Tampa Bay Times endorses Mariella Smith for Hillsborough County Commission

You can find all the Times recommendations for this election on their site. Here is the full text of the Times endorsement for Mariella Smith:

Mariella Smith is one of those smart, forward-looking leaders that local governments need more of, and she deserves another term.

Smith, a 68-year-old Democrat, ran her own graphic design business for 30 years before first winning election to the commission in 2018. A longtime critic of the county’s uncontrolled sprawl, she has worked to better manage growth and to force developers to pay more of their fair share for the impacts of development.

Smith has been instrumental in turning around decades of bad planning, which has been bad for residents, businesses and taxpayers alike. She supports a balanced approach toward improving transportation, better aligning infrastructure with development and stronger protections for wildlife habitat and natural resources. She also wants to make Hillsborough more resilient to extreme weather and rising seas, by raising bridges and roads, hardening public facilities, maintaining mangroves and wetlands and directing new residential development away from flood-prone areas.

Republican challenger Donna Cameron Cepeda, 59, is an Army veteran and minister who is running a low-profile campaign. Her website takes aim at lockdowns, vaccine mandates, critical race theory, abortion and “the transgenderism agenda.” None of this has anything to do with the pressing issues the county faces, and voters should not consider her a serious choice.

Smith has worked hard and fast in her first term to make a positive difference. She also has made county government more transparent to her constituents. As a former activist, she understands the value of returning calls and keeping citizens in the loop. Smith has spearheaded changes to give residents more input into development decisions that affect their neighborhoods. Her rounded vision and sense of fair play are essential for a countywide commissioner.

For Hillsborough County Commission District 5, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Mariella Smith.