Beckner to run for Hillsborough Clerk

click to enlarge County Commissioner Kevin Beckner. - Heidi Kurpiela
Heidi Kurpiela
County Commissioner Kevin Beckner.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner has been a champion of progressive causes on the Board of County Commissioners since he was elected in 2008. He was the sole Democrat on the board at a time when Tea Party rhetoric seemed to dominate the conversations that occurred on the dais, especially when it came to things like transportation and the environment.

But his service in that capacity comes to an end in 2016, when he'll leave his seat due to term limits.

Beckner, considered a trailblazer for becoming the first openly gay elected official in the county (and pushing policies like a domestic partner registry and expanding Hillsborough's human rights ordinance) now has his eye on the Hillsborough Clerk of the Court's office. It's a similarly partisan position currently occupied by Pat Frank, also a Democrat.

He said he brings the right skill set to the table, namely 16 years' experience as a certified financial planner, eight years handling the finer details of the county's budget as well as his service on the county's Juvenile Justice Board.

Among things he'd like to tackle once there is an overhaul of the court system's electronic records management.

“We need an integrated system of justice," he said. “Right now all the stakeholders in the community have different systems but the systems don't talk to one another.”

He's likely to have a little competition, as Frank, the incumbent, has said she's not planning on going anywhere. Beckner said that wasn't the case when he first contemplated running months ago.

“She actually approached me several months ago to let me know she was retiring and wanted to see if I'd be interested in running for her seat,” Beckner said. “It wasn't actually until late January or early February that she might have had a change of plan.”

He said if she decides to run to keep her office and he faces her in a primary, he'll keep his focus on his qualifications, and that Frank is a friend of his. Whether such a primary race will be potentially divisive for Hillsborough's Democrats is anybody's guess, Beckner said.

“We'll see how that plays out,” he said. “My focus is what I can do and bring to the office, so the politcs will have to play out.”

Frank, 85, won her seat in 2004 and was once on the commission. She didn't seem too upset at the thought of a challenger.

"I don't tell people not to run against me," Frank told the Tampa Bay Times. "This is a democracy. Everybody's got the right to do what they want to do. I'm proud of my record. The public is our ultimate employer. They will make the decision."

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