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. Hillsborough to look for new site for proposed ferry

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Ed Turanchik told Hillsborough County commissioners in February that his clients had examined 14 potential spots for their proposed high-speed ferry's terminal. Only one worked: the Fred and Idah Schultz Preserve near Gibsonton.

    On Wednesday, Commissioner Sandy Murman made a surprise move that Turanchik said could jeopardize the ferry: She asked county staff to start looking for a different spot....

  2. Hillsborough charity to take in 27 immigrant children


    TAMPA — A Hillsborough County shelter may soon become the second Tampa Bay area nonprofit organization to house Central and South American children from this year's deluge of immigrants illegally crossing the border, federal officials confirmed Monday.

    The Children's Home near Tampa has been approved to house 27 children, according to Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families....

  3. Mailers in Hillsborough District 4 race question candidates' conservatism


    TAMPA — The mail advertisement depicts a hand, wearing a white surgical glove, about to snatch a wad of $100 bills from the back pocket of an unsuspecting man.

    "Flaming Liberal STACY WHITE," it says in bold white letters about the staunchly conservative Hillsborough County School Board member. "He's a doctor of surgically removing taxpayer dollars and transplanting the cash to bureaucrats."...

    Janet Dougherty, 52, from Wimauma, is a consultant on the environment.
  4. Six vying to succeed Hillsborough commission's most vocal transit advocate


    TAMPA — When Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Mark Sharpe leaves office in November because of term limits, local transit advocates will lose their biggest ally on the county's governing body.

    Sharpe, a Republican, was the commission's most vocal supporter of a 1-cent sales tax to pay for transportation improvements that voters turned down in 2010. Four years later, he's poised to leave office while local leaders are still working out the details to try again, perhaps in 2016....

    Robin Lester
  5. Hillsborough County Commission, District 7 (Republican)


    County Commission | District 7

    Commissioner Al Higginbotham, forced out of conservative District 4 by term limits, is instead running countywide for the first time. Political newcomers Robin Lester and Tim Schock are standing in his way in the Republican primary, as is former candidate Don Kruse. Current District 7 Commissioner Mark Sharpe, a Republican, is leaving due to term limits. Will Hobson, Times staff writer...

    Tim Schock
  6. Hillsborough County Commission, District 7 (Democrat)


    County Commission | District 7

    Two Democratic former County Commission aides are vying to replace Republican Mark Sharpe, leaving due to term limits. Mark Nash worked for current Commissioner Kevin Beckner, while Pat Kemp worked for U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor when she was a commissioner. Both argue it's important to replace outspoken transit advocate Sharpe with a Democrat, as some Republican candidates oppose more taxes for transportation. Will Hobson, Times staff writer...

    Mark Nash
  7. Hillsborough to sue insurance company for blocking wrongful death settlement

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Two years into a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the family of a 39-year-old nurse and mother of three killed after her car slammed into the back of a disabled Hillsborough County semitrailer truck, county lawyers aren't liking their case.

    One thing stands in the way of the family of Darcia Dominguez collecting a settlement of up to $2 million for her death, though: the county's insurance company....

  8. 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.
  9. 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....

  10. 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. ...

  11. 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.
  12. 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....

  13. 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....

     Kevin Beckner, Hillsborough County's first openly gay commissioner, proposed the discrimination ban, the latest in a series of actions by Beckner over the last two years to reverse previous votes that earned the Hillsborough County Commission a reputation for social conservatism. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  14. 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.
  15. 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.