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District 6 Hillsborough County Commission

Joe Chillura seeks to unseat incumbent Jan Platt two years after he left the commission in an unsuccessful bid for another office.

By DAVID KARP

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


Two years after he left the County Commission and ran unsuccessfully for Congress, Republican Joe Chillura wants to return to the office where he crafted the "community investment tax" that helped build Raymond James Stadium.

Chillura has challenged Commissioner Jan Platt, a Democrat who was a critic of the deal to build the $168-million football stadium.

The race pits two well-known, longtime office holders against each other. Chillura served on the commission for eight years before his unsuccessful run against U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, D-Tampa, in 1998. Platt is a fixture of Tampa politics, having served on the commission for 20 years. They served on the City Council together in the 1970s.

Platt, a champion of the environment, public libraries and open government, wants to return to the commission to finish the work she started in 1996, she said.

"I have accomplished a lot in the last four years," Platt said. "It has been like pulling teeth, but I've done it."

Platt, who helped create the county's environmental land-buying program, wants to limit growth so subdivisions don't get built without enough roads, schools and parks in place.

Another major issue is fixing the county's overloaded roads and inadequate bus system, Platt said. She supported a proposal to put a referendum on the ballot this year to increase taxes to pay for transportation. The proposal failed, but Platt said the issue will arise again.

If re-elected to a sixth four-year term, Platt, who will be 68 in 2004, said she won't run again.

Chillura hopes to end Platt's career earlier. He has attacked her for favoring new gasoline taxes, a new sales tax, and a tax on utility bills. "Can we afford 4 more years of Jan Platt?" he asks in a campaign flier.

Chillura, though, takes pride in creating the half-cent sales tax that raised money to build a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The tax also paid for new police cars, new fire stations, new schools and new community centers.

Chillura crafted the language that put the tax for the stadium in the same package with the tax for schools. Exit polls found a majority of voters approved the tax in spite of the stadium, not because of it.

He has also criticized Platt, long known as "Commissioner No," for not getting along with her colleagues. Platt sees her role as being a citizens' watchdog, but Chillura said the approach doesn't allow the commission to work well together. He promised to help build a consensus.

"It was not my mindset to tattletale on other commissioners," Chillura said.

THE JOB

The seven-member County Commission sets policy, oversees a $2-billion budget, runs the Environmental Protection Commission, approves local ordinances, decides all zoning issues and hires and fires the county administrator, who is responsible for the daily functioning of county government. District 6 covers all of Hillsborough County. The commissioner will serve a four-year term and will earn an annual salary of $77,646.

REPUBLICAN

JOE CHILLURA, 61, served two terms on the Hillsborough County Commission before running for Congress unsuccessfully in 1998. Since then, he has lived off his investments and has worked as an architectural consultant. He also served on the Tampa City Council and the Hillsborough County Planning Commission. Born in Tampa, he graduated from the University of Florida in 1965. He is married and has five children. ASSETS: home, cars, individual retirement accounts and investments, life insurance, cash. LIABILITIES: credit cards. SOURCE OF INCOME: investments.

DEMOCRAT

JAN PLATT, 64, has served on the Hillsborough County Commission for 20 years, beginning her first term in 1978. Re-elected to four terms, she stepped down in 1994 and ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Tampa in 1995. She was elected to the commission again in 1996. She sat on the Tampa City Council from 1974 to 1978. She also served on the Constitutional Revision Commission and led the Sunshine Amendment petition drive for the Seventh Congressional District. Born in St. Petersburg, she graduated from Florida State University in 1958. She is married and has one son. ASSETS: residence, boats, individual retirement accounts, cash, savings. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: commission salary, state retirement, interest income.

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