Castor tells NOW convention she's following others' footsteps

About 150 women from the National Organization for Women conference, including Kim Waldrep, Marian Bradley, Deborah Decker, Connie Gilbert, Danielle Troia and LaToya Reynolds, from left, protest outside Sen. Marco Rubio’s office in Tampa.

BRYAN THOMAS | Times

About 150 women from the National Organization for Women conference, including Kim Waldrep, Marian Bradley, Deborah Decker, Connie Gilbert, Danielle Troia and LaToya Reynolds, from left, protest outside Sen. Marco Rubio’s office in Tampa.

TAMPA — When her tenure as the city's top police officer ends, Jane Castor says she hopes citizens remember her simply as a good chief.

But she knows that her legacy will be, at least in part, shaped by this fact: She's Tampa's first female police chief.

If a man in her position were to fail, she said, the failure would be his own.

"If I fail in this position the response is going to be, 'I told you a woman couldn't do it,' " Castor said Friday afternoon in a brief speech at the National Organization for Women's convention held at Embassy Suites near University of South Florida.

Castor, 51, says she feels the weight of the responsibility to be a good role model for girls. At the same time, though, she said the citizens have given her a certain freedom because they don't make an issue of her gender or her sexuality.

"The citizens don't care that I'm a woman, and frankly they don't care I'm a lesbian," said Castor, the mother of two children. "They want their city to be safe."

She also said she didn't consider herself a trailblazer because a number of female politicians, including former Mayors Sandy Freedman and Pam Iorio, had paved the way. "I've seen women make history all my life," she said.

Castor got a standing ovation at the convention, the first national meeting that NOW has put on in Tampa. The event, which organizers expect to attract 600 people, runs through today.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner also spoke at the meeting. He received a standing ovation after being introduced as the county's first openly gay commissioner.

"There's not too many places in Hills­borough County where they announce you're openly gay and everybody stands up and cheers," he quipped.

Several hours before Castor and Beckner spoke, about 150 of the NOW participants rallied on the sidewalk near Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's district office, which is across the street from the hotel.

Their chants included: "Hey, hey, ho ho, Marco Rubio has got to go" and "Pro-life men have got to go. If you get pregnant, let us know."

The crowd of nearly all women, some of whom wore "I am a shameless agitator" buttons and "This is what a feminist looks like" T-shirts, said they were protesting restrictions on abortions and health care cuts that disproportionately hurt women.

"We are invigorated," said Mary Nation, an 86-year-old retired social worker from Vero Beach. "I think we'd probably gotten very comfortable and didn't realize this was an ongoing battle."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3374.

Castor tells NOW convention she's following others' footsteps 06/24/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 24, 2011 11:38pm]

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