NEW PORT RICHEY — Calling him a “tireless worker,” Gov. Rick Scott officially introduced new Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano to a room full of friends, supporters and Pasco’s Republican elite in a Wednesday ceremony at city hall.
In some circles, Fasano was a surprising choice, given his tendency to buck the party leadership. Scott said it was Fasano’s fierce independence and tenacity to fight for “the little guy and gal” that made him the perfect choice to replace the late Mike Olson, Pasco’s long-time tax collector who died in late June after a stroke.
“I watched him work over the years and he is one of the hardest workers,” Scott said. “We talked the other day about constituent services and now he’s going to do customer service.”
Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican who served 20 years in the Florida Legislature, resigned his House seat Tuesday night. He blushed as members of the Pasco delegation, including Speaker Will Weatherford, sang his praises and comparing him, at times, to a godfather and a saint.
“I have never, ever, in my life met a public servant who fights harder for his constituents,” Weatherford said.
Fasano said he hopes to do “just half the good work” that Olson did over his 30-plus years in office.
“My mom always told me that you know you’ll be successful when people start writing checks out to you,” he said. “So mom is looking down on me and all of us today.”
Fasano said he would be bringing some of his longtime staffers, including his chief aide Greg Giordano, to the tax collector’s office.
“He has been with me since day one — twenty years ago,” Fasano said. “He is a loyal friend and a dedicated public servant.”
Fasano said Giordano’s transition will not be immediate. “We still need someone to stay in the district office and continue to provide constituent services,” he said.
Fasano also has offered a position to his district secretary, Mara Stierman. “There will be some other changes, as well,” he said.
Fasano, 55, served in the House from 1994 to 2002, in the Senate from 2002 to 2012 and then returned to the House last year. He was once the party’s majority leader and served as president pro-tem of the Senate, but more recently became known as a populist maverick who often clashed with party leaders — even members of his own delegation.
Still, they universally supported Fasano’s bid to be tax collector after Olson’s death.
“Some would say they’re very pleased, very very pleased , very very very pleased,” Fasano said. “They only wrote nice letters.”
Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said his office has been deluged with phone calls from people interested in running to replace Fasano in the House. District 36 comprises all of coastal Pasco, west of Little Road — and it’s the one legislative district in Pasco County with more registered Democrats than Republicans.
Corley has tentatively set a special election for Oct. 29, with a primary election set for Oct. 1. Qualifying would be Sept. 5-6. Candidates would need to gather signatures from 256 registered voters who live in the district. Candidates also may pay a $1,781 qualifying fee ($1,187 for no party affiliation.)
Bill Gunter, a Presbyterian minister who challenged County Commissioner Jack Mariano in 2012, announced he would seek the Republican nomination. Gunter doesn’t live in the district but said he would move into District 36 should he be elected.