A Hillsborough County native and lifelong resident, County Commissioner Ken Hagan was first elected to the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners in November 2002. He was re-elected in 2004 and again in 2008 to serve District 2. In 2010 and 2014, he was elected to represent county-wide District 5, and returned to District 2 by popular demand in 2018 and 2020. In fiscal years 2003, 2004, and 2010, he held the position of Chaplain. In fiscal years 2005, 2006, and 2007, he was Vice Chairman. He was chosen by his peers in fiscal years 2008, 2009, and 2010 to serve as Chairman.
Additionally, Commissioner Ken Hagan serves on the Florida Association of Counties Board of Directors, Hospital Authority, Tampa Bay and Company, Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, and Tampa Sports Authority. Commissioner Hagan has also chaired the County’s Transportation Task Force.
Commissioner Ken Hagan has helped set strategic policy around the use of federal and state workforce funds to retain and expand small and mid-size businesses, ensuring that aid and attention are given to the important industries in Hillsborough County. since 2010. He has focused on helping Hillsborough County in the ongoing recovery from the Great Recession and is now fostering economic recovery while the county navigates the difficulties of COVID by recruiting and diversifying to higher paying jobs in energy, technology, e-commerce, manufacturing, and arts and culture.
During these unprecedented times of health and civil unrest, Commissioner Hagan strives to provide public and private leadership that works in a respectful and bi-partisan fashion to get things accomplished. Commissioner Hagan believes that the extreme “cancel culture” and “no compromise” perspectives advanced by many in the current political arena undermine the community’s stability, safety, and prosperity.
Commissioner Hagan has a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Tampa. He and his wife, Susan, have a son, Jake, and daughter, Elizabeth, and beloved two rescue dogs, Gator and Gryffin.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I saw that my community needed strong leadership from my involvement in local affairs as a resident and voter. I knew that we needed a focus on development of local economy to keep our business community thriving and that the role of the county commissioner was an integral one. Frankly, I’ve never been the type to sit on the sidelines when it was in my ability to contribute meaningfully. Of course, before I entered the political area, the first thing I did, of course, was to make sure that Susan was on the same page. Once we decided together, I was 100% in.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
As an elected official I’m on duty and on call 24 hours a day.
The most important thing I do as a commissioner is to stay in touch with my constituents. On a daily basis, my staff and I are speaking with citizens about how we can help them. It could be a particular vote on a particular issue, a complaint about taxes, a problem with a sidewalk or a street light, are just a few things that commissioners address daily. To be effective at my job, I need to make good decisions based on good information. I spend time reviewing data and statistics or reading reports from my staff. Meetings are a major part of my job. Commission meetings, special sessions, and public hearings are all crucial to do my job right. I spend many days attending community functions as well—neighborhood meetings, business openings, school activities, and club meetings. Also, having meetings with my constituents so that they are well-informed.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a lifelong problem solver and very effective at reaching across the aisle to get things done. I am confident in my ability to assess situations and implement solutions; this is what people expect from their leaders.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The recent growth of small businesses and entrepreneurship across all sectors: tech, retail, hospitality, and tourism. This is just as important as new industries coming into the region like energy, manufacturing, and healthcare etc. We need good jobs that can provide a good wages and benefits for our families.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I keep a tight schedule and ensure that work gets done. I don’t let the little things slip through the cracks and miss deadlines. This is important as we need to be accountable for our time and efforts if we want to be effective public servants and provide value for our constituents.
I also stay on top of data, business trends and public policy matters. I’m always trying to learn more, particularly about Hillsborough County can continue to lead the Tampa Bay region. As one of America’s most diverse economic regions, we need to continue to attrack opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators. My current focus is on economic diversification and job creation from good, stable industries.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’d tell my younger self to not be so hard on myself and to focus on the positive things in life. I am often too focused on trying to be perfect and that prevented me from enjoying many of life’s great pleasures and successes.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
We should be thinking about how to implement a low-risk, high-reward transportation system for our community. That means more sidewalks and bike trails in some areas and less traffic on the roads. It’s both a key economic issue and quality of life issue and improving it will make a huge difference for us going forward.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
As successful public official: sometimes in politics, it can be easy to create an echo chamber. I find it important to ask for advice from people outside my circle, and ensure we look for new and fresh perspectives. Obviously, I bring a core set of beliefs, but I find alternate viewpoints help to build consensus and understanding around big decisions.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
As someone whose job it is to advocate for the citizenry, I make sure I am putting myself in front of as many people as possible. This means attending community events, meeting with my constituents, networking with business owners and reaching out to local organizations like chambers of commerce and civic groups. I always remember that what I do is just one part of the bigger picture, and it is important to stay close to folks in their world. My job is to help generate revenue for the city, county, and state. Local governments are mostly funded by sales tax so I’ve always made sure that our local businesses have products that will sell in an ever-changing market.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There have definitely been some disappointing votes, but I have never lost one that I didn’t feel like I left it all of the field. The times that I have had setbacks as a public official have often presented me with new opportunities. When working to represent the community and having to collaborate with others, you’re going to have to compromise. Sometimes those compromises aren’t to your best advantage but are necessary to set the stage for something in the future. Also, you learn a lot from the challenges you face, and they help increase your knowledge on how to do things better.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Show up to your community Chambers and business organizations but also don’t forget to build one -on- one relationships too. Also, don’t forget paid networking / communities for professionals to share stories and industry – even political — advice. Something like a social media platform but specific to an industry so that the community members can see instant value.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I took my wife out for a date night. Keeping a happy family life makes everything else better.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I’m an Apple guy so I rely on their products like the iPhone and iPad for most things. When I travel, even though I now carry two devices (one for work and one for personal use), if I had my choice only one would exist as it’d be nice not having to deal with working across different operating systems.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’m a big fan of biographies and autobiographies. I like to pick up books about people who had an impact on their community or the world in some way, shape or form. Everyone should read Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson if they haven’t already as it’s an interesting look into how our economy was not only transformed by his vision of what computers could be but also influenced how we interact with one another every day.
What is your favorite quote?
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” – Henry David Thoreau
- Political success starts locally.
- Seek advice from outside your immediate circle.
- Use challenges as opportunities to learn and succeed in the future.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.