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CLIFFORD GETS TRANSIT JOB, ASSISTANT

Mayor Pam Iorio says the assistant is redundant; the TBARTA board disagrees.

Tampa Bay's fledgling transportation agency hasn't finished its plan to reshape the region's road and transit network, or figured out how it will pay for the changes.

But whatever the future will hold, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority decided Friday it will require another layer of bureaucracy.

Minutes after the board decided to keep acting executive director Bob Clifford as its permanent boss, it voted to create the position of "special assistant" to serve as liaison between Clifford and the 15-member board.

The go-between would report directly to the board. A job description says this person would work "closely" with Clifford in "promoting regional transit services."

It's not known what the job will pay or if it will be full time, said Don Conn, the authority's legal counsel. But Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio said its duties sound too much like those of Clifford, who already reports to the board. She was the lone vote against creating the position, saying it was redundant and wasteful.

The job's description sounds rather specific, too. Applicants should have "knowledge of TBARTA and its activities since October 2007" while also having good communication skills and experience with Tampa Bay's local governments, community and business organizations.

"Unless someone has somebody in mind, this sounds like a tough bill to fill," Iorio said.

But the rest of the board, including a Ray-hawk sporting Ronnie Duncan who is finishing his term on the Pinellas County Commission, wasn't swayed. With little discussion, members approved a search for applicants.

Much will be decided by the authority in the coming months. It will unveil a blueprint for transportation improvements in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

The board voted 10-1 on Friday that Clifford should lead the authority in a job paying about $150,000. The acting executive director since the authority was created in 2007, Clifford was selected after a nationwide search that netted 28 applications.

He has juggled his duties with his other job as planning manager of the Florida Department of Transportation's Tampa Bay district, credentials that helped him beat out the other finalist, a transit consultant from Tennessee.

"Mr. Clifford has shown a remarkable ability to bridge the gap between the DOT and local jurisdictions," said board member Shawn Harrison.

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