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Hagan selected chairman again, asks to keep his parting gifts

Hillsborough County commissioners presented their chairman with some parting gifts Tuesday befitting the diehard sports fan Ken Hagan is as he prepared to hand off the leadership title.

First came a Tampa Bay Lightning goalie stick autographed by players on the hockey team. Last was a puck signed by his fellow board members. In between Hagan got a Lightning jersey with his name and the No. 5 on back.

Now, some might suggest a goodie bag of Tampa Bay Rays swag might have a little more appropriate, if awkward, given his frequent overtures to the baseball team on the other side of the bay. But Hagan seemed touched nonetheless and that No. 5 would prove particularly fitting.

Moments later commissioners would vote to select Hagan as their chairman once again -- his fifth time in that role -- after two of his fellow board members had their names put forward but failed to secure a majority of support.

"Do I still get to keep the gifts?" asked a stunned Hagan, who said he did not expect to be nominated, let alone selected for another run as chairman.

Current vice chairwoman Sandra Murman and Mark Sharpe, the longest serving commissioner who has not served as chairman, both got nominated ahead of Hagan. Murman instead got picked again as vice chairwoman. Commissioners also retained Les Miller as chaplain.

The annual organizational meeting came the same day that five of the seven commissioners were sworn in for new terms after surviving the fall elections. Commissioners Murman, Victor Crist, Miller, Al Higginbotham and Kevin Beckner all recited new oaths of office.

Each gave brief speeches, almost all touching on a general air of collegiality that has overtaken the board, which in the past has been marked by partisan infighting and theatrics.

As if to underscore the point, Hagan's name was put forth by Al Higginbotham, who waged a bitter battle with him last year at this time for the leadership post. And shortly after that, Higginbotham went one step further in relinquishing his spot on the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., which seeks to recruit and keep businesses to the county.

"First off, I've never been known to hold grudges," Higginbotham said. "Ken did a good job this year and I'm sure he will continue to do a good a good job."