Make us your home page

Ernest Hooper, Times Columnist/East Hillsborough Bureau Chief

Ernest Hooper

Ernest Hooper is the East Hillsborough Bureau chief and columnist at the Tampa Bay Times. Hooper joined the Times in 1992 and has worked as a prep sports writer and editor, TV/radio sports columnist, NFL writer, news columnist and unofficial ambassador, representing the Times as an emcee, judge or keynote speaker at hundreds of nonprofit events and civic functions. Hooper added the role of East Hillsborough Bureau chief in 2012. He oversees news content for the Times' regional edition east of Tampa, the SouthShore & Brandon Times, and writes two columns a week. His commentaries about family, community issues and political perspectives have helped Hooper connect with readers over the years, but he's probably best known for his signature tagline: That's all I'm saying.

Phone: (813) 661-2440


  1. 'Color St. Pete' message makes future a bit brighter

    Human Interest

    Arts Conservatory for Teens continues to create an impact in St. Petersburg through its efforts to infuse education and enrichment through music and art.

    On Saturday, it completed a public art installation at the Enoch Davis Center aimed at promoting unity. Kids from the nonprofit program joined residents to paint 8-foot letters that spelled out "Color St. Pete."

    Some may greet this message in these divisive times with cynicism, but we owe it to the next generation to kindle hope. The future's little lights need to shine brightly, now more than ever. . . ....

    Arts Conservatory for Teens CEO Alex Harris says, "Color St. Pete acknowledges everyone's voice and energy with the hope to glean an understanding of how to continue to make major strides in moving our beautiful community (every neighborhood in greater St Pete) forward -- overcoming systemic racism, sexism, and separatism." Photo courtesy of Betsy Englander.
  2. Ernest Hooper: Marriage proposal makes powerful statement for cherishing cultural traditions

    Human Interest

    In nearly 30 years of frequenting area watering holes, I thought I had seen it all — until Friday night.

    I met a friend on the patio at Miguelito's on Kennedy Boulevard. Shortly afterward, about a dozen Hispanic women in a celebratory mood sat at a table behind us.

    Moments later, a mariachi band (Mariachi Tampa) strolled in. "Cool. Entertainment," I thought.

    But at the back of the line was a young man, not in the band but dressed in a black Mariachi charro, and as he approached the table, everyone stepped back — except for one woman....

  3. Sunday Conversation: CEO Judy Lisi celebrates 25 years at the Straz Performing Arts Center

    Human Interest

    Even after 25 years at the helm, the drive and vision remains that first spurred Judy Lisi to take on the challenge of serving as the CEO of the David A. Straz Center for the Performing Arts Center (then the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center). At a youthful-looking 70, Lisi forges ahead with new ideas to handle the center's parking challenges and a master plan to re-imagine the center's lobbies and make it a place for community....

    Judy Lisi is celebrating her 25th year as the head of the David A. Straz Performing Arts Center.
  4. Ernest Hooper: Cue the tears and the cheers at this nonprofit's anniversary


    Some tears were shed in Brandon on Thursday night.

    Tears of joy.

    Tears of faith.

    Tears of recognition.

    Tears for a bigger future that will be brighter than its successful present.

    ECHO of Brandon, the community's flagship nonprofit and an organization every Hillsborough County resident needs to know more about, celebrated its 30th anniversary in front of its strip-mall headquarters on Parsons Avenue. ...

    Bank of America’s Bill Goede hands $200,000 to ECHO’s Eleanor Saunders and Sharmaine Burr to help the nonprofit expand.
  5. Ernest Hooper: 'Coffee with a Cop' holds different lens to law enforcement


    On Wednesday morning, the safest McDonald's in all of Hillsborough County sat on the corner of W Kennedy Boulevard and Dakota Avenue.

    Guests entering the restaurant were greeted by no less than a dozen deputies and other officials from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. McDonald's of Tampa Bay arranged the "Coffee with a Cop" sessions at seven different area locations.

    They handed out coffee, worked the drive-through and a few even went in the kitchen and attempted to make an Egg McMuffin sandwich....

    Deputies with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office reached out to members of the public Wednesday through its "Coffee with a Cop" program at McDonald's restaurants, including this one at 1520 W Kennedy Blvd. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  6. Ernest Hooper: Air Force Academy superintendent delivers right message on dignity and respect

    Human Interest

    Kudos to Brandon's Ariana Mosley, whose commitment to this nation as an Air Force Academy cadet remains fervent despite the racial hostility gripping the academy.

    Last week, the phrase "Go Home" followed by the n-word was scrawled on message boards outside the room of five African-American students at the academy's prep school. Clearly, it struck an ugly chord with Mosley, an African-American who graduated from Tampa Prep....

  7. Ernest Hooper: Bay Area Legal Services, longtime friend to needy, needs our help


    The dual challenges feed off each other.

    Veterans enduring a medical ordeal may lose sleep because they lack the legal means to acquire needed benefits to cover the costs. But losing sleep can worsen their condition.

    It's not difficult to envision vets tossing and turning in the wee hours of the morning, wondering who will fight for them after they've fought for our country.

    Recognizing the stress-induced issues that can arise at the intersection of healthcare and law, Bay Area Legal Services has enteredinto a medical-legal partnership at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in St. Petersburg. It's one of only 13 such partnerships in the nation, and while a number of agencies service veterans, sometimes it helps to have a good lawyer helping navigate the system....

  8. Mr. President: we need common ground, not scorched earth

    Human Interest

    President Donald Trump's comments regarding the protests by NFL players sparked more players, including Bucs, to kneel during Sunday's pregame ceremonies.

    Let's look beyond where you might stand on the controversy and ask: How could anyone who wants players to stand in reverent silence during the national anthem believe that goal could be achieved by publicly referring to their mothers as dogs? How can you earn respect from the league by showing none?...

    President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, in Huntsville, Ala., on Sept. 22, 2017. [Associated Press]
  9. Hooper: Hillsborough marks 100th anniversary of historic photo collection


    Everyone ends up with a favorite.

    Or two or three or 10.

    Rest assured, no one who adores Tampa Bay, appreciates art or cherishes history can explore the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection without storing at least one snapshot in the mental scrapbook.

    The Friends of the Hillsborough County Library maintain an archive of nearly 15,000 Burgert Brothers photos that capture all manner of images, from bustling downtown street corners to festive Gasparilla celebrations to thriving businesses — some dating back to the late 19th century....

    Part of the Burgert Brothers collection now featured through the Hillsborough Public Library shows a beer garden on Central Avenue in Tampa from July 1942. [Burgert Brothers collection]
  10. Ernest Hooper: We can all help lend stability to Lee Elementary

    Human Interest

    It's difficult to look beyond the scope and size of the Hillsborough County School District, the county's largest employer with a budget in excess of $1.8 billion.

    The sense of community created by individual schools, however, is far more akin to a small town. Parents and students bond through assemblies and fundraisers and even car lines.

    At Lee Elementary, this unity seems more profound, and it needs to be maintained....

  11. Ernest Hooper: Amateur chef pitches Tampa like a pro on Gordon Ramsay show


    Even in the final seconds of his 18-episode run on MasterChef, Jeff Philbin represented Tampa — albeit with the help of one of his fiercest competitors.

    "It looks like he's finally headed back to Tampa, where he belongs," Cate Meade boasted about Philbin.

    Meade, from Chicago was right. Philbin struggled to turn his salmon into a delectable dish for celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, in part because Meade placed him in the difficult position of having only 20 minutes to prepare his entree (other contestants had incrementally more time)....

    Tampa's Jeff Philbin was eliminated from the MasterChef competition during the Sept. 13 broadcast of the Fox reality series, but not before leaving  an impression as a contestant. [Courtesy of Jeff Philbin]
  12. Does Publix throw away returned food and water? Maybe donate unused hurricane supplies instead


    Now that the storm has passed, people may be inclined to return their food supplies back to the store.

    However, it's important to keep in mind that Publix and other grocers will throw away perishable items. Perhaps a better alternative would be donating water and supplies to nonprofits.

    "Any perishable product returns to our stores must be discarded," said Publix media and community relations manager Brian West. "But customers may donate directly to their local food banks."...

    Shoppers stocking up for Hurricane Irma line up to pay for bottled water even before a Publix store on east Hillsborough Avenue opened for business 9/6/17. [SUE CARLTON   |   Times]
  13. Hooper: A few thoughts before Hurricane Irma arrives

    Human Interest

    One of my favorite lyrics from one of my favorite songs, Arrested Development's Tennessee, goes "(Lord) I know you're supposed to be my steering wheel. Not just my spare tire."

    But as Hurricane Irma loomed larger, I attended the 7 a.m. mass on Sunday at Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon, knowing that I might need four spare tires and a steering wheel in the coming days.

    LIVE BLOG: The latest on Hurricane Irma...

    A small but faithful gathering attended the 7 a.m. mass at Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon early Sunday morning as Hurricane Irma approached the region. [ERNEST HOOPER  |  Times]
  14. Hooper: Even without a radio, I tuned in to a good message

    Human Interest

    I couldn't find a battery-powered radio Friday, but I found something even greater.

    My wife shared that she already had checked on the normal locations, but I thought I could outsmart the entire hurricane-preparing population of greater Brandon and still find one.

    I tried Dick's Sporting Goods (jogging radio?), Toys "R" Us (25 years ago, they made battery-powered radios for kids) and Best Buy (sold out, of course)....

    Diane Williams has been spreading her message — “Jesus Cares” — on street corners for years. She was out there again Friday as Hurricane Irma began to make its westerly move.
  15. Ernest Hooper: Baker can no longer ignore Kriseman's "Trump strategy"

    Human Interest

    Maya Angelou once said, "'When people show you who they are, believe them."

    But when it comes to his feelings on President Donald Trump, St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker hasn't shown voters enough. He can continue to complain incumbent Rick Kriseman is wrong to nationalize their local race, but that just leaves more questions about where he stands on national issues.

    After last Tuesday's vote resulted in a near-even split between Kriseman and Baker, Baker would be wise to douse concerns raised by Kriseman's "Trump strategy."...