Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Tarpon Springs' first female firefighter retires after 23 years

TARPON SPRINGS — When Cynthia Horodnik walked into a fire station here for the first time 23 years ago, she didn't get a warm welcome.

The new employee got dirty looks — because she was the only woman there.

On one wall was a newspaper story about a Tampa policeman who was shot and killed while his partner, a woman, survived. One of the firefighters had highlighted the word "woman" throughout the article.

The firefighter asked Horodnik, "If you were being attacked in a back alley, who would you want to show up, a female or a male?"

She replied, "Um, someone with a gun?"

Confronted by that kind of animosity, Tarpon Springs' first female firefighter wanted to quit but didn't. Instead, she paved the way for other women.

On Thursday, Lt. Horodnik, 51, worked her final day with Tarpon Springs Fire Rescue before retiring. She was promoted to lieutenant in 2007.

Everyone from fellow firefighters to the fire chief gathered at Station 69, cracking jokes and reminiscing on her last day. During her career, Horodnik became a valued member of the city's firefighting fraternity.

"She's less like a boss and more like a friend," said firefighter Michael Stone, a member of her crew. "It was definitely a man's world when she started."

Another firefighter in her crew, Cliff Dancy, trusted her instincts: "I never doubted her. I know she knows how to do her job."

Fire Chief Richard Butcher has known Horodnik since she was hired. She brought change to the department in more ways than one: She was the reason the other firefighters had to start wearing gym shorts at night, he recalled.

"Before that, you basically slept in your underwear," Butcher said.

In the beginning, Horodnik had to wear boots and bunker gear that were too big for her, because there was no equipment designed for a woman. In those early years, the weight of a firefighter's helmet was heavier, too, making it more difficult for a woman to wear.

"She met the same standard as any other firefighter without stumbling," Butcher said. "You never got a sense of entitlement from her … but she did go out and earn it. She earned the respect."

Horodnik got involved in a variety of special programs. She became a certified fire clown to work with children on fire safety, and she worked with young burn victims at a camp held each year by the Children's Burn Foundation of Florida.

She was in charge of the fire department's holiday food basket program for the needy and Santa Tours, in which a firefighter dressed like Santa rides a fire truck and hands out candy and toys to children.

She was named Tarpon Springs' firefighter of the year in 2005.

Co-workers describe her as modest. "She doesn't seek any credit or limelight," said Jane Kniffen, Tarpon's human resources director.

Now that Horodnik has retired, Charlene West is the department's only female firefighter.

"She was an excellent mentor for me," West said. "Her starting here made it easier for me to be here."

• • •

Horodnik had pondered retirement for a while.

"It's just the right time," she said. "And my knees are shot."

From old age, she joked.

On Thursday, Horodnik packed up personal items from her bunk with the help of her daughter, Hannah Parker, 23. Her French-manicured nails reached out for the final item — a pink radio holder that she had once ordered online.

"I couldn't use it because it's pink," she said. Firefighters use black radio holders.

Horodnik's farewell speech was cut short when she started tearing up. An entire room of firefighters and police officers clapped. Everyone's pagers buzzed with the same message that was sent countywide from central dispatch:

"Congratulations to Cindy Horodnik on retirement after 23 years of service with Tarpon Springs Fire Rescue."

Diedra Rodriguez can be reached at (727) 445-4154 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

     
Comments
Pasco SRO under investigation after video shows takedown of student

Pasco SRO under investigation after video shows takedown of student

LAND O’LAKES — An investigation continues after a video surfaced on Tuesday that shows a Sunlake High School school resource officer wrestling a female student to the ground while taking her into custody, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Offic...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
The Daystarter: Competency hearing for Seminole Heights slaying suspect; Is TIA a dining destination?; Clearwater looks to relocate City Hall; ‘Most Interesting Man’ in Tampa

The Daystarter: Competency hearing for Seminole Heights slaying suspect; Is TIA a dining destination?; Clearwater looks to relocate City Hall; ‘Most Interesting Man’ in Tampa

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Today’s high temperature tops out about 80 degrees, according to 10Weather WTSP. Our next rain chance is Friday when a weak front moves through. And next week brings the heat. Expect ...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Forecast: Clear skies, pleasant conditions take hold over Tampa Bay

Forecast: Clear skies, pleasant conditions take hold over Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — Now that a cold front — which spawned a weak tornado in Ruskin — has departed, it leaves behind pleasant conditions across Tampa Bay.Relatively cool temperatures, clearing skies and low humidity will take hold until Friday, according...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Competency hearing today for Seminole Heights slaying suspect

Competency hearing today for Seminole Heights slaying suspect

TAMPA — A judge could determine today whether the man accused in four Seminole Heights slayings is competent to stand trial.Attorneys for Howell Emanuel Donaldson III filed a formal request on Monday to ask that Circuit Judge Mark Wolfe appoint a psy...
Updated: 1 hour ago
ESPN’s Rece Davis on hosting College GameDay from the NFL draft

ESPN’s Rece Davis on hosting College GameDay from the NFL draft

When ESPN's Rece Davis heard about the idea for boosting the college football insight into the NFL draft, he didn't need any convincing."My immediate reaction was, this is a no-brainer," Davis said.Davis will spearhead the network's overdue look at t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

When Tampa International Airport debuted in 1971, each terminal had a newsstand and a snack bar, called something kicky like Snack Bar.
Updated: 1 hour ago
Carlton: The zoo is changing, but don’t worry. The meerkats are on it.

Carlton: The zoo is changing, but don’t worry. The meerkats are on it.

The other day I stopped to check on some progress. And got to see a meerkat, too. Progress in Tampa these days usually refers to the development of Vinikville — excuse me, Water Street Tampa — along the south edge of downtown. Or what w...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Updated: 2 hours ago
He spent 17 years in prison. Now he’s a free man.

He spent 17 years in prison. Now he’s a free man.

TAMPA — Dwight DuBose walked out of the Orient Road Jail on Tuesday night after trading an orange jumpsuit for a brand new polo shirt and slacks.It was about 9 p.m. He flashed a broad smile and hug staff members of the Innocence Project of Florida wh...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pennsylvania women guilty of golfing while black; 13 trucks line up in Detroit to stop suicide; Puerto Rican anger grows over lack of basic services; more in U.S. news

Pennsylvania women guilty of golfing while black; 13 trucks line up in Detroit to stop suicide; Puerto Rican anger grows over lack of basic services; more in U.S. news

PennsyvlaniaGuilty of golfing while blackBlack people have long complained about getting pulled over by police for "driving while black," or being eyed suspiciously by security guards for "shopping while black." Now, five women say they got into trou...
Updated: 10 hours ago