One by one, they walked to the lectern and talked about careers, honors and passion for public service. They flattered, they joked, they bragged.
With only two minutes each to talk, dozens of people vying to temporarily fill two City Council seats tried to distinguish themselves from their competitors in front of the five council members, who will select two new colleagues Thursday.
"It's very unlikely you're going to end up with a loser no matter who you select," business owner Michael Tedesco said.
He suggested choosing the new members via a drawing.
That proposal earned a nod from applicant Bob Clark Jr., a member of the troubled Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority. Clark used a portion of his two minutes to deflect criticism from the Tampa Tribune.
"Contrary to what (Tribune editorial editor) Rosemary Goudreau says, I do feel I am qualified to serve on City Council," he said.
The council seats were left vacant this month by Kevin White and Rose Ferlita, who resigned to run for the Hillsborough County Commission. Their replacements will serve until after city elections in March.
Several job applicants said they had no intention of using the position as a launching pad for those elections.
Lawyer W. Reynold Allen was among those using the lack of political aspirations as a selling point. He also said if he is selected to serve, he will follow the state's open government laws, even though he thinks they're "the stupidest laws ever passed."
Logan Cobb, a high school senior who made a failed run for the Hillsborough County School Board this year, said he does, indeed, hope to hold elected office one day.
"But as I am going to college next fall, I will under no circumstances run for election to any office this spring," he said.
Few of the speakers identified any specific agendas. But James Holmes, who said he works as a chaplain in a county jail, said he would work to solve the city's homelessness crisis - "It's a disgrace that we have these people in our streets," he said - address secondhand smoke at a downtown bus stop, put Hanukkah decorations alongside Christmas displays and erect a memorial for peace.
Gesturing broadly, he also criticized giving taxpayer money to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"It is wrong," he said. "It's evil."
After Holmes' impassioned two minutes, Joel Hooper, an accounting analyst, walked demurely to the lectern.
"That was the luck of the draw," he said. "I'm just a normal, average, ordinary father."
Applicants also included lawyers Sean Donnelly, Seth Nelson, Chip Fletcher and Warren Dawson; neighborhood activists Denise Cassedy, Susan Long and Melissa Steadman; former city employees Aria Green, Julie Harris and Jane Stiling; and retired Judge Walter Crumbley.
Joe Robinson tried to earn points for persistence.
"I've been trying to get involved in City Council a long time," said Robinson, who has run for election to the council at least three times. "I would appreciate if you would vote for me."
More than 42 people applied to fill the citywide District 2 seat left vacant by Ferlita. Ten applied for White's seat. Six people withdrew from the competition (including City Council candidate Bob Henriquez) or were eliminated because of residency issues.
Janet Zink can be reached at (813) 226-3401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.