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Hillsborough

HILLSBOROUGH COMM 4

From different worlds: For the most part, Ronda Storms declines to discuss Jean Batronie's personal life.

By Times Staff Writer
Published October 26, 2004

As a Hillsborough County commissioner, Ronda Storms has fought public access television and opposed extending benefits to same-sex domestic partners.

Fiscally conservative as well, she has generally voted against tax increases and advocated smaller government during her six years on the board.

Her remaining opponent in the District 4 contest to represent eastern Hillsborough is Jean Batronie, a hypnotherapist from Brandon running without party affiliation, who could be Storms' opposite in many ways.

Batronie had surgery to change sexes two years ago and remains married to her wife of 36 years, with whom she has four grown children. She was formerly named Gene, and makes no secret of it.

Until early this year, she produced and served as host for a public access TV show called Voyeur Dungeon , about which Storms kept files. Batronie described it as an educational program about alternative "cultures," or lifestyles, that included tutorials on sado-masochistic practices. She said it was tasteful, and had no nudity or pornography.

She recently sought Chapter 13 federal bankruptcy protection and is fighting foreclosure on her home loan. She blames both financial troubles on predatory lending practices by the company that bought her mortgage, and she initially won a lawsuit against the lender, but it was overturned on appeal.

Batronie said she is concerned with the same issues many other candidates express, particularly runaway growth. She wants to rein in development while not making things hard for small business owners like herself. She believes the county's transportation system should be better, utilizing monorail, like Disney theme parks do.

She said her personal life shouldn't be an issue, other than to the degree it shapes her outlook. She said she believes government should serve all its citizens, not just those whom it favors.

"I was raised that you respect one another and you treat others the way you would want to be treated," Batronie said. "I judge a person by who they are, not what they are."

Storms, never one to shy from confrontation over social issues, thus far has not drawn attention to Batronie's personal life other than to say she doesn't understand how Batronie remains married under Florida law.

She said she has had little time to think about campaigning since Hillsborough County was hit by the remnants of two hurricanes. She said she has been addressing her constituent concerns, which she said symbolized how she views her role.

"It's nothing grandiose," she said. "It's nothing pie in the sky. It's meat and potatoes."

THE JOB

Commissioners approve a $2.9-billion budget, run the Environmental Protection Commission, approve local ordinances and decide all zoning issues. District 4 covers much of east and south Hillsborough County from Plant City to Sun City Center. The winner will serve a four-year term and will earn a projected annual salary of $84,213.

REPUBLICAN

RONDA STORMS , 39, has been a commissioner for six years and, with her husband, owns Storms Landscaping Service Inc. in Valrico. She had a legal practice for two years before joining the commission. She previously taught English at Bloomingdale Senior High School and was an assistant teacher at McLane Junior High School. She graduated from Stetson University College of Law and from the University of South Florida. She has been on the board of directors of the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau and is a member of the First Baptist Church of Brandon, where she has taught Sunday school. She is married and has a daughter. ASSETS: home, cash, bank account and stock in family business. LIABILITIES: home mortgage, home equity loan, student loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: county salary.

NO PARTY AFFILIATION

JEAN BATRONIE , 58, a native of Detroit, Mich., is a hypnotherapist and counselor working out of her home in Brandon. She has held jobs in marine refinishing and car restoration, and was previously active in the North Brandon Little League and taught catechism at St. Francis of Assisi church in Sefner. She has degrees from the Ethical Hypnosis Society and the James Hoke School of Hypnosis. She is married and has four grown children. ASSETS: Home, van, motorcycle, household goods. LIABILITIES: Mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: Brandon Hypnosis. E-MAIL: jean@combase.com WEB: www.jeanbatronie.com [Last modified October 25, 2004, 12:03:30]

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