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County attorney candidate quits

A candidate for Pasco County Attorney Ben Harrill's job on Wednesday withdrew his name from consideration _ at least for now. Chris Miller, a Clearwater lawyer who served as an assistant Pasco County attorney and later ran three district offices for U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, had been scheduled to be interviewed by county commissioners this morning.

Miller canceled the interview, however, after learning that some commissioners wanted to conduct a wide-ranging search for Harrill's replacement rather than consider candidates singly.

"I'm not going to be the cause of any divisiveness up there," he said. "If I'm going to do this job, I'm going to do it with people's confidence."

Despite his decision, Miller said he would not rule out applying for the job if the commission asked for candidates.

"I'm not foreclosing anything at this point in time," he said.

County Commission Chairman Mike Wells mentioned Miller, 38, as a possible replacement for Harrill, who announced Friday that he was resigning after 12 years with the county to go into private practice.

Wells said he wanted to hire a county attorney as quickly as possible so that Harrill could help his replacement get his bearings. Harrill's last day is July 19.

"He's a savvy guy," Wells said of Miller. "He's the kind of guy I could see fitting in up there."

A graduate of Clearwater High School, the University of Florida and Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Miller worked as an assistant county attorney from summer 1980 to early 1983. In September 1983, Bilirakis asked him to run district offices in Clearwater, Plant City and New Port Richey.

After about three years with Bilirakis, Miller went into private practice. For about the last year and a half, he has been general counsel for U.S. Legal Protection Co., a Clearwater-based company that provides prepaid legal expense insurance. In April, he opened a Clearwater office for the Miami Beach law firm of Fuller, Mallah & Associates.

Wells said he knew Miller from his work for Bilirakis and contacted him over the weekend to discuss Harrill's job. He appointed a committee of himself and commissioners Sylvia Young and Ed Collins to interview Miller.

Young said she knows Miller and thinks he has the knowledge, as well as "enough fire and spunk," to do the job.

"If he's good enough for the congressman, he's good enough for me," he said.

But Collins and Commissioner Bonnie Zimmer said they would be interested in seeing the county advertise Harrill's opening and proceed from there.