Elections 2016: Hillsborough County Commission District 1 Candidate Jeff Zampitella
Political newcomer Jeff Zampitella is running against incumbent Sandra Murman for Hillsborough County Commissioner, District 1. Murman, a former state legislator, has held the seat for six years.
The 47-year-old Democrat has been a resident of Hillsborough County since 2004. Zampitella lives in downtown Tampa with his wife, Kristina. He has four daughters and four grandchildren.
Age: 47 Education: Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, B.S., aeronautical science Occupation: Delta Airlines Pilot Political Experience: None
Zampitella has more than 32 years of aviation experience, according to his LinkedIn page. He is currently a commercial airline pilot, but he declined to name the airline he works for. The Tampa Bay Times reported that he works for Delta Air Lines. Although he has no prior political experience, Zampitella is the president of SkyPoint Condominiums board, president of the Downtown River Arts Neighborhood Association, chairman of the Downtown Tampa Parking Task Force and a member of the Tampa Downtown Partnership Transportation Committee.
He said he believes his international experience as a pilot allows him to bring innovative, fresh ideas to Tampa’s public transportation system.
“I bring a world view of transportation,” Zampitella said. “When traveling, I’m always thinking about ‘Will this work in Hillsborough County?’”
Zampitella is also a part of the Sunshine Citizens activist group. According to the twitter handle @sunshinecitizens, Sunshine Citizens is a Tampa Bay area advocacy group representing citizens who are fighting for “smarter growth and transit solutions.” The group’s primary concern is stopping TBX. TBX, also called the Tampa Bay Express Project, is a plan to expand the interstate highways (I-75, I-275, and I-4) and add express toll lanes, according to the Tampa Bay Express website. Zampitella, along with the Sunshine Citizens, opposes the plan and is proposing a Port of Tampa rail project instead.
When asked why rail over TBX, Zampitella said, “CSX is a more viable option since it would cost about $12 million a mile and TBX would could about $120 million a mile.”
He also said he believes public transit such as rail would bring quality jobs to Tampa.
Zampitella said there needs to be more responsible development in Hillsborough, SaintPetersBlog reported. “Building Wawa’s are great, I love Wawa’s, but we need companies that are going to bring quality jobs, like Sykes.”
Zampitella said the Drivers Union 593 and the Democratic Caucus of Florida have endorsed him, adding that developers are supporting Murman.
“I don’t have the developers that are trying to put me in their back pocket,” he said. “If you look at my competitor, Sandy Murman, a lot development money. She is very pro-developer and I’m not anti-developer. But I am more for smart growth.”
Zampitella said he believes they are also different in their views of development.
“I believe we should not encourage sprawl. We should encourage urban infill. And we should give the tax break to developers that are willing to do that,” Zampitella said.
Zampitella had received $26,952 in campaign contributions as of Oct. 21, according to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.
The Tampa Bay Times recommended Sandy Murman, saying Zampitella lacks experience.
“Both candidates in this race are committed to public service and offer solid priorities,” Tampa Bay Times reported. “But incumbent Sandy Murman has a wider agenda and the experience to be more effective. She deserves another term.”
Zampitella seemed unmoved. He said his career as a pilot would enhance his position as commissioner and makes him a better candidate.
“It would be her third term. To me, it’s like the definition of insanity. You do the same thing over and over and expect different results,” Zampitella said. “I’m hoping to bring fresh new ideas, and a world view that I think my opponent lacks.”
Samantha Bryant 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.