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Commission shows signs of change

With two new members aboard, Hillsborough commissioners shed their fractious ways Tuesday _ at least on the surface _ and unanimously approved Tom Scott as their new chairman.

Jim Norman was returned as vice chairman _ also unanimously _ during the first meeting of the newly constituted board following an investiture ceremony at County Center.

No other commissioner was nominated for either post.

"Thank you to all my colleagues for your faith and confidence," said Scott, who was nominated by newly elected commissioner Kathy Castor.

Castor and Ken Hagan took their oaths of office before the vote for chairman, as did the four commissioners who returned to the commission after surviving election fights. Only Commissioner Jan Platt did not have to face election this year.

Castor thanked supporters and said she planned to bring forward a beefed up set of ethics rules for the commission to consider in short order. That was one of her campaign promises.

Hagan pledged a spirit of bipartisanship.

"This commission should not be about D's and R's," Hagan said. "It should be about doing what's best for the citizens of Hillsborough County."

The freshly sworn commissioners then undertook what is typically one of the more politically charged decisions a board makes _ selecting a chairman. While the one-year term is largely ceremonial, it is usually preceded by intense strategizing by commissioners and behind-the-scenes campaigning.

This year was no different, with Scott doing most of the quiet lobbying. Scott, senior pastor of the 34th Street Church of God, previously served as chairman in 1997.

A more significant show of politics may have come in the committee assignments. Frank, who had served three consecutive terms as chairwoman, wanted to return as the Commission's representative to the Tampa Port Authority. But so did Castor.

After presenting Frank with orchids as their traditional gift to the outgoing chairwoman, commissioners voted 5-2 to appoint Castor to the port. Hagan joined Norman, Scott and Ronda Storms in favor of Castor's selection, in a clear sign of regime change.

Later in the meeting, Castor relinquished the port assignment in favor of getting placed on the board of Tampa Bay Water.

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