Hillsborough Commissioners appoint tea party activist to HART board

Before a GOP Senate debate held by the Pinellas 9.12 group in July in Pinellas Park, Jaroch and fellow 9.12 member Sharon Calvert, was hailed by the emcee at that event as "the two ladies who helped bring down high speed rail in the nation," an exaggeration for sure, but nevertheless an acknowledgment among a fellow Tea Party member of the organized opposition those two women in Tampa led against light rail in Hillsborough last year, and their opposition to high speed rail.

Earlier this winter Governor Rick Scott appeased Tea Party members and others critical of high speed rail by rejecting the $2.4 billion of federal money offered by President Obama to begin construction of a line between Tampa and Orlando.

Although Jaroch has become a big political player in the past year, not much is known about her prior to her involvement with the Tea Party.

She arrived in Tampa in 1980 while still in high school, as her father was stationed at MacDill Air Force Base. She attended USF and received her degree in Engineering. She then moved to Dallas and worked for Texas Instruments, before departing with her husband to Orlando, as he pursued a Masters Degree, and she began working at Litton Laser Systems.

Jaroch and her husband then moved back to Tampa in 2002, where she continued her work before devoting herself full time to raising her children.

She says she became political active in early 2009, just as the Tea Party began to evolve nationally. She says she's a registered Republican, but insists she's not a strong partisan.

"I saw the writing on the wall with all the spending coming out of Washington for at least the last seven to eight years," she said, explaining her maturation into an advocate of what she says has been excessive government largesse.

Jaroch does support Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), and said she was upset while attending a HART meeting last fall when former CEO David Armijo said there was a plan for Metro Rapid service that he had been sitting on for six months, because he wanted to wait and see the outcome of the vote on light rail in November.

She said when she learned about the $40 million project initially approved by a Hillsborough County Transportation Task Force, she became a supporter, and still is. But she opposes the Alternative Analysis version of Bus Rapid Transit that she says will cost $725 million and would serve only half of the transportation corridor (from downtown to USF, or downtown to Tampa International). She says that proves her point that when the federal government gets involved, "it over inflates everything."

Karen Jaroch, a woman once described by a fellow tea party activist recently as one of the two women who killed high speed rail in Florida, was named on Wednesday to the board of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART).

In addition to her opposition to high speed rail, Jaroch was a leading activist arguing against the light rail transit tax that HART advocated last year, a tax that went down to resounding defeat by Hillsborough County voters.

Over the last year Jaroch has been nearly a regular presence at HART meetings, often speaking during the public hearing portion of those events. When contacted by CL Wednesday afternoon, Jaroch said she was thrilled to learn of her selection, where the Board of County Commissioners approved her nomination by a 6-1 vote(only Kevin Beckner dissented).

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