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Friday, Aug 22, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Betty Castor pioneer for women’s opportunities

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Published:   |   Updated: March 3, 2014 at 08:56 AM

The impact of women — not just in Tampa politics but in leadership positions throughout our community — has long since passed the point of news. Women either hold or have held leadership positions in every aspect of our lives around here, and there are more in the wings waiting for their opportunity.

It hasn’t come easy, but its obvious consequences in lifting us up is undeniable.

Betty Castor, certainly one of the giants in helping women gain a seat at the table, will be the speaker Tuesday at the Tampa Convention Center at 10:30 a.m. to kick off Women’s History Month.

It’s hard to believe it has been exactly 40 years since she was kicked out of the University Club where she was supposed to have lunch with then Mayor Dick Greco because she happened to be a woman. In a sense that was a fortuitous event. The former University of South Florida president, state education chief, senator, commissioner and a half dozen other things, not only didn’t forget the incident but eventually got legislation through to prevent meetings of government officials out of the public eye. She even returned to the club for lunch.

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor will be the emcee.

This year’s honoree is Frances Henriquez, who will be getting the Josephine Howard Stafford Memorial, named after the first female judge in Hillsborough County.

Henriquez was the first woman, the first Hispanic and the last elected city clerk for five terms.

“You know,’’ says the Tampa native, “this is the 60th year since I got into city government in 1954. When I started, Tampa was still just a town. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to be involved as it became a city.’’

Also being honored will be Col. Elizabeth Decker, commander of the 6th Medical Operations Squadron, as the outstanding female member of the military at MacDill Air Force Base.

There have just been so many women who have influenced our city. Sometime if you get the chance, check out historian Doris Weatherford’s book, “Real Women of Tampa and Hillsborough County from Prehistory to the Millennium.’’

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In other happenings last week, don’t you think it’s interesting the city hasn’t jumped on the invitation to bid for the 2016 Democratic Convention?

The mayor says it’s all about money and the financial set-up would be different with the city having to scratch around to get the support needed.

And of course, how could the Democrats ever come up with anything that could match having Clint Eastwood talk to a chair?

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Finally, Monday is the big parade in Plant City out to the strawberry festival grounds. My favorite float in recent years has been the crew of the World War II submarine USS Sea Poacher. It’s not that the float is all that spectacular as it is seeing these veterans having such a good time.

I get to be one of the parade judges, but I’m more interested in judging the strawberry shortcake booths at the festival and trying to determine which is better, biscuit or cake. The truth is if it’s buried under a mound of strawberries and whipped cream, I don’t really care.

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