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Stewart is ejected from rightfield

The big event last week was the county's first economic summit, which drew some 400 members of the business community and various chamber of commerce and government types to downtown St. Petersburg.

Random notes from the event:

At the end of the day, participants went to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays game and schmoozed with owner Vince Naimoli in the Batter's Eye restaurant. However, County Commissioner Bob Stewart, Mr. Baseball himself, led a small group into the rightfield stands to take in a few innings. Stewart, fellow Commissioner Steve Seibert, Assistant County Administrator Jake Stowers and St. Petersburg businessman Jim Lang grabbed some seats just in time to see a Fred McGriff homer land three rows behind them. Great seats, until the fan who actually had tickets for them showed up and politely asked Mr. Baseball and crew to move on. Just in case you were wondering: Stewart has four season tickets on the first base line but sold them to a friend for that game.

Though Republicans have long dominated the County Commission, the honor of introducing the keynote speaker, U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, a Republican, went to Calvin Harris, the board's lone Democrat. During lunch, Harris sat next to developer Mel Sembler, the national finance chairman for the Republican Party. Harris, who was appointed last year by Gov. Lawton Chiles, demurred when asked what he and Sembler talked about, though he joked Sembler declined to raise money for him.

Much has been made about Rick Dodge's role as the county's new economic development director. Commissioners have frequently sung his praises, saying economic development was stagnant before Dodge's arrival. Those comments could be taken as a subtle jab at William Castoro, the executive director of the Pinellas County Industry Council, who had been the point person on economic development before Dodge. Castoro was a scheduled speaker at the summit but called at the last minute to say he could not attend. When asked about Castoro's absence, County Administrator Fred Marquis, just shrugged and said, "I make no excuses."

ALL IN THE FAMILY: When Public Defender Bob Dillinger first saw plans for his office's new digs at the criminal courts complex, he realized misdemeanor assistant public defenders with little experience were going to be getting offices with windows.

Meanwhile, veteran felony attorneys on another floor wouldn't.

"That wouldn't have gone over very well," Dillinger acknowledged.

Dillinger fixed that problem with a redesigned office. And he also tackled another _ misdemeanor and felony public defenders now share office space.

Misdemeanor and felony attorneys have always been separated by far more than experience. Up until now, they have always been in different buildings or different floors with little opportunity to mingle.

Now the veterans can swap war stories with fledgling attorneys typically hired right out of law school.

Dillinger hopes the rookies learn a thing or two.

"The misdemeanor lawyers have the energy but no experience," he said. "The felony lawyers have the experience, but they also have the cynicism. So they can help each other."

Still, not everybody has a window.

But that's another battle.

NEXT TIME, JUST HIRE A DECORATOR: The East Lake Fire Control District's newest fire station should open in June. But before contractors can choose a final color scheme for the outside of the building, the five-member board of commissioners had to choose a color for the roof tile.

Easier said than done.

Commissioner Andrea Panarelli wanted something tasteful but colorful, a tile that would match well with a variety of hues.

Other commissioners' choices of white or chocolate brown tile did not go over well with Panarelli.

"Look, my name is going to be somewhere on this building," she told the others. "Please!"

Others were not so concerned.

"I don't care. Just pick one," said Commissioner Wayne Ferguson.

Commission Chairman Bob Genhold and his wife are building a new home in Pasco County, so he was familiar with the struggle.

"I've been through this several times with my own home and guess who ends up being the picker? The lady," he said, deferring to Panarelli, the only woman on the board.

In the end the board compromised on a tile with shades of sesame, gray and brown.

_ Staff writers Joe Newman, William R. Levesque and Edie Gross contributed to this report.