County commissioners plan to make chair selection nonpolitical
By Kyle LoJacono
There was tension in the air on Nov. 15 when the Hillsborough County Commission was selecting its new chair for the next year.
Outgoing chairman Al Higginbotham nominated Mark Sharpe to succeed him and made his opinion very well known. However, the other five commissioners backed Ken Hagan, who officially takes over the role this week with Sandy Murman serving as vice-chairman. It is the fourth time Hagan has held the gavel on the board.
After the 5-2 vote, members began talking about changing the process of selecting its chair.
Commissioner Les Miller, who was also voted as chaplain for the next year, said the idea is to make the appointments on a regular schedule to take “behind-the-scenes wrangling” out of the picture.
The idea is to have the position pass to the member with the most seniority who hasn’t served at the post for the next two years.
“This would take the politics out of the process,” Miller said. “I was shocked to be getting calls a month before this from people asking me to support certain nominations.”
Murman agreed with Miller’s idea, saying the way the board’s leader is selected has gotten “out of control.
“Our process is flawed,” Murman continued. “We need to change it.”
Miller’s plan got a 5-2 early approval, with Higginbotham and Victor Crist opposing the motion, meaning it would likely be passed after the required two public hearings to get feedback about the proposed ordinance.
Crist and Higginbotham both said they did not disagree with the plan of taking out the politics of the selection process, but wanted more time to think about the options before supporting the measure. Crist, whose District 2 includes all of Lutz, also wondered why anyone would want to push for certain people to be the chair.
“The chairman has no more influence than any other member of this board,” Crist said. “Lobbyists who want certain people in charge don’t understand how the commission works.”
The chair is the board’s leader in name and guides its meetings, but has no additional powers.
If officially adopted, the new system would go into place for 2012. Sharpe is the one in line to be chairman, with Kevin Beckner serving as vice-chairman. Beckner would take over in 2013, with Murman serving as vice-chairwoman.
After those two years, the position would be rotated sequentially through the districts, starting with District 1 in 2014 and moving to District 2 in 2015. Murman currently represents District 1, which includes all of Odessa/Keystone.
Commissioners will have the first of two public hearings on the proposal on Wednesday, Dec. 7. For additional information on the proposal, call (813) 272-5900 or visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org.
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