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Thursday, Jul 27, 2017
Editorials

Bob Henriquez for property appraiser

Two veteran lawmakers who care deeply about public service are running to become Hillsborough County Property Appraiser. Voters can count on both Republican Ronda Storms and Democrat Bob Henriquez to be honest, diligent and responsive. But in our view, Henriquez, a former West Tampa lawmaker and longtime popular football coach at Tampa Catholic High School, possesses the appropriate experience and personality for a job in which objectivity and restraint are needed. (Two candidates with no party affiliation, Rob Townsend and James DeMio, are sincere but haven't generated much enthusiasm.)
We endorsed state Sen. Storms, a former county commissioner, in her Republican primary against incumbent Rob Turner, who ran a steady operation during his 16 years in office. This was partly because Turner betrayed the public trust with a sex scandal involving an employee. But we also believe the smart, hard-working Storms, an attorney, could bring energy and integrity to the post. She has proved to be independent, fearless and outspoken in all her elected posts. It's her self-discipline that gives us pause. She tends to respond to opposition aggressively and relishes — sometimes excessively — being the defender of the "little guy." Her impulsive, often divisive approach to issues could cause problems in an office charged with placing the "fair and just" value on each individual property, not necessarily pleasing citizens. The equally diligent Henriquez is less flashy but more deliberative. He served his district well during his eight years as a state representative. Henriquez also has worked as a county planner and administrator for the Florida Department of Children and Families, where he oversaw 300 employees. Early reviews by his DCF supervisor advised him to spend more time with his staff, which Henriquez said he did. He says the experience made him a better administrator. Notably, all his reviews found his administrative performance satisfactory. He has detailed plans for improving the appraiser's office, starting with an audit of all operations. He vows to implement measurements for all office duties, citing Tax Collector Doug Belden's success at cutting costs and improving productivity with such benchmarks. Henriquez says serving citizens must be the focus, and the practice of assigning the least experienced workers to handle customer complaints will be changed. He questions the wisdom of having some employees work four 10-hour days and says the office's website is outdated. He plans to form a citizens' advisory group to provide the agency with a broader perspective. He promises "steady, responsible leadership" and to rebuild the morale of a staff rocked by the Turner debacle and badly in need of direction. "I can build a team and give a half-time speech," Henriquez jokes. Storms, we imagine, could give a pretty good half-time speech herself. But her fiery, take-no-prisoners political style is unlikely to be a good fit for this office. For Hillsborough County Property Appraiser, The Tampa Tribune endorses Bob Henriquez.
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