for County Commission" sign, even in the front yard of Weaver's Lithia home, which a reporter visited last week trying to interview the elusive candidate. ...

  12. As campaign heats up, Gov. Scott kicks off tour honoring vets in Tampa


    TAMPA — Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his statewide "Florida Veterans Service Award Tour" in Tampa on Monday, handing out 200 medals to men and woman who have served in the military.

    The midday event at an American Legion Post north of downtown came as Scott is emphasizing veterans issues for his re-election campaign.

    In June, at Scott's request, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration sued the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to try to force the federal agency to let state inspectors in veterans hospitals. Earlier this year, as the national scandal surrounding the VA involving veterans who died while awaiting treatment widened, state inspectors tried to enter several VA medical facilities across Florida but were turned away....

  13. Democrats facing uphill battle for Hillsborough commission seats


    TAMPA — The website for the Hillsborough County Democratic Party lists two strong candidates for County Commission — School Board member April Griffin and Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern.

    In addition to being experienced politicians and Democrats, Griffin and Mulhern have another thing in common: Neither is running for the County Commission anymore.

    Griffin dropped out last August to run for her School Board seat again. Mulhern quit in January. ...

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner walks into the funeral for Dottie Berger MacKinnon at St. John's Episcopal Church in Tampa on Thursday, October 17, 2013.
  14. Hillsborough transportation plan unveiling delayed to August


    TAMPA -- Next Thursday was supposed to be the culmination of more than a year of meetings by local elected leaders trying to come up with a plan for improving transportation in Hillsborough County.

    Now, that culmination has been bumped to August.

    The Hillsborough transportation leadership policy group has postponed its meeting next Thursday until August, the group announced Friday, due to scheduling problems. The policy group was supposed to talk about finalizing a list of transportation projects next Thursday -- a list that could include rail, expanded bus routes, and roadway improvements -- to then take the public for comment and criticism. ...

  15. Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan re-elected without opposition


    TAMPA — Incumbent Republican County Commissioner Ken Hagan and his $300,000 campaign fund cruised to victory Friday as he drew no opposition for countywide District 5.

    Noon Friday was the deadline for county candidates to qualify for this year's elections.

    For Hagan, the day meant another four-year term. For three other sitting commissioners, it meant a final list of opponents....