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Castor endures off day on board

Fellow Hillsborough County commissioners vote her out of three high-profile assignments. Is it political payback?

By BILL VARIAN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 18, 2005

TAMPA - Hillsborough commissioners conducted their annual settling of scores Thursday when they met to pick their chairman and vote each other on and off various boards and councils.

For Commissioner Kathy Castor, who is running for a seat in Congress, it was mostly off Thursday.

The housekeeping task would seem as exciting as scrubbing the tub to the uninitiated. But for this board, it tends to be the most political day of the year, a day when commissioners flex their muscles or get socked in the stomach instead.

Commissioner Ronda Storms got things going by suggesting that commissioners simply keep their assignments of the past year. If they wanted another assignment, they could put their names forward. The board would vote for either the current post holder or the commissioner now seeking the same spot.

Then Storms put her name forward. For the Children's Board. For chairmanship of the Environmental Protection Commission. For the Executive Policy Group, the panel that deals with hurricane preparedness and other emergency situations - all seats held by Castor.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe was also interested in the Executive Policy Group. Storms withdrew her name for that one, leaving the choice between Castor and Sharpe.

The votes went 5-2, 5-2, 5-2, with Castor's lone fellow Democrat, Tom Scott, siding with her. And with that, Castor had lost three of her most high-profile and coveted assignments. Then, for good measure, Ken Hagan asked for a seat on the Metropolitan Planning Organization, a group that deals with transportation and includes four commissioners. Specifically, he wanted Castor's seat.

But Sharpe relinquished his spot, so Castor got to stay there. She still holds a few other assignments, including Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority and the Arts Council.

Attempts to reach Storms and Hagan after the meeting were unsuccessful. But Castor has ruffled the feathers of both more than once in the past year.

She has faulted a county land deal approved by the rest of the commission in which Hagan's father was a broker. She has criticized other commissioners for sticking controversial items on board agendas at the last minute, a Storms' trademark. And she has repeatedly pushed for tougher ethics rules for commissioners, something the others take as an insult.

"I'm going to continue to provide leadership for the community no matter where I serve and in what capacity I serve," Castor said afterward.

Before the boards and councils selections, commissioners unanimously voted to keep Commissioner Jim Norman as chairman of the commission and Hagan as vice chairman. They appointed Commissioner Brian Blair as their chaplain.

Times staff writer Meaghan Forbes contributed to this report.

[Last modified November 18, 2005, 01:27:15]

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