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00000174-121d-d47e-a1f7-523d2c950000 WUSF News regularly collaborates with University of South Florida journalism classes in Tampa and St. Petersburg, providing students an opportunity to share their work with the greater Tampa Bay area.Some of the projects have included:“Past Plates” - a podcast and written stories produced in Spring 2017 that look into people’s memories and traditions related to food, food culture and food business in south St. Petersburg. In fall 2016, students profiled candidates running for Tampa Bay area elected offices. They were produced as part of the USF Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications' Advanced Reporting or Public Affairs classes; and as part of the Media and Elections class at USF St. Petersburg’s Journalism and Mass Communications Department.In 2015, WUSF journalists joined the USFSP Neighborhood News Bureau in creating oral histories of residents of St. Petersburg's historic Midtown neighborhood. That work was featured on WUSF's Florida Matters public affairs show.

Elections 2016: Hillsborough Clerk of Court Candidate Eric Seidel

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Eric Seidel

Eric Seidel is challenging incumbent Pat Frank for Hillsborough County’s Clerk of the Circuit Court.

The Republican said he is looking to improve and expand on the strides in customer service that Frank has made over the past 12 years. 

Age: 54 Education: Nova Southeastern Occupation: Attorney - McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito P.A. Political Experience: None

Seidel graduated from Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center in 1991 and has been a lawyer in good standing with The Florida Bar since. His name and face may be recognizable to many in the Tampa Bay area, having worked as the “Consumer Lawyer” for FOX 13 for nearly 20 years, working with residents to get consumer disputes resolved. 

Seidel, who has more than two decades of experience in customer service, said making the clerk’s office more accessible for everyone is a priority. Seidel said the best way to reach residents is to make as much information available on the office’s website as possible, place all forms online and educate the public on how to request and fill out paperwork.

“A lot of folks who are in distress don’t have time to try to find it,” Seidel said. “They may, even under stressful situations, have a minute to watch a video showing them how to do it. To summarize, I want to bring my customer service ideas and consumer outreach to the clerk’s office.”

Seidel also said he wants to make the office comfortable and accessible, having greeters direct people.

“One of the things that is reported by many is that they feel that they are not getting the attention they deserve,” Seidel said. “If you go to one of the contact points of the clerk’s office, you’ll find there are long lines, where you wait to be called and find out that you were in the wrong line. I think that it’s very important that we have a greeter or multiple greeters there, welcoming you like wireless phone stores and telling you where you need to go.”

Seidel said he also wants to streamline the office’s processes through mobile phone apps and the Internet.

“One of the most important things is putting more information on the website so that people can do more at home,” Seidel said. “Let’s face it, we’re a very computer literate society. Most of our transactions in fact are done not only on laptops and tablets, but on your smartphone. There is no app from the clerk’s office where you can pay your parking tickets. That is something that could be easily done if the behind-the-scenes computer were hooked up to the website.”

Seidel said he wants to be able to bring about change in the clerk’s office.

“It is a full-time job being the Clerk of the Court,” Seidel said. “You are considered to be in an executive position, administrating over 700 employees at the clerk’s office. That’s a pretty big position and it shouldn’t be treated lightly…transparency is what I want to bring the office. I want to make sure that everything is out in the open for our taxpayers.”

Seidel had received $109,013 in monetary contribution as of Oct. 21, according to the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections.

Robert Bridenstine is a student journalist attending the University of South Florida Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications. This story was produced as part of the school’s Advanced Reporting or Public Affairs class this semester, under the leadership of instructors Wayne Garcia and Wendy Whitt.