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Appointment of Confederate activist sparks diversity council chair to resign

The head of a Hillsborough County committee that promotes diversity resigned from the panel Wednesday after county commissioners named to the committee an advocate of Confederate heritage.

In a letter to the county administration, council chairman Nestor Ortiz said he was "shocked by the decision" to appoint David McCallister, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Judah P. Benjamin Camp, to the Diversity Advisory Council.

"Only four days after the Charlottesville tragedy and the continued and escalating national outrage and division on all sides regarding white nationalism did they decide to put a public southern confederacy advocate on this "DIVERSITY" Advisory Council," Ortiz wrote. "This body is meant to engage the incredibly diverse communities found throughout Hillsborough County that have historically been marginalized, disenfranchised and oppressed by individuals with values similar to Mr. Mcallister (sic) and his group."

McCallister is also a spokesman for Save Southern Heritage and has been a vocal advocate against removing a Confederate monument from downtown Tampa. He attends nearly every county commission in a stars and bars tie to advocate for recognition of Southern heritage and of Confederate veterans of the Civil War, which he calls "The War Between the States."

Four commissioners selected McCallister on Wednesday to represent Northern and Southern Europe on the Diversity Advisory Council, giving him enough votes to win a seat on the committee. The decision came moments after commissioners voted 4-2 to tie the fate of the Confederate monument in downtown Tampa to the success of a private fundraising campaign.

The same four commissioners — Victor Crist, Ken Hagan, Sandy Murman and Stacy White — who voted to put the conditions on the monument's relocation also nominted McCallister.

McCallister called the criticism of his appointment "ridiculous" because his group and its supporters are also part of the fabric of the county.

"It's hypocritical to call it a diversity council and not appreciate, acknowledge and encourage the diversity of Hillsborough County," he said.

The diversity advisory council includes representatives from various ethnic groups as well as the LGBTQ community. Its job is to "facilitate communication between county government and its diverse populations, addressing matters related to diversity that are important to everyone."

Ortiz, the University Area Community Development Corporation's chief operations officer, said his last meeting as chair of the council was last week, but nevertheless felt it important to at least sybolically step down.

Read Ortiz's letter below:

Hillsborough County administrative team,

Although I officially had my last meeting as Chair of the Diversity Advisory Council two weeks ago, the bylaws do not stipulate as to when my official capacity as Chair ends. Due to the uncertainty of my term, please accept this email as my official resignation from the Diversity Advisory Council effective immediately.

As a founding member of this council I am disheartened by the decision of the four members of the Board of County Commissioners to nominate Mr Mcallister to sit on the Council. For so many reasons, I am shocked by the decision and cannot continue to support my connection to this board.

I am confused and dismayed by the timing of it all. Only 4 days after the Charlottesville tragedy and the continued and escalating national outrage and division on all sides regarding white nationalism did they decide to put a public southern confederacy advocate on this "DIVERSITY" Advisory Council. This body is meant to engage the incredibly diverse communities found throughout Hillsborough County that have historically been marginalized, disenfranchised and oppressed by individuals with values similar to Mr. Mcallister and his group.

Mr. Mcallister and the sons and daughter of the confederacy have been nothing more than obstructionists and that is simply as a member of the audience. What more on the council itself? He has been rude as an audience member and has been asked on numerous occasions to refrain from outbursts. To place someone like Mr. Mcallister on the council is in direct opposition to our core values of diversity and inclusion from those who are looking to unite this county, which Mr Mcallister, I believe is not one of those people.

It was my privilege and honor to serve as Chair and I will always value and appreciate my 3 years on the Council and believe that we have done all that we can to support the incredibly diverse communities in our wonderful county. I will continue to support the communities that continue to be marginalized, disenfranchised, underrepresented, disempowered and oppressed in everything I do. Unfortunately it will not be through this Diversity Advisory Council. Thank you for your investment and in support of the many diverse residents of Hillsborough Council.

With tremendous respect and appreciation,

Nestor Ortiz, Ex-Chair

Diversity Advisory Council

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