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Hooper: Top 10 most intriguing people of Tampa Bay in 2014

Published Dec. 31, 2014

If I drove a van through 2014 and turned the corner toward 2015, who would be the most intriguing personalities to come along for the ride?

Who sparked our imaginations, provoked our thoughts or left us wanting to learn more about their future aspirations?

The Hooper Mystery Machine of Intrigue had to leave some at the stop: philanthropist Julie Weintraub (she's so much more than jewelry), Attorney General Pam Bondi (Pam, come back to us), Florida Sentinel Bulletin publisher S. Kay Andrews (her control of Tampa Park Apartments may be the key to a new Rays stadium).

But as always with this annual list, only 10 rate as the most intriguing people of Tampa Bay for 2014.

MaryEllen Elia, Hillsborough school superintendent: Elia's contentious relationship with School Board members has set the stage for a showdown in 2015. Or not. If she can calm the stormy waters, maybe she will continue to lead the nation's eighth-largest school district. Or maybe she will jump instead of being pushed, as she is clearly capable of landing a job somewhere else.

Pat Gerard, Pinellas county commissioner: Gerard won a hard-fought election over Ed Hooper to help put a Democratic majority on the board when more than a few people bet against her. Now she's primed to serve on a board that appears more promising than partisan.

Pam Iorio, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America: Underneath the widely reported expectation that Iorio will move this nonprofit from Dallas to Tampa was an interesting asterisk. She extended her contract as its CEO to 2019. That's the next year, of course, that Tampa expects to have a competitive election for mayor. Could Iorio be the once and future mayor?

Brian Lamb, Fifth Third Bank market president and CEO: Lamb's stature as a business and community leader continued to rise in 2014. The bank expanded his role in 2014 and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan has tapped him to be part of a small team that will help the Rays search for a new stadium location in Tampa. But there's more for Lamb in 2015: As the new chairman of the Tampa Bay Partnership, he'll be at the point as the group selects a new CEO.

Ed Narain, state representative, Tampa: Narain emerged from a hard-fought campaign to become the new legislator for District 61, an area that includes parts of east Tampa, Seminole Heights and Ybor City. He has promised to bring renewed energy and economic development to the area. If he succeeds, he'll be poised to become a major political player.

Curtis Reeves, murder suspect. The former Tampa police captain likely will face trial in 2015 for second-degree murder in the shooting of 43-year-old Chad Oulson in a Wesley Chapel movie theater over a dispute about cellphone use. The case's undertone about social decorum and self-defense surely will draw national attention.

Matt Silverman, Tampa Bay Rays president: Silverman assumed control of the baseball team's roster and showed he won't be shy about making changes. At the same time, he remains one of the largest and most influential voices of reason as the Rays and the city of St. Petersburg look to solve the stadium issue. I hope he's using Chinet, because he's got a lot on his plate.

Jim Sweeney, Palm Harbor resident: In a real-life story that involved "goodfellas" like Henry Hill, an October ESPN documentary revisited the 1979 Boston College basketball gambling scandal. After Sweeney started at point guard for the team, and served as a key witness for the prosecution, he moved to Pinellas 30 years ago and lived with little fear of the mob and no bitterness about getting caught up in a wise-guy point-shaving scheme.

Daisy Vega, philanthropist: People outside of East Hillsborough probably haven't heard of Vega, but her upstart Freedom to Walk Foundation has gained a following as she seeks to help those troubled by foot drop, a debilitating disease. But what really intrigues me is, even in the midst of raising awareness for her own foundation, Vega continues to help other organizations.

Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning chairman and governor: Vinik and vision have become synonymous as he prepares to reinvent the 3 million square feet surrounding the Amalie Arena. It's a bold plan, but he has gained so much of this community's confidence that no one is willing to bet against him.

That's all I'm saying.

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