From surgery to campaign trail

Published July 19, 2006

TAMPA - A leaner Jim Norman announced Tuesday that he's close to fully recovered from heart surgery and ready to seek a new term on the Hillsborough County Commission.

Norman, 52, who underwent quintuple bypass surgery in two months ago, filed the necessary paperwork to run for a last term on the commission that, when completed, would give him 18 years on the board.

"My thanks go out to everyone out in the county," said Norman, who said he was inundated with calls and cards from people wishing him well.

Norman, who serves as an at-large commissioner in the District 5 seat, disappeared in mid May for several days with no explanation, causing speculation about his whereabouts. After a few days, his office finally put out an ambiguous news release about needing treatment for a medical condition, later confirming he had undergone bypass surgery.

The commissioner said Tuesday he initially experienced no symptoms of a cardiovascular problem. A routine checkup prompted a series of exams that revealed a potentially serious blockage near his heart.

His departure at least partially fueled speculation in recent weeks that he might retire instead of seek another term in office.

"All the talk about 'Was I resigning?' is absolutely not true," Norman said before submitting his campaign qualifying papers.

Norman was joined by his wife, some of his fellow commissioners and several supporters outside the County Center. He looks as though he has lost a significant amount of weight, and said that he had been running about 1.5 miles each of the last two days.

Also joining Norman was strip club owner Joe Redner, a Democrat and frequent candidate for office, who is challenging him for the seat. Redner attempted to interrupt the press conference with a question about growth management, but Norman concluded the session.

Redner, who also officially qualified to run, said he is seeking the job because there are "so many problems in the county."

As a candidate, he said he intends to fight for growth management, promote environmental protection and seek transportation improvements, including a rail system.

He is distributing a bumper sticker that reads, "You may not want me. But you need me."