Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Carlton: Ex-top cop Jane Castor as Tampa's next mayor? It could happen

Just before Jane Castor retired as Tampa police chief last year, I asked her about what had to be the most ridiculous rumor going: Castor would one day run for mayor of the city where she was a cop for 31 years.

Crazy, right? What an unlikely next step, particularly for someone who seemed to keep herself decidedly out of the trip-wire politics of the town. Such vocational transitions have been known to occur — with success, even — but didn't this seem against the natural order of things, like dogs and cats, reporters and politicians, cops and elected officials?

And anyway, Tampa likes Democrats for mayor. Castor was a lifelong Republican.

She reacted to the question in her usual deadpan manner: The fact that a she's-running rumor existed, Castor said, "just makes me realize the drug problem in this city is much more dire than I anticipated."

Then, a more definitive no: "I'll leave that up to people who are politically astute."

Now, with Castor a year into retirement and busy with police chief consultant work in other cities, the talk persists. Actually, it's gotten louder. In a town abuzz with speculation on who's in the mix for mayor — even with Bob Buckhorn still in the chair for three more years — the Castor rumor lives, breathes, grows. So I ask her, expecting more is-this-town-on-crack, and instead, get this:

"I'm still exploring the possibility of that," says Castor, 56. "I know I've come a long way in the last year from 'the drug problem in the city's worse than I thought.' " Then, a caveat: "I know a lot of people will think 'exploring' is French for, 'I'm definitely running.' But I say what I mean — I haven't made any decisions."

So lets throw her name onto the speculative woodpile, which includes Tampa City Council members Harry Cohen, Yvonne Yolie Capin and Mike Suarez, Hillsborough Commissioners Ken Hagan and Sandy Murman, and probably a half-dozen others to come.

Oh, there were signs. A month after leaving office, Castor, a registered Republican since age 18, pivoted to Democrat. She said the switch was about her party drifting away from embracing diversity and treating everyone fairly.

"To see the changes in the Republican Party and to see some of the advances in the Democratic Party, I switched," says Castor, who has called herself a true moderate.

She also in recent years became a member of the exclusive Athena Society, made up of powerful Tampa women — lawyers, judges, doctors, CEOs, politicians. She's joined her first book club.

Castor wouldn't be the first female mayor, but would be the first openly gay one.

People who would like to see this happen point out that she's run a police department —why not a city? Castor would likely have to bone up on the more boring, nuts-and-bolts aspects, and she will get questions about a crime-fighting tactic during her tenure that meant eight of 10 bicyclists ticketed were black.

But mayoral contenders are very aware she remains a rock star, stopped to pose for selfies with strangers and a sought-after speaker.

"A very, very credible candidate," says former boss Buckhorn, "if she chose to do it."

Sue Carlton can be reached at

Carlton: Ex-top cop Jane Castor as Tampa's next mayor? It could happen 05/26/16 [Last modified: Thursday, May 26, 2016 8:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates


    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears


    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'


    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]