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Community director passes Politics 101 // MAIDA CRONIN

Some professionals display their educational background with framed diplomas on the wall. Maida Cronin does it with pictures of politicians.

Cronin, the $39,998-a-year director of community affairs for Property Appraiser Ron Alderman, doesn't have a college degree. But she does have a picture of herself with Gov. Lawton Chiles on her office wall and another with Vice President Al Gore.

Cronin, 61, downplays her political activity as "just a hobby" she does in her spare time, but, in fact, she has immersed herself in local politics much of her adult life.

She has been a member of the Hillsborough Political Caucus and a Democratic precinct committeewoman, and has worked with the League of Women Voters, acted as the Hillsborough coordinator for Bob Graham's Senate campaign and volunteered to sit on more than a score of civic committees.

Before coming to work for Alderman, Cronin worked for the Gulf Coast Co., Crooks & Paloumpis Consultants and United College of Tampa. All are now out of business.

Cronin is working this year to ensure that Alderman doesn't go out of business. Insiders say she plays an important role in getting the Latin vote out for her boss. She and her husband have made nine contributions to Alderman's campaign, totaling $900.

In a recent deposition, Cronin testified that she does "a little bit of everything" in Alderman's office.

"I schedule Mr. Alderman to speak at different places," she said. "I handle calls when customers are irate and no one can calm them down."

Cronin's deposition came in a lawsuit filed against the county last year involving a fall she took in 1992 _ a few months after she settled another slip-and-fall suit, that one against Maas Brothers department store.

Five months later, on Friday, Nov. 20, Cronin left her office for the weekend some time after noon, then realized she had forgotten her keys. Returning to the county courthouse, she said the wind picked up a floor mat at the entrance and blew it against her legs, causing her to fall headlong on the floor. Cronin said she hurt her back, chipped a tooth, cut her legs and injured her jaw and eye muscles.

She sued for medical costs and damages. Cronin's husband joined in the lawsuit, claiming loss of consortium.

Cronin also is asking for 105 days of "lost wages" in 1995, when she was home from her job after plastic surgery for a "droopy eyelid" and continued medical treatment.

Actually, Cronin was paid for the 105 days. The time was counted against 116 days of accrued sick and vacation time accumulated from her date of employment in 1989.

The suit is pending, but county attorneys have asked a judge to throw it out, arguing that Cronin was injured in the course of her employment and should have filed a claim under workers' compensation.

Asked why she filed a lawsuit rather than a workers' compensation claim, Cronin replied, "It wasn't workers' comp. . . . I was gone _ leaving for the weekend."

Because of the medical expenses Cronin filed, the county attorney's office subpoenaed two physicians whose testimony cast doubt on whether her ailments were caused by the 1992 accident.

Dr. Jonathan B. Warach said he "highly doubts" that Cronin's facial paralysis was caused by the fall at the courthouse. And Dr. William Oliver DeWeese testified that her back problems were probably "degenerative" in nature and caused by advancing age.