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

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  1. Fire that destroyed Apollo Beach restaurant ruled arson

    Fire

    APOLLO BEACH — A fire that destroyed a restaurant and hair salon last week has been ruled an arson, investigators said Monday.

    The blaze — which consumed Shenaniganz Grill and Chill and Revelation Hair Salon — caused more than $1 million in damage, according to David Tucker, investigator with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

    Investigators did not name any suspects in the fire at 5813 U.S. 41, which crews responded to last Wednesday morning....

  2. Hillsborough commissioner seeks to pave the way for ballpark talks with Rays

    News

    TAMPA — While nothing has changed in the long-running stalemate between the Tampa Bay Rays and the city of St. Petersburg, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan wants plans in place when the impasse ends.

    At Wednesday's commission meeting, Hagan will ask to designate the Tampa Sports Authority to lead discussions with the Rays about a new stadium — if the Rays get permission to look at sites outside Pinellas County....

    Ken Hagan wants the county to be “ready to hit the ground running” if the Rays call.
  3. Lightning Fan Fest builds support for season

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The seats in section 123, behind one of the goals, will start at $75.15 when the Tampa Bay Lightning's regular season starts next month. Saturday morning, though, they were free, along with every other seat at Amalie Arena, for Fan Fest, the annual preseason event that gives fans a more wallet-friendly way to see the team in action and mingle with the players.

    John Scalisi, 31, of New Port Richey, enjoyed the great view of practice action from section 123 with his family of four — wife, Luci, 32, and their children Sarah, 13, and Dominic, 2. They all had Lightning shirts draped over their shoulders (Florida Hospital gave away shirts to the first 3,500 fans), some of them signed by Chris Dingman, retired Lightning player and current analyst. ...

    Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, right, answers questions during an interview with the team’s play-by-play broadcaster Rick Peckham.
  4. Hillsborough commissioners approve budget

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners Thursday evening quickly and unanimously approved a $3.96 billion budget for next year.

    For the 22nd consecutive year, commissioners lowered the property tax rate, although by a minimal amount. For example, the owner of a $150,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption would save 17 cents under the rate. But because of rising property values, the average homeowner will likely not see savings....

  5. Hillsborough domestic partner registry ad­vances on unanimous vote

    Local Government

    TAMPA — A lot has changed on the Hillsborough County Commission in 20 months.

    Late in January 2013, commissioners voted 4-3 against creating a domestic partnership registry.

    In several other cities and counties, similar registries ensuring rights like hospital visitation and end-of-life decisionmaking for unmarried couples, gay and straight, sailed to passage.

    But in Hillsborough, social conservatives who argued the registry was tantamount to legalizing gay marriage won the day....

    Rebecca Brocious holds a photo of Beth Wagner, left, Brocious and their 6-year-old son. The couple attended Wednesday’s Hillsborough County Commission meeting.
  6. Gay rights? Abortion? Bell Shoals church asks politicians for one-word stance

    Local

    BRANDON — On a Tuesday in August, Bell Shoals Baptist Church again became the center of Hillsborough County's political universe, if only for a night.

    For the 20th time in 30 years, the megachurch in eastern Hillsborough hosted a candidates forum. The turnout Aug. 5 was impressive: More than 40 candidates — from aspiring School Board members to incumbent Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — spoke to a crowd of more than 600....

    Bell Shoals Baptist Church asks candidates for all levels of office to answer the same 16 questions.  To see their responses, see the link at the end of the story.
  7. Hillsborough commissioners approve tentative budget, tax rates

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners quickly and unanimously approved Wednesday evening a tentative $3.96 billion budget for next year, and set a final vote for next Thursday on the 2015 budget and tax rates.

    For the 22nd consecutive year, commissioners lowered the property tax rate, although by a tiny amount. For example, the owner of a $150,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption would save 17 cents. Because of rising property values, however, the average homeowner will likely not see savings. Commissioners would have had to lower the rate 4.27 percent to keep the average homeowner's tax bill the same....

  8. Hillsborough Commissioner sues former business partner

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner has sued his former business partner Lance Becatti, accusing him of reneging on a deal to buy Beckner's stake in their financial services company.

    Beckner's lawsuit, filed in Hillsborough circuit civil court, accuses Becatti of ignoring contracts the two signed in 2007 as Beckner was preparing to run for County Commission and step back from their Ameriprise franchise. According to Beckner's complaint, the two signed a contract promising that if one left the firm, the other would buy him out. ...

  9. Hillsborough commissioners approve five-year violence-prevention plan

    Local Government

    TAMPA — In Philadelphia, a plan to prevent violence included picking up trash and planting grass on blighted city lots. In New Orleans, a plan connected unemployed youths with part-time sanitation jobs during Mardi Gras. In Los Angeles, a plan opened city parks after dark in the summer.

    In Hillsborough County, the specifics of a plan to combat violence have yet to take shape, but county commissioners agree one is needed. Thursday, they approved an ambitious but vague five-year program that will try to combat violent crime through preventive measures, modeled on similar plans across the country....

  10. After Hillsborough commission primary, Higginbotham looks for broader support

    Local

    TAMPA — After eight years representing a Republican stronghold, can Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham broaden his appeal enough to win countywide, where Democrats have the advantage?

    That is the prime question facing Higginbotham's campaign this year, as the 60-year-old Plant City native left eastern Hillsborough's District 4 because of term limits to run for the countywide District 7 seat on the commission. And though Higginbotham romped in Tuesday's GOP primary, a closer look shows he has work to do in large swaths of Hillsborough to prevail in the Nov. 4 general election....

     Pat Kemp, a Democrat, is a candidate for District 7’s countywide Hillsborough County Commission seat. She hopes to get votes from those who turn out to vote for Charlie Crist and the medical marijuana initiative..
  11. State ethics commission investigating Hillsborough commissioner's finance forms

    Local Government

    TAMPA -- A state ethics panel is investigating whether Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan's financial disclosure forms have not complied with state laws.

    The Florida Commission on Ethics is acting on a complaint filed by Dover activist George Niemann, who has previously filed similar complaints against several Hillsborough County officials, including Hagan.

    Hagan's financial disclosure forms list investment and retirement accounts but do not list where the money in those accounts is invested. Niemann argues that this defeats the purpose of the financial disclosure forms, which are supposed to let citizens know their elected officials don't have conflicts of interest when voting on issues involving certain people or companies....

  12. Hillsborough commission primaries: White narrowly wins, Higginbotham and Kemp easily advance

    Local

    TAMPA — Stacy White said all along it didn't matter that his opponents for Hillsborough County Commission in District 4 had more money. White had name recognition as a School Board member, he said, and a track record as a "proven conservative," which matters in his native east Hillsborough.

    White was right. The 42-year-old Valrico pharmacist overcame a sizable spending disadvantage to claim a narrow win Tuesday in the Republican primary in District 4, according to unofficial results, which all but guarantees him a spot on the commission....

    After declaring victory in the Hillsborough County Commission District 4 race Tuesday night, Stacy White gets a kiss from his mother, Marilyn McMurry, with his wife, Barbie, left, and son Austin, right, as they celebrate at the Beef ‘O’ Bradys in Valrico.
  13. As primary nears, attack ads roil Hillsborough commission races

    Local

    TAMPA — One campaign advertisement blames a candidate for cutting minorities out of leadership posts when she chaired Hillsborough County's Democratic Party. Another accuses a candidate of being a steroid-addled officer prone to road rage when he patrolled the streets for Tampa police.

    With the days waning until Tuesday's primaries, new attack ads hit mailboxes recently in two Hillsborough County Commission races. Both have drawn rebukes from the candidates they target, their supporters and even Tampa police Chief Jane Castor. ...

    Rick Cochran is a candidate for County Commission District 4.
  14. 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....

  15. Hillsborough charity to take in 27 immigrant children

    Health

    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....