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. 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....

  2. 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]
  3. 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]
  4. 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]
  5. 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.
  6. 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."...

  7. Sunday Conversation: Restaurateur Bob Basham


    It's difficult to envision a poncho-wearing Bob Basham, replete with a scruffy beard, cowboy hat and boots, hand-rolled cigarette dangling on his lip and a six shooter wrapped around his waist. It's also a bit of a stretch to see the restaurateur pulling a .44 magnum revolver out of a three-piece suit and posing a rhetorical question about life and luck to a would-be criminal.

    But Basham, an Outback Steakhouse founder, does draw a parallel with a famous actor-director when asked what keeps him going in the business after more than 40 years of work with some of the nation's most profitable restaurant groups....

    Bob Basham was one of the speakers at Metropolitan Ministries’ annual Bridge Builders Luncheon earlier this year. The co-founder of PDQ and Outback lends support to the nonprofit by helping its social enterprise efforts.
  8. Hooper: All that glitters really is gold for these queens

    Human Interest

    The moment of truth, if you will, comes midway through the Royal Ball.

    After a brief presentation, the queens take the stage. By day, they are businesswomen, bankers, stay-at-home moms, marketing communicators and accountants.

    But one night every year, they become dancers and entertain guests with a "little show."

    They dress in costumes aligned with the night's theme. It may be pink berets, long gloves and sequined dresses, Caribbean wear and Carmen Miranda hairdos or throwback wardrobes from a bygone rock era. They sashay through a routine, choreographed by one of their own. The performance always fits with the well-decorated hall, where each accoutrement is given the proper detail....

    “Women saying yes can be a very powerful thing,” says Shelia Reilly, far right, with her fellow founding members, from left: Maria Morrow, Joyce Shanahan, Veronica Dunn and Teri McNally.
  9. Ernest Hooper: Early-childhood education investment provides big dividends


    The 5-year-olds marched in holding their parent's hands and paraded down the aisle to the tried-and-true graduation theme Pomp and Circumstance.

    They wore blue caps and gowns, trimmed with white sashes, and they sported kind of adorable facial expressions only a 5-year-old can summon. They wave to the well-wishers videotaping with smart phones, and one little girl has managed to balance both a cap and a tiara on top of her tiny locks....

    According to the Ounce of Prevention Fund, at-risk children who don’t receive a high-quality early-childhood education are 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 40 percent more likely to become a teen parent and 50 percent more likely to be placed in special education.
  10. Ernest Hooper: Outgoing sorority leader fills Hilton ballroom with warmth

    Human Interest

    Dr. Paulette C. Walker sashayed into the Hilton Tampa Downtown to the sounds of the Marlon Boone Trio performing Alicia Keys' Girl On Fire.

    But it's the warmth Walker exhibited as a two-term national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., that has made her a respected leader.

    Members from around Florida turned the ballroom into a sea of red Saturday to salute Walker, a former University of South Florida administrator. Praise came from many, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, former Delta president Cynthia Butler-McIntyre and former Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority international president (and fellow Tampanian) Carolyn House Stewart, who showed how sorority sisterhood can transcend allegiances....

  11. Hooper: After 30 years, Brandon's ECHO looks to extend its community connections


    Human Interest


    They arrive in need, searching for a single lifeline and hoping to hold on to what is left of the figurative end of the rope.

    Even though they may be facing eviction, in need of clothes or searching for work, their requests start simply: food, simple sustenance for a few days, maybe a week.

    And if the Emergency Care Help Organization simply offered just that, its work would deserve magnanimous praise....

    Luis Guadarrama is one of the many donors who have supported ECHO over time. The Brandon nonprofit celebrates 30 years of service with a special event, ECHO After Hours, on Sept. 7.
  12. Ernest Hooper: Phelan and Pinchers give back to teachers

    Human Interest

    Kathleen Phelan helped her husband, Tony, start Pinchers restaurant while working as a teacher in Collier County.

    She spent days at school and nights at the restaurant as a hostess, all while Tony battled cancer, and worked at their first location, a six-table restaurant in a strip mall.

    Now the Phelans have multiple restaurant brands and 12 Pinchers locations in eight counties, including Hillsborough and Pasco. But Kathleen Phelan hasn't forgotten her roots — so teachers in all eight counties will receive $25 gift certificates that can be used at any of the restaurants. That's nearly 50,000 teachers, a value of more than $1 million and a gesture worthy of kudos....

  13. Sunday Conversation: Roberto Torres talks immigration

    Human Interest


    Roberto Torres stands as one of the city's most impressive rising entrepreneurs. The owner of Blind Tiger Cafes, Black & Denim clothing company and CoWork Ybor has expanded his reach with locations at Tampa International Airport and The Morrison, a new mixed use development in the SoHo District. Torres, however, remains grounded to his immigrant roots. In fact, he grew emotional Tuesday when U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, recognized him and four other citizens with "American Dream Awards."...

    Roberto Torres receives his American Dream award from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor on Aug. 15.
  14. Ernest Hooper: Women earning more through training in manufacturing jobs


    Without aid of glasses, contact lenses or Lasik surgery, Hiroko Kato has clearer vision — when it comes to her career.

    Kato is working in the local manufacturing industry, a prospect she struggled to reach until she took a special course offered in a partnership between the Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women and Hillsborough Community College.

    Now she knows manufacturing isn't solely rooted in grimy jobs. Now she knows she can make something....

    Manufacturing isn't solely rooted in grimy jobs, many women are learning through the Manufacturing Alliance, a partnershipof the Hillsborough County Commission, Hillsborough Community College, Hillsborough County Public Schools and CareerSource. [Getty Images]

  15. Ernest Hooper: Time for Crist and Murman to move us past Confederate monument issue


    For more than a week, social media has buzzed about the possibility of the Hillsborough County Commission revisiting the Confederate monument issue and calling for a ballot initiative on the statue in front of the old county courthouse.

    The commission voted last month to relocate the statue to a private cemetery in Brandon, provided private dollars can be raised for the relocation....