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Former Hillsborough elections supervisor, state senator dies at 88

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  • | 2:30 p.m. January 31, 2024
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Former Pinellas County businessman and Florida state senator Jim Sebesta died on Monday. He was 88.

Former State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, speaking to the Business Observer, paid tribute to his late friend by noting he was an outstanding father who had six children who all grew up great.

Jim Sebesta, former state senator from St. Pete.
Courtesy image

"He was an example for his family and all the people who knew him," says Latvala.

Sebesta was born in born in Illinois. He attended Loyola University Chicago and got a bachelor's degree in business. He then earned an MBA from DePaul University of Chicago.

For a time, Latvala says, Sebesta worked in broadcasting because he had a great voice. That voice got him some work narrating books for audio files, Latvala says.

Latvala got to know Sebesta first in 1974, when he served as Sebesta's campaign manager for Florida secretary of state. But that was the year of Watergate, and the Republicans fared poorly. Sebesta, a Republican, lost that race.

Sebesta, previously a Tampa resident, had previously been appointed Hillsborough County supervisor of elections in 1970 and stayed in that post until 1974.

After his election loss, Sebesta served as director of real estate and development director of real estate for the Diocese of St. Petersburg for 11 years.

But Sebesta was still deeply interested in policy and didn't quit politics. Now a St. Pete resident, he served in the state Senate representing Pinellas County from 1998 to 2006.

After leaving the Florida Senate, he founded his consulting agency, Sebesta Consulting Services. According to his LinkedIn page, Sebesta's firm helped "companies, nonprofits and individuals achieve their goals in government and private industry."

In 2013, then-Gov. Rick Scott appointed Sebesta to the Florida Transportation Commission, where he served two four-year terms. In February 2016, he was selected by Floridians for Better Transportation to spend five days in Panama studying the Panama Canal and its expansion, to assess how that the wider canal would affect Florida's 14 ports.

This story has been updated to correct the county where Sebesta served as elections supervisor, Hillsborough County.


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