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Tears of Joy

   If you have ever been inside the County Center – that big pink building on the corner of Kennedy and Pierce – you might have noticed a tall, exuberant woman with striking hair she describes as “awesome blonde.”  That woman, Bridget Givens, works as the head custodian of the County Center.  She has worked for Hillsborough County for more than 17 years, and it is our good fortune in the Clerk’s Office to have Bridget assigned to our floor.

   Bridget and I have known one another for many years, and we have a special bond.  It is not easy to do her work, but you would never know that from her.  She always has a smile and a cheerful greeting for all of us.

   Last Thursday, Bridget had several “Happy Birthday” balloons on her portable work station.  No, she said, her birthday was not that day – it was Friday.  But her daughter was getting married on Friday, and she was taking the day off.  In fact, Bridget said that they were going to our Official Records Department at 419 Pierce Street, for the ceremony.  When I found out about that, I offered to perform the ceremony in my office.  As we were finalizing the arrangements, Bridget started to cry.

   With the help of my staff, we had a festive table, with a birthday cake for Bridget, a rose for her and one for the bride, her daughter, Machelle’.

Mullins Wedding Party

    On Friday morning, Bridget arrived, with the couple and some close family members.  It was my pleasure to perform the ceremony marrying Machelle’ and her new husband, Taijuan Mullins.   As for Bridget, there were a few more tears – truly tears of joy.

Taijuan and Machelle Mullins
If you asked me what the perks were of this position, I would have to count a day like last Friday.  We don’t always have happy customers, especially when they are paying traffic tickets, but when you perform a wedding ceremony for two young people in love, with one the daughter of a beloved county employee, what could be better? 



The Hub and the Spokes

   When people think of the Clerk’s Office, they usually think of it in terms of a specific need – either Court-related or connected to Official Records.  What they don’t see is the big picture – what we do every day in terms of services that have a direct impact on you and your life.

    As Clerk, when I look at all we do, I see this office as the hub of the wheel– clearly at the center – of essential services, as well as the spokes, too, in many instances.  For example, in our Court-related duties, we handle matters ranging from filing new cases – civil and criminal – to a multitude of traffic issues.  We are in charge of Jury Services, and in the past fiscal year, we summoned 107,496 jurors to Court.
   We collected a total of $373,252,124 in fines, fees and service charges for Courts and Official Records– but unfortunately, we can only claim less than ten per cent of that to run our office.
   Now that documents can be filed online, the Clerk’s Office processed 1,567,986 documents this past fiscal year.

    If you need to process your passport application, we handle that, too, and we processed 9,795 applications this past fiscal year.  We issued 10,828 marriage licenses, and processed 508,429 official documents in total.

   I am also the Comptroller for Hillsborough County, and in that capacity, I am responsible for managing and investing in Hillsborough County’s portfolio of $1,634,192,744.  The Clerk’s Office audited or paid bills for Hillsborough County totaling 165,524 invoices amounting to $1,662,573,160.

     The Clerk’s Office is responsive to people who have questions and call us, which amounted to 503,923 calls for the last fiscal year, breaking down to 458,535 for the Courts and 45,388 for Official Records.  We serve walk-in customers, and last year, handled 293,661 in Courts and 45,355 in Official Records.

    You may not know that the Clerk’s Office is also in charge of the Value Adjustment Board, where you, as a property owner, can appeal if you feel that your property is not valued properly.  In the past fiscal year, the Value Adjustment Board, known as VAB, processed 2,284 petitions from homeowners.

    We want the wheels to keep on turning in the Clerk’s Office, but we cannot do that without sufficient funding.  All we are asking here and in Clerks' Offices throughout Florida is to keep more of the fines and fees we collect, instead of sending them to Tallahassee to be spent elsewhere.

    Please make your voices heard before January 12, when the Legislative Session begins in Tallahassee.  Call or email State Rep. Dan Raulerson, the current head of the Hillsborough Delegation, at (813) 757-9110 or, or State Sen. Tom Lee, Chairman of the State Senate Appropriations Committee, at (813) 653-7061 or

    I want to thank you for your support and only hope that our voices will be heard.

Happy 150th Anniversary to Beulah Baptist!

 This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the 150th Anniversary Banquet for Beulah Baptist Institutional Church.

Photo of 150th Anniversary Banquet for Beulah Baptist Institutional Church

  At the 150th Celebration - The Clerk with City Councilmen Harry Cohen and Charlie Miranda; Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Thomas Forward and his wife, Cynthia; and Rev. Thomas Scott.

 This is a church steeped in historical significance.  It was organized in 1865 shortly after President Abraham Lincoln delivered his Emancipation Proclamation.

   Before Beulah Baptist opened its doors, parishioners attended the First Baptist Church on Kennedy Boulevard, near the University of Tampa.  Beulah Baptist offered an alternative.  When it was founded, its primary purpose was to teach free men and women how to read and write.   Through the years, it has remained true to its goals to invest in children and the community, as well as reach out to people in need.

    When I attend special occasions of this nature, it makes me all the more aware of the treasures we have in Hillsborough County.  Good people like Rev. Dr. W. James Favorite, the Pastor of Beulah Baptist, truly do lead the way.

Photo of Pat Frank and Rev. W. James Favorite

    Congratulations to Rev. Favorite and the members of Beulah Baptist for their long and caring service to our community.    

A Visit to Bealsville

This week marks a very important birthday for a very special community.   The community of Bealsville will celebrate its 150th anniversary this coming weekend, and the festivities are open to everyone.  There will be planned activities from Thursday through Sunday, culminating with a community outdoor faith service Sunday at 10:30 am at the Bealsville Recreation Center.

   Bealsville was founded by a group of slaves in 1865, following the Civil War.  Against the odds, they established their farms in rural Hillsborough County, near Plant City.  They developed Bealsville as the kind of place you would want to live if you valued education, family and community.

Pat Frank at Mt. Olive AME Church
Pat Frank at Mt. Olive African Methodist Episcopal Church 

   They established Glover School, now on the National Register of Historic Places, and they developed their farms.  They valued education and prided themselves on many of their residents becoming community leaders of Hillsborough County.

   Unfortunately, even 150 years later, race still is an issue, but the good news is that there still is a Bealsville.

    If you have some time this weekend, pay Bealsville a visit. If you go there, talk to some of the citizens and let them tell you their personal stories.

    Festivities include tours of the historic school and cemeteries, entertainment and a Civil War encampment. For a complete schedule, call (813) 737-1352 or go to Bealsville 150 Year Celebration.

   Also, you may want to view an excellent documentary on Bealsville’s history produced by Hillsborough County Television.

Delano Stewart’s 50th Retirement Celebration Held at Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church June 7, 2015

Del Stewart has a lot of firsts behind his name.

Delano S. Stewart, Attorney at Law

He has distinguished himself as a lawyer in the state and in his community by being the first African American to be:

  • First assistant public defender
  • First member of the board of the Hillsborough County Bar Association
  • First member of the Rough Riders
  • Founder of the George Edgecomb Bar Association
  • Founder of the Tampa organization of Black Affairs
  • First member of the Hillsborough County Young Democrats
  • Recipient of numerous awards for his representation of the down trodden

I first was introduced to Delano through his father, Garland Stewart, the first African American Assistant Superintendent of Schools when we were integrating Hillsborough County schools and I was a school board member. Delano is all that his father was:  intelligent, dedicated, tireless and truthful.  These qualities have earned him the respect of all citizens, regardless of ethnicity or economic status.

Reverend Dr. David W. Green, Sr. Pastor

After 50 years, Delano is going to retire; however, he has promised to continue with his convictions to Delano S. Stewart Retirement Cakehelp those in need of justice, to mentor the young to be leaders, and to train others to carry on his goal of equality for all.

We salute you Del, and wish you good health and many years ahead to accomplish your missions.










A Day to Remember

Washington, DC National War Memorial  

   Memorial Day is special to me because it reminds me of my husband, Richard, who served during World War II as an infantryman in the artillery in Germany and saw active duty.   While it used to be observed on May 30, it is now observed officially on the last Monday in May, so we all National War Memorial Fountain, Washington, DCenjoyed a three-day holiday.  

  I was fortunate to visit the beautiful National World War II Memorial during a recent visit to Washington, D.C.  during the Memorial Day weekend.  The Memorial sits on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  It honors all 16 million people who served as part of the American armed forces, including more than 400,000 who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.National War Memorial, Washington, DC


   I know that many of you have private memories just as I do, ones we hold close to us.  My husband was at Dachau, one of the notorious German concentration camps, when it was liberated.  I remember him saying how he would never forget what he saw.

   And I think that’s the important lesson of Memorial Day.  We must never forget how fragile freedom really is – and remember to cherish the freedom we enjoy in this country.   It is not to be taken for granted.


Legal Assistance for You

  I attended a meeting, of the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice on Friday, May 15.   One major concern of this Commission is that so many Floridians cannot afford legal representation.  The statistics are truly frightening.   According to the Commission, “a large number of moderate income people are effectively excluded economically from access to justice because they cannot afford to hire a lawyer and they do not qualify for legal aid.”

     Yet many people find themselves facing situations which require legal assistance.  According to a recent survey, 74 percent of Americans dealt with one or more legal life events in the past 12 months.
     As the Clerk of the Circuit Court, my office is limited in what we can do legally to assist customers.  We cannot give any legal advice and are explicitly barred by the Florida Supreme Court from doing so.

     But we have taken some important steps to make it easier for you to navigate the Courts.   One major step is the consolidation of our Civil Court Customer Service into one central location – Room 101 of the Edgecomb Courthouse, located behind the main entry point.  Where you previously had to visit three separate locations for your Civil Court business, you can now go to this one area for Circuit, County Civil and Family Law requests, including access to Court records.  You may also pay for copies of pleadings in Room 101.