Hillsborough County Commission welcomes new member

11/18/08 Mitch E. Perry
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An overflow crowd jammed into the County Center for the Hillsborough County Commissioner’s Investiture Ceremony this morning.

Many in the audience were there to see newly elected Democrat Kevin Beckner officially take office. Beckner was administered the oath by recently elected Hillsborough County Judge Caroline Tesche.

Beckner was a complete unknown in Hillsborough politics when he announced nearly two years ago that he was going to challenge Brian Blair in 2008. He ran a grassroots campaign that featured hundreds of volunteers who worked to bring him to victory, and he took the opportunity Tuesday to thank those people.

Among the challenges Beckner faced was also running as an openly gay man in a county that has not always appeared to be a beacon of progressivism.

Less than 3 ½ years ago, the Hillsborough County Commission supported a ban on gay pride events – a move spearheaded by former Commissioner Ronda Storms.

In addition to thanking his supporters, including his mom and dad, Beckner thanked his partner Gil Sanes.

Although Beckner is the only new face on the County Commission, GOP board members Ken Hagen and Al Higgenbotham were re-elected earlier this month. They both acknowledged the challenges the new board will face with a withering economy.

Al Higgenbotham said that along the campaign trail he got the message on what the voters want out of their elected representatives, to cut spending.

The Commissioners later voted for their new representatives. Ken Hagen was unanimously voted new chairman. Mark Sharpe was voted vice chair. Al HIggenbotham was voted chaplin.

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