Editorial: Wanted: Strong leaders to fill these seats

Published Dec. 27, 2013

Key leadership positions in Florida and Tampa Bay will be filled in 2014, some by voters and some by appointments. Here are six to watch:

U.S. House District 13

For more than four decades, U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young's name was synonymous with Pinellas County and Tampa Bay. His death in October means many Pinellas voters will see their first competitive congressional race. Former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a retired banker and unsuccessful candidate for governor, is the Democrat awaiting the outcome of the Republican primary on Jan. 14. She will face the winner of the GOP primary race among Mark Bircher, former Young aide David Jolly and state House Rep. Kathleen Peters. Young's successor will rank dead last in seniority in the House, 435th.


This time four years ago, former hospital executive Rick Scott was unknown to most Floridians and Republican Gov. Charlie Crist was running for the U.S. Senate. But 11 months later, Scott was headed to the governor's mansion after spending more than $70 million of his own money and Crist was on the sidelines after losing an independent Senate run. The big question for 2014 is whether Scott, a conservative Republican, can win re-election in a state that again voted for President Barack Obama in 2012 or whether Crist, now a Democrat, can get his old job back. Get ready for the attack ads from both sides.

Lieutenant governor

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigned in March amid revelations that her public relations firm once represented a dubious veterans charity that is alleged to have used Internet cafes as a front for gambling. Gov. Rick Scott has taken his time filling the job that is required by the state Constitution even if its duties are subject to the governor's whims. But Scott is expected to soon name a second-in- command who would join him on the November ballot. Two Hillsborough Republicans are on the short list: Hillsborough County commissioner and former state legislator Sandra Murman and Sen. Tom Lee, a former Senate president.

Police chiefs

Tampa Bay's two biggest cities will get new police chiefs in 2014. In St. Petersburg, Chief Chuck Harmon is retiring after a relatively stable dozen years. Two internal candidates want the job, but Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman is wisely planning a national search. Candidates should come prepared for new ideas, from better policing downtown's growing nightlife to improving relationships in the city's low-income neighborhoods.

In Tampa, Chief Jane Castor must retire by April and Mayor Bob Buckhorn has suggested he could bring her back on a contract basis. But given recent turmoil in the department — including a botched investigation into a double vehicular homicide and the firing of a DUI squad sergeant for his alleged role in a setup of a prominent attorney — Buckhorn could cast a wider net.

Morsani College of Medicine dean, USF

The University of South Florida's medical school has been without a permanent leader since its longest-serving dean, Dr. Stephen Klasko, announced in June he was leaving to head an academic hospital system in Philadelphia.

The next dean will need to strengthen the medical school's ties with community providers, notably Tampa General Hospital, USF's primary teaching partner. The college will need to expand its reputation for excellence in academics and community care, and look for new research and business opportunities that could lead to medical advances and improve USF's bottom line. The next dean also should be an ambassador able to navigate political currents as Tampa Bay leaders put academic medicine at the forefront of the region's job development efforts. This job calls for a visionary who understands public health, who can juggle demands on and off campus and who is comfortable in the public spotlight.