Catching up with Wendy Chioji, Mark Foley and Sexy Savannah

In today's Friday file, we have an installment of "What ever happened to ... ?"

Our featured subjects: The man who killed light rail, one of Central Florida's most popular former TV anchors, a congressman who last made news for hitting on teenagers and a radio personality who now makes a living selling giant snakes.

Let's start with the man who derailed the choo-choo precisely one decade ago this month: former Orange County Commissioner Clarence Hoenstine.

With Central Florida still struggling over rail options, I was wondering whether Hoenstine, who cast the dramatic tiebreaking vote to kill light rail back in 1999, had any regrets.

"No," he responded without hesitation. "I think I made the right decision."

Not only that, whenever Hoenstine thinks about his role in derailing the train, he says he figures it's the transit supporters who should be full of regrets — for not listening to him. "Let's turn it around," he said.

Hoenstine, a general contractor, said he voted against the train from downtown to International Drive because it wouldn't have had as many riders as one running from I-Drive to the airport.

Supporters understood that but said the feds had approved money only for the downtown route that would serve actual residents (vs. tourists). More important, they argued, the approved route was the only way to actually get the project started. Otherwise, they said, Central Florida would lose out on rail, and roads would remain congested for as much as a decade to come.

But Hoenstine didn't buy it. He voted no. And one decade later, there's still no rail.

Hoenstine obviously didn't kill the project alone. It went down on a 4-3 vote with help from opponents such as Ted Edwards, who's now mounting a campaign to try to reclaim his seat on the commission.

But Hoenstine was the one who flipped his vote at the last moment, shocking supporters and opponents alike, prompting audible gasps throughout packed commission chambers.

Hoenstine, by the way, lost his next election — to current Commissioner Linda Stewart. That race was a shocker as well — so much so that Hoenstine had to cancel a cruise he had scheduled during the final weeks of the campaign, because he finally realized he wasn't going to coast to victory.

He lost anyway. And now what does Hoenstine say he and his wife enjoy doing with more free time on their hands? "Well," he said, "we go on a cruise about once a year and have a lot of fun."

Chasing ChiojiIt's been more than a year since one of Central Florida's best-known and most-loved TV personalities left Orlando and the TV business altogether.

Is Wendy Chioji having regrets about ... ?

"No," she responded without letting me finish the sentence. "It's still paradise out here."

Here is Park City, Utah, where the serious cyclist and triathlete is pursuing her passion for fitness, opening a cycling-training center and providing personal-fitness sessions at the Westgate resort out there.

Chioji still does an occasional on-air job, pinch-hitting for a local station when it needs a fill-in anchor. But she said those sporadic gigs are more than enough TV time for her.

And, yes, the woman who shared her triumph over breast cancer with viewers still comes back to Central Florida to visit friends, stroll along Park Avenue and even drive by her old house in Winter Park. "In fact, I was just there and did all the things I loved," she said, "like eat at Seasons 52 and get stuck in traffic, just for old times' sake."

Foley's follyThree years ago, many Floridians probably thought they'd never hear from Mark Foley again.

Boy, were they wrong.

The disgraced former congressman from Palm Beach County is not only back — he has his own radio show.

"Inside the Mind of Mark Foley" — starring the man who resigned in disgrace after sending lurid text messages to teenage boys in the page program — debuts next week in South Florida on SeaView AM 960.

In promotional excerpts, Foley tells listeners that members of Congress do whatever it takes to stay in office because "they don't want to give up the perks of power."

I'm guessing members have very different ideas about what constitutes a "perk."

Savannah's snakesAnd finally, from the radio scene, we have a former host who's probably the only former broadcaster now into snake-handling.

It's former 104.1 FM and 105.9 FM personality Sexy Savannah, who now lives in the Los Angeles area — where she works at a reptile zoo. In fact, late-night TV viewers may have caught a glimpse of her on The Tonight Show recently when she helped display a 21-foot, 350-pound albino python alongside Conan O'Brien.

Savannah reports that she has a few other irons in the fire but that her primary interest is her 14-year-old son, Gage. "He loves it out here," she said. "And that's all that matters."

Scott Maxwell welcomes your suggestions for more people to track down — people, mind you, not giant snakes — at or 407-420-6141.

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