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No. 9 on the list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians: Les Miller

Miller climbed from the bottom spot into the top ten after a banner year.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller climbed the ladder on this year’s list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians more than any other local elected officials to make the cut. Miller climbed an impressive 16 places from his ranking last year when he tied state Rep. Ben Diamond for the bottom spot.

That jump came after a banner year for the longtime local official.

“Commissioner Miller is a wise and steady force on the Hillsborough County Commission. His institutional knowledge and experience at both the state and county levels brings unparalleled credibility to the Board,” said Southern Strategy Group lobbyist Laura Boehmer.

Miller has served on the Board of County Commissioners since 2010. Before that he served six years in the Florida Senate and eight in the Florida House, making him one of the region’s most experienced politicians.

Now Miller has his sights on a new experience. He’s running for Hillsborough County Clerk of Court to replace Pat Frank, who is retiring. Frank has already offered her endorsement as well as Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.

Miller wears another important hat.

“Les Miller has quietly emerged as one of the key transportation leaders in the Tampa Bay area,” said Tom Scherberger, Frank’s communication’s director. “As chairman of the Hillsborough County Commission, HART and, the MPO, and as a member of the Hillsborough Aviation Authority, he has the ability to shape transportation for years to come. He has also been a staunch and outspoken advocate to protect the All For Transportation tax that will be pivotal to Hillsborough’s future.”

Miller’s leadership on the Hillsborough County Commission as it relates to All For Transportation is paramount. In the coming weeks, Miller will lead the charge to determine how the board implements spending allocations and priorities for the new transportation tax.

Those allocations had been determined in the new charter, but a court struck down specific allocations for how the money was spent and instead tasked the Commission with making those determinations.

Miller and his board will have to decide whether to solidify the stricken language into an ordinance, preserving the will of the voters, or to make any changes to the original language. Already dozens of residents who voted for the tax have communicated with commissioners to enshrine the tax’s original allocations into ordinance.

As chair of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, Miller also has a leading role in determining spending plans for transit improvements. Miller also sided with transit activists this month when he voted against including highway expansion plans for Interstate 275 north of downtown Tampa and the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s transportation plan.

Other local political insiders see Miller’s local political power as historically underrepresented.

“When some stand on the sidelines of risky policy conversations, like the All for Transportation referendum or the removal of a Confederate statue in downtown Tampa, he never hesitates to step in. His diplomatic style and ability to work across the aisle has served his constituents well and propelled him to among the most powerful voices in Tampa Bay,” said All For Transportation co-chair Christina Barker, who serves as vice president of Community Partnerships and Policy at Vinik Family Office.

Joe Henderson’s take: Former state lawmaker, Tampa City Council member and the current Chairman of the Hillsborough County Commission, Miller now sets his eyes on becoming the county’s next Clerk of the Court. He already has been endorsed by the outgoing Clerk, the venerable Frank, along with Sheriff Chad Chronister.

Follow the entire list here, on Facebook, and on Twitter with #Top25InTB.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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