Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Bay Times article on transportation:


Hillsborough hopes 10-year slate of transportation projects will entice voters in 2016

Thursday, June 11, 2015 4:11pm


TAMPA — Voters in Hillsborough County will see a list of transportation projects set to be built within the first decade of a proposed 30-year half-cent sales tax before officials will ask residents to approve the new funding source for road and transit projects.

County Administrator Mike Merrill presented a new transportation plan to county and city officials today based on a half-cent sales tax that would generate $117.5 million for transportation projects annually.

Hillsborough voters went to the polls in 2010 and soundly defeated a 1-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects. Similar referendums met a similar fate in Pinellas and Polk counties last year.

But Merrill and representatives from Parsons Brinckerhoff, the national consulting firm the county paid $1 million to help with the process, think this latest plan can entice enough voters both within the cities and unincorporated county to earn a win at the ballot box in fall 2016.

“We just can’t afford to screw this up,” said County Commission Chairwoman Sandra Murman.

By asking for less tax revenue from voters and providing more specificity about the projects that will be funded with that revenue, county staff is hoping the plan will be more appealing to voters than the 2010 version.

County and city officials who are part of the policy leadership group will meet on July 16 to decide whether or not to go forward with the proposal. If so, county commissioners will authorize attorneys to draft ballot language for a referendum.

Officials will then give county staff the go ahead to organize 12 public meetings in which they will work with community members to put together a list of projects people most want to see completed within the first 10 years of the 30-year tax.

Those projects could include new roads, intersection improvements, a ferry, Bus Rapid Transit and express bus service, said Bob Clifford of Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Staff will use that community feedback to present a list of projects to county commissioners in October.

The new proposal is projected to generate $3.5 billion — 61 percent less than the $9 billion that the consultant said was the most conservative estimate of the county’s future needs.

A third of that $3.5 billion will go to transit and the rest will be used to build roads, maintain existing ones and pay for bike and pedestrian improvements.

The consultants polled 600 county residents in April. It said that 52 percent would vote for a half-cent sales tax while 43 percent said they would vote for a 1-cent sales tax.


Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Tribune article on transportation:



No support seen, so tax for county transportation plan slashed

By Mike Salinero | Tribune Staff
Published: June 9, 2015

TAMPA — Hoping to bolster voter support for a sales tax referendum on transportation projects, Hillsborough County leaders plan to scale back a proposed tax increase to pay for them — from a cent on the dollar to half a cent.

County Administrator Mike Merrill and consultants with the Go Hillsborough transportation effort are expected to recommend the half-cent option Thursday to the county’s Transportation Policy Leadership Group, according to sources who have talked to Merrill. He could not be reached for comment.

County Commissioner Sandy Murman, a member of the leadership group, said the decision to go for a half-cent tax increase was based on polling and comments made at Go Hillsborough public meetings, telephone town halls, and other surveys.

“I do believe from the polling survey and other information it looks definitely like one cent is off the table,” said Murman, who was briefed on the recommendation by Merrill on Tuesday. “It doesn’t look like it would pass.”

Merrill and the consultants are also expected to recommend that, should the sales tax pass, 60 percent of the new revenue go towards building and maintaining roads and bridges. Thirty percent would go to mass transit and 10 percent to pedestrian and cycling trails.

Such a split is sure to upset pro-transit forces that pushed the county to create the Transportation Policy Leadership Group and to work toward creating transportation options.

One of the critics, Sierra Club member and county commission candidate Pat Kemp, said 30 percent of the proceeds from a half-cent sales tax would produce just $30 million a year for transit. That amount falls short of the money needed to double the fleet of buses for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit agency — a goal county leaders had supported last year in leadership group meetings.

“That’s not a lot to do a lot with,” Kemp said.

Kent Bailey, chairman of the Tampa Bay Sierra Club, said the environmental group would have a hard time supporting a ballot measure based on the recommendation Merrill described to him. Such a plan, Bailey said, would amount to residents of densely populated urban areas subsidizing the cost of roads to far-flung subdivisions.

“It’s not fair to have taxpaying homeowners subsidizing new homes,” Bailey said.

Transit supporters also questioned how spending the bulk of new transportation money on roads fits with earlier goals of creating transit-oriented development and attracting younger, transit-friendly workers to the area. Tampa-area business groups have pushed for transportation options such as light rail and bus rapid transit.

“I think it’s more difficult for economic development experts to go to people around the country and say, ‘We have put only a certain amount of money into transit options,’” said Mike Suarez, Tampa City Council member, chairman of the HART board and a member of the policy leadership group. “If they’re saying we’ll give you a lane of road and that’s considered transit, I’m not sure I buy that.”

Political leaders, however, have to deal with political reality. With the memory of a failed transportation referendum in 2010 still fresh, members of the policy leadership group may embrace the consultants’ recommendations as the safest option. The county has an estimated $8 billion in unfunded transportation needs and no available source of money to meet those needs.

“The only possible revenue solution that puts a dent in that unfunded need is a sales tax. Like it or not, that is the fiscal reality,” said county Commissioner Ken Hagan, a member of the leadership group.

“But at same time, once you acknowledge that, it’s incumbent on the county leaders to recommend and ultimately support a plan that’s not only necessary but politically palatable,” Hagan added. “It doesn’t do any good to come up with plan that gets defeated 60-40 at the polls.”

The Go Hillsborough consultants are scheduled to give their recommendations to the policy leadership group Thursday at 1:30 p.m. on the 26th floor of the Frederick B. Karl County Center.



Commissioner Murman quoted in this 83degrees article on county hack-a-thon:


innovation & job news

Mobile app for multicultural visitor’s guide wins HIllsborough County hack-a-thon



The 2015 Code for Hillsborough hack-a-thonbrought more than 100 presenters, programmers and community leaders in economic development together to create potential solutions to existing real-world problems in local communities.

The team that created a “Multi-Cultural Visitor’s Guide” won top honors at the Sunday, June 7, awards ceremony.

The mobile app multicultural guide to the Tampa Bay area was created following county guidelines, such as: including links to Visit Tampa Bay and the state tourism office, Visit Florida; a Google-interfaced map with prominent venues highlighted, a background history or photo of the venues; a walking trail or driving route; and more desired criteria.

Code for Tampa Bay Brigade and Hillsborough County worked together to present the 3rd Annual National Day (in this case, weekend) of Civic Hacking. County commissioner Sandy Murman praised Code for Tampa Bay’s efforts to “provide a creative environment where innovation thrives.”

Civic collaboration in the community, networking among local government and technologists, programmers and developers, and encouraging “civic hacking” are all part of the goals of the Hillsborough County EDI2-funded event.

During the two-day hack-a-thon, event participants were challenged to create useful resources that addressed community needs identified by data supplied from the county government. Challenges included:

  • Dig through thousands of lines of raw data to make Florida Vendor Payment information accessible, useful and understandable for your application
  • Use multiple sources of information to develop a way to help the county understand inmate populations and how jail systems are being used
  • Map out a shuttle transportation system for downtown Tampa
  • Create a web application that provides international matchmaking between foreign companies and Hillsborough County
  • Develop a multicultural visitor guide using basic tools like a jpeg image and a brochure

Presenters discussed best practices in tech hot topics like mobile app development or transparency for vendors, as well as community-centered issues like the challenges that government agencies and citizens alike can face when it comes to providing or accessing services or resources.

Runners up included a team that created an Emergency Preparedness Interactive Map and the Tampa Bay Trade and Protocol Council app.

2015 Code for Hillsborough partners in civic engagement include:MicrosoftForex FactoryTekBankEureka! Factory,  The Iron YardAbsolute Mobile SolutionsCastleRoc Information ServicesRedHatLaicosThe Grind Coffee BarKahwa Coffee Roasters,  Tampa Innovation Alliance and Busch Gardens.



Commissioner Murman quoted in this WFLA news article on Jeb Bush:


Jeb Bush to make announcement on 2016 presidential bid

Posted: Jun 04, 2015 6:31 AM EDTUpdated: Jun 04, 2015 5:58 PM EDT


By Lauren Mayk


Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is expected to announce his decision on a run for the White House on June 15 in Miami.

Bush has been traveling the country and raising money for his Right to Rise PAC over the past six months but is not a declared candidate for president.

“Governor Bush is thankful for the support and encouragement he has received from so many Americans during the last several months and looks forward to announcing his decision,” a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement on Thursday.

Bush, the son of one president and the brother of another, announced in December that he would “actively explore” the idea of running for president.

Supporters in Tampa Bay praised Bush’s personal and leadership skills, pointing to crises such as 9/11 and the multiple hurricanes that struck Florida in 2004.

“He didn’t just want to call you up on the phone and talk to you,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, who served as Speaker Pro-Tempore in the Florida House during Bush’s time as governor. “It’s like, ‘Come into my office, let’s talk.’ If I couldn’t, he would wait til 9 o clock at night.”

Chris Hart, a former Hillsborough County Commissioner who worked for Bush’s father George H.W. Bush while he was Vice President, noticed how many of the then-governor’s staffers have followed him – seeing that as a testament to him and his relationships.

“The people that are with him today were with him in 1994 when he first ran for governor – the same people,” he said.

In Florida, a Bush run isn’t surprising to many who watched and knew him, said News Channel 8 political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus. “They just wondered when it was going to happen,” she said. “Not if, but when.”

A spokesperson tells News Channel 8 Thursday morning that “Governor Bush is thankful for the support and encouragement he has received from so many Americans during the last several months and looks forward to announcing his decision.”

Bush received a warm reception out of an array of GOP presidential contenders at the Economic Growth Summit in Orlando on Tuesday. The event was hosted at Disney World by the state’s current Republican governor, Rick Scott.



Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Bay Times article on homeless count:


Hillsborough County homeless population unchanged but fewer living on streets

Thursday, June 4, 2015 11:58am


TAMPA — The number of homeless individuals living in Hillsborough County is basically unchanged from last year, though fewer of them are living on the streets or in squalid conditions.

An annual count conducted in February found 1,931 people living without a fixed residence in Hillsborough County, according to numbers released Thursday by the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative. The county reported 1,944 homeless in 2014 and 1,909 in 2013.

At the time of the count, there were 87 more homeless families than last year, defined as one adult with at least one child.

The biggest shift is in the number of people residing in homeless shelters. There are 322 more people living in shelters this year than in 2014, which reflects a 345-person drop in people living on the streets.

Antoinette Hayes-Triplett, director of the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative, said she believes that’s a sign they are turning a corner.

“Hopefully, next year the actual number of people experiencing homelessness goes down,” Hayes-Triplett said.

She credited the fall in the unsheltered homeless to increased funding for homeless initiatives and organizations that has led to 300 new beds in the county.

Since January 2014, Hillsborough County has awarded $2.3 million to local homeless organizations to provide bridge housing and $400,000 in financial assistance to help individuals transition to permanent housing. Another $1.6 million contract was awarded to the Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office to combat drug abuse.

“I do believe we’re making progress,” county Commissioner Sandra Murman said. “The number of homeless didn’t go down as much as I would have liked, but the funding Hillsborough County is investing in homeless individuals is starting to make a difference, and that’s significant. The number of chronic homeless is going down.”

Compared to 2014, there are 96 fewer people considered chronically homeless, defined by the federal government as a person “who has been continuously homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.”

Homelessness among veterans is up 32.6 percent, though the count took place before Operation Reveille, an initiative to assist homeless veterans, was in full swing. Hayes-Triplett believes that effort is making a difference already.

The information collected is submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help tally the national homeless population. It’s a challenging task, and the numbers are considered an estimate more than an exact head count.

The Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative is expected to soon release a five-year plan for tackling homelessness in the region, though no timetable was provided.


Commissioner Murman quoted in this SPB article on wage theft:


With emotions flaring, Hillsborough County Commission advances potential wage theft ordinance

By Mitch Perry

Jun 3, 2015


On the face of it, it didn’t look like a very close comparison as the Hillsborough County Commission met on Wednesday to review what type of system they’d like to model a policy shift to try to combat wage-theft in the county, rated in a recent report as the second worst in the entire state.

Speaking via Skype from South Florida, Jeanette Smith, executive director of South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice, went through a basic comparison of two of the biggest counties that have implemented a system to contend with wage theft in Florida — Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

On costs to the county, Miami-Dade County spent $55,000 last year, Palm Beach $125,000 (via a grant to the Legal Aid Society). In terms of successful resolutions of the problem, there were 232 cases successfully resolved in Miami that resulted in workers receiving a combined $800,000 in lost wages; in Palm Beach, there were 85 cases resolved bringing back $100,000; And as far a return on investment, Miami Dade was at 12 percent, Palm Beach County at less than one percent.

“There’s no real comparison between the two,” said Bruce Nissen, the author of a Florida International University study examining the issue in Florida, which showed that Hillsborough ranked only behind Miami-Dade in the documented cases of wage theft in the Sunshine State. “If you’re looking for efficient government, I think there’s no question, go with the Miami-Dade model.”

Yet for the second consecutive board meeting, several of the Republican members of the commission did the exact opposite, supporting their love for a Palm Beach County version that on its face appears to favor businesses and not the workers who aren’t receiving a full paycheck.

The Miami-Dade model is what Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner brought forward last month. The plan that he favors would create a full-time position at $45,000 to deal with such claims. That’s a considerably less cost than the $125,000 that Palm Beach pays out to a third-party to resolve.

However, some commissioners continue to express concerns that hiring one staffer would create a situation of expanded government. “My concern is we do grow departments out of control, that’s what got this county in trouble during the Great Recession,” said Commissioner Al Higginbotham.

That prompted Commissioner Les Miller to question everything.

“I’m not a mathematician, but it appears to me that $125,000 is more than $45,000,” he said. “That makes no sense to me,” adding that he couldn’t support any plan based on the Palm Beach model.

After the board pooh-poohed the Miami Dade ordinance last month, the conservative Tampa Tribune editorial board rebuked them, writing that their objections were “badly misplaced.”

To Commissioner Beckner, it was obvious to him that the board wasn’t following the people, the editorial boards, or perhaps even their own inner compass, but the lobbying efforts of the Florida Retail Federation, the statewide business group that has gone all out in Tallahassee and in other jurisdictions to fight against a Miami-Dade-type ordinance. And he lashed out at his colleagues for thinking that way, specifically Victor Crist.

“I have heard that this board wants to do something,” Beckner said. “But you’re saying one thing and you’re not taking an action on another. If you really wanted to do something, and you cared about these people, why would you adopt a model that has been shown to be less effective? Why would you not adopt a model that is shown to recover more for people that you say you care about the most? I hope it is the people that you’re passionate about, and not the special lobbyists who have been lobbying for this Palm Beach model across the state.”

Beckner added that he did agree with Crist’s suggestion to expand the employees eligible to examine their wages being unfairly distributed to include independent contractors, but also said any support for the Palm Beach model was unacceptable.

Clearly irked, Crist said that it was important for the county to have its own staff review the differences between the Miami and Palm Beach plans, and said that Hillsborough should devise its own way to solve the problem, a hybrid perhaps of the other plans.

But then he laid into Beckner, at times in personal terms, accusing him of pure grandstanding for his own political aggrandizement.

“Let’s be rationale,” he said, taking a deep breath. “Let’s get beyond the emotions. And it is very clear that in order to protect the people who are being cheated out of their rightful earnings, that something has to be done here. What we’re arguing over is which way to go. But if you dig your heels in, if you remain rigid and unflexible (sic) and refusing to listen to ideas and be open-minded, you’re going to walk away with nothing for those people. You’re putting them and their families in jeopardy because you want to make a political soapbox out of this. And that is not legislative. That is not leadership. Leadership is listening, as well as speaking. “

Crist said that if Beckner continued to go about it in such a combative way, “You will get the ink and publicity, yes, which is what you may want, but you will get nothing for those people. Nothing! And that’s unacceptable. I don’t want to leave here with nothing…and that means building consensus.”

A moment later, Crist went further, saying that he was the true champion of the working people. “I”m going to fight for what they need, and I’m going to make sure you get it!” he said, looking out at the audience.

Looking back at Beckner, he said the Democrat could only deliver two votes to the people. “You deliver nothing to these people but talk.”

Commission Chair Sandy Murman then told the audience that despite what some emails were telling her, she could relate to those who have been ripped off by their bosses. “Believe me, I’ve been cheated out of wages,” she insisted. “We want to help you, and I think our message today is, we want to help.”

The board then voted for a proposal to have county staff to bring back a wage-theft resolution that would include people making 200 percent of poverty, that includes independent contractors and small businesses and includes mediation as a first resolve of a problem.



Commissioner Murman quoted in this StPetersBlog article on HART:


HART board members once again talk about funding sources

By Mitch Perry –


Jun 1, 2015


As officials with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) laid out their preliminary budget and Transit Development Plan (TDP) on Monday, a couple of board members (once again) expressed frustration with the agency’s lack of access to key lawmakers who could help them obtain more funding from either Tallahassee or Washington, D.C.

The recommended FY 2016 budget includes operating expenditures of over $69 million and capital expenditures of just over $12 million. The plan calls for a a 2.1 percent increase in revenue hours, as well as purchasing 14 new buses, one year ahead of schedule.

But while reviewing some of the line-item price increases such as printing costs, board member Kathleen Shanahan became unhappy, calling some of them “outrageous.”

That led HART Chairman Mike Suarez to attempt to explain to Shanahan that some increases were just the cost of doing business. A commercial insurance executive in his daytime job, Suarez said that he’s heard similar complaints when he makes a presentation to a firm telling them that their insurance rates are going to go up 20 percent.

“We have to follow federal rules based on where you put buses on the roads, we have to do these TDPs. I understand what you’re saying,” Suarez said to Shanahan. “I do think the perspective is, if we’re putting more service out there, there’s going to be a corresponding cost to that.”

But Shanahan pushed back, quoting a Wall Street Journal story that says that 97 percent of the public has access to mobile technology. Why were printing costs going up so much? She inquired. She said if it was a federal requirement, where were HART’s lobbyists in Washington working to lessen that regulation? “Who’s asking that?” she demanded to know.

“We need to get more aggressive,” Hillsborough County Commission Chair Sandy Murman chimed in. Referring to Tampa Port Director Paul Anderson‘s efforts in meeting with members of Congress, Murman said that HART needed to increase its communications with people in power.

“Paul Anderson’s constantly meeting with (U.S. Rep.) Mario Diaz-Balart,” she said. “Constantly. Chewing on him about what the needs of the Port are. We need to be doing that very same thing. He can get us what we need. But we have to develop those relationships, we’re just going to have to take, and get what we can get.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, board member Karen Jaroch said one solution to the logjam regarding federal funding is to take another look at how local transit agencies receive such funds, and she said the answer was the Transportation Empowerment Act, a bill that the group that she works for, Heritage Action, also strongly supports. Though no vote was taken from board members, it’s hard to see if there would be much support for the act.

That legislation would devolve the federal gas tax rate from 18.4 cents (which has been at the same rate since 1993) down to 3.7 cents per gallon for gas. At the same time, federal programs such as subway, bus and bicycle programs would end, with authority and accountability returning to the states. Those states would have the option of raising fuel taxes or other avenue to raise revenues.

“We’re a big donor state,” Jaroch told her colleagues. “We’ve got to do a paradigm shift. Money’s not going to be there from the feds and we free the shackles of the streams that we have to replace… and grow this agency without having to raise taxes.”

It’s the second time that she’s raised the issue since she began serving on the HART board in 2011. Chairman Mike Suarez agreed that Florida is a donor state, but didn’t touch on the merits of the Transportation Empowerment Act.

One very sad note to end the day: Suarez announced that Anne Madden, who served on board from October of 2011 to last summer when she was replaced by County Commissioner Les Miller, had passed away from ovarian cancer.



Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Tribune article on Ashley Furniture HQ:



Ashley Furniture’s e-commerce headquarters moving to Ybor




YBOR CITY — Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. officially announced Thursday that it will locate its global e-commerce headquarters, a training center and other administrative offices in Centro Ybor later this year.

Starting with 100 employees, the company expects to attract customers and employees from around the globe who will conduct business or training here, book hotel rooms and patronize local businesses.

Ashley is the world’s largest furniture manufacturer and the No. 1 selling brand of furniture in North America. Its manufacturing operations are based in Wisconsin.

Bringing business headquarters to Hillsborough County has become a primary goal for the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. This is the second headquarters announced in Tampa just this week.

Inspirata, a biomedical firm specializing in digital pathology, announced its headquarters opening on Monday off Kennedy Boulevard. That company expects to grow from 30 to about 70 employees over the next two years. Other corporate headquarters that have either moved here recently or are expanding include Xcelience, ReliaQuest, FitLife Foods, BluePearl Veterinary Partners, Tribridge and Laser Spine Institute.

The Economic Development Corp. is working with Tampa Bay Lightning owner and developer Jeff Vinik to draw a Fortune 500 headquarters here as Vinik moves forward with his $1 billion revitalization and development plan for downtown.

The state, Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa all contributed incentives to make the Ashley deal happen. The company will receive $320,000 in incentives through the state’s Qualified Target Industries program. The company is required to offer a minimum average wage of $48,813 to qualify for the funding.

The 70,000 square-foot complex in Centro Ybor replaces half of the Muvico movie theater — or 10 of the 20 screens the theater once operated — off 7th Avenue, in the heart of the historic business district.

“It’s an excellent environment for training, for our customers and for our e-commerce operation,” Ashley founder Ron Wanek said after a formal presentation outside of Centro Ybor.

“I live here, we have a distribution center in Brandon and Ybor is a great area for millennials” who will work for the e-commerce center, said Wanek, a St. Petersburg resident. “They are creative people and they love this area.”

Many of the employees who will work in the U.S. e-commerce headquarters are new hires and many were hired from this area, said Jason Lockington, a spokesman for Ashley. He said the company is still hiring. Anyone interested in learning about available jobs can visit or send a resume by email to


“Here we are in Ybor and they are saying ‘this is where we want to grow our business.’ This announcement goes beyond jobs and capital investment,” said EDC President and CEO Rick Homans. “It says we have and can attract talent for a global e-commerce company.”

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn harkened back to the mid-1990s when Centro Ybor was first envisioned as a hub for the historic district. “We couldn’t be more excited to have you here,” he told Wanek and his son, Todd Wanek, who now serves as president and CEO of Ashley Furniture Industries. “We appreciate your investment in us.”

Ron Wanek said Ashley, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Ashcomm LLC, recently launched its website and its entire line of furnishings will be available on the internet. Home delivery should begin soon, he said.

Hillsborough County was in competition with six other locations for this e-commerce headquarters, according to Hillsborough County Commission Chairwoman Sandy Murman. “Their decision to locate in Hillsborough County proves once again that this community offers a business climate, diversity of talent and quality of life that other major markets can’t top,” she said in a press release announcing the new headquarters.

Conversion of the former movie theater space will involve 30 subcontractors and 100 suppliers. The Perry Company, Ai Collaborative and Fabricated Products, all located in Ybor City, will play major roles in the project. About 300 people will be directly involved in the construction project.


Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Tribune article on EPC director:



Hillsborough picks business favorite as environmental leader



TAMPA — Janet Dougherty, a businesswoman and favorite of the development community, will be the next director of the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission.


County commissioners voted 5-2 for Dougherty on Wednesday after interviewing her and three other candidates throughout the day. Dougherty will replace Rick Garrity, who is retiring June 30 after 14 years as director.

Two candidates got one vote apiece: Rick Tschantz, the EPC’s general counsel, and Mary Yeargan, director of Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s southwest district. Robert Musser, environmental projects manager at Port Everglades in Broward County, got no votes.

After she was selected, Dougherty sought to reassure environmentalists who were suspicious of her close ties to industry leaders.


“My No. 1 mandate is to protect the natural resources of Hillsborough County,” Dougherty said as she stood at a podium facing commissioners. “I will do that and I will make you proud.”


Dougherty’s selection seemed unlikely several weeks ago. She was not among the top three candidates recommended by a 13-member screening committee. But one of the three finalists, Scott Emery, dropped out for personal reasons. His exit opened the door for commissioners to add Dougherty and Musser to the final list.

Dougherty’s addition irritated some of the members of the selection committee, who felt their deliberations had been ignored by the commission. The committee’s top pick had been Tschantz, while Dougherty finished fifth in the committee’s rankings.

Also raising concerns about Dougherty’s potential appointment was the heavy lobbying on her behalf by business leaders, who are often at odds with environmentalists.

“She is going to pay a high price for this because she’s going to have to compromise her principles,” said former county Commissioner Jan Platt, a member of the selection committee. “It’s going to be very difficult for her to do the job she is legally required to do in light of the fact that she is so closely tied to the business community.”

For her part, Dougherty said her connections with industrialists, phosphate companies, farmers and the maritime industry are balanced by her past volunteer work on government boards that deal with the environment and growth management.

She has been a board member of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and the county Citizens Environmental Advisory Committee, among others.

“I want to leave a legacy of protecting the natural resources of Hillsborough County,” she said, in answering questions from commissioners during the interview.

At the same time, Dougherty made points with the pro-business Republicans on the commission by promising not to stand in the way of development as long as natural resources are protected. She claimed that a number of construction projects have gone to surrounding counties because of the multiple permits required by the EPC and other agencies. She promised to improve on Garrity’s efforts to streamline environmental permitting.

“We need a vibrant ecology that will lead to a vibrant economy,” Dougherty said, “but they work hand in hand.”

Commission Chair Sandy Murman, who made the motion to hire Dougherty, denied that business lobbying had played any part in her choice. Murman said she liked Dougherty’s “leadership, experience and passion for the environment.”

“We have an explosion of development coming,” Murman, a Republican, said. “We need the right person at the EPC protecting our natural resources, but being fair and firm with the development community.”

Democrat Kevin Beckner, who served on the selection committee, voted for Tschantz, but said in his final comments that Dougherty had been his second choice coming into the Wednesday meeting.

“She’ll do a good job,” he said after the vote.

Perhaps the most surprising vote for Dougherty was cast by Commissioner Al Higginbotham. At a May 6 commission meeting, Higginbotham complained about “inappropriate lobbying” on Dougherty’s behalf from business interests. But after the interviews Wednesday, Higginbotham said Dougherty had “cleared up the questions” he had raised about the lobbying.

“I thought she did an extremely good job in explaining her position,” Higginbotham said. “I see merit and value in the skill sets she could bring to the table.”

Dougherty, 53, said she developed her passion for nature growing up on a 3,000-acre cattle ranch in Lutz.

“I was constantly riding my horses through swampy marshes and pine forests and canoeing in the spring-fed lake,” she said in her cover letter to the selection committee.

Dougherty received a bachelor’s degree in public administration at Eckerd College with a minor in environmental policy. She has been the owner or part-owner of three companies: Sage Eco Solutions, HumiVerde LLC and Quiet Earth Consultants Inc.

HumiVerde is an organic fertilizer company. Sage Eco Solutions, like Quiet Earth before it, provides environmental consulting services to private businesses.

Dougherty described herself as a “hugger,” and proved it moving about the commission chambers after her selection, hugging supporters, EPC managers and commissioners.

Last year, Dougherty was defeated in her run for the District 4 county commission seat, which covers most of eastern and southern Hillsborough. She raised over $200,000 in campaign contributions, including nearly $28,000 from developers, contractors and real estate interests.

When asked about her plans for the environmental agency, Dougherty fired off a number of goals: attracting new talent, going “paperless” by expanding on-line permitting, and getting state and federal agencies to delegate more permitting responsibilities to the EPC. More delegation translates into “one-stop shopping” for developers and other regulated industries, she said.

The key, she said is striking a balance by helping businesses get what they need without compromising the environment.

“I’m about the carrot and not the stick,” she said. “I’m about where we’re headed and not about litigation.”


Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Bay Times article on Ashley Furniture:


Heart of Ybor looks to be big winner with Ashley Furniture arrival

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 4:56pm


Today, that plan — or at least an updated version of it — looks like it will become official as Tampa economic development, political and business leaders gather in Ybor City at Centro Ybor at 11 a.m. to formally announce a significant company expansion and more jobs coming to the area.

Neither Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. executives nor Ashley Furniture spokespeople offered any comment Wednesday on the expected Ashley expansion. But city building permits filed in April reveal construction plans on office space for Ashley Furniture HomeStores Inc. and AshComm LLC that include renovation to the interior and exterior movie theater space at Centro Ybor.

AshComm LLC filed as a Florida business last June at 1600 E Eighth Ave. — the same address as the Centro Ybor complex of businesses and retail entertainment.

Permits show the company will locate in space now used by Muvico Centro Ybor 20, which expects to trim its number of movie screens.

Today’s announcement, complete with anticipated jobs and a package of taxpayer incentives, is expected to include Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, EDC CEO Rick Homans and Hillsborough County Commissioner Chairwoman Sandra Murman.

It’s not clear who will represent Ashley Furniture, a huge private business based in Arcadia, Wis., and mostly owned by father and son team Ron and Todd Wanek, the latter serving as CEO.

Ron Wanek now lives in St. Petersburg. He is a self-made billionaire and ranks No. 949 on the 2015 Forbes list of world billionaires, with an estimated fortune of $2.2 billion. The Wanek family investment fund, Third Lake Capital, is run by Ken Jones, the former top executive of the Republican National Convention host committee. The fund bought Tampa restaurant chain Ker’s WingHouse last summer with plans to expand it.


Ashley Furniture employs about 20,000 people and generates $3.85 billion annually selling beds, sofas, tables and chairs. Components are made in Asia with cheaper labor. U.S. workers assemble the furniture after an order is complete, lowering inventory costs.

If today’s “economic development announcement” is indeed Ashley Furniture bringing several hundred office jobs, it will be a coup for Ybor as it continues to evolve from after-dark entertainment district to a more rounded economic community.

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