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Crisis puts Tampa Mayor Jane Castor in national spotlight

In the midst of a pandemic, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor is featured on CNN and in Slate as the face of Tampa Bay.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor's leadership during the coronavirus outbreak has brought her national attention.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor's leadership during the coronavirus outbreak has brought her national attention. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Apr. 1, 2020
Updated Apr. 1, 2020

Minutes before Tampa Mayor Jane Castor appeared on national television Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered a statewide stay-at-home order.

CNN host Anderson Cooper had previewed Castor’s appearance as an example of a local leader acting when her state wouldn’t in the face of the coronavirus outbreak .

After the commercial break, Cooper announced Florida’s statewide ban and then asked Castor why it took so long.

Castor didn’t take the bait.

“He has acted now,” she said, noting that most urban areas, including Hillsborough County, had already taken action days ago.

Castor’s few minutes on CNN capped a recent turn in the national spotlight.

On Tuesday evening, Slate, the online news and culture site, posted a Q&A with Castor titled “A mayor’s lonely fight against coronavirus in a state run by Republicans.”

In that interview, Castor also avoided criticizing DeSantis, saying she didn’t think the state response was motivated by partisanship and seeming to empathize with the governor’s dilemma, calling it a “hell of a test.”

Related: A mayor's lonely fight

In the CNN interview, Castor said as mayor and part of the county’s Emergency Policy Group, which issued the countywide safer-at-home order, she was seeking equilibrium between public safety and the economy.

It’s a difficult balance. You’re balancing the public welfare with the economy. Both are very important, but I was elected as mayor, first and foremost, to look out for the health and well-being of all of my citizens," Castor said.

Cooper also asked Castor to comment on Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, who held services Sunday at the River at Tampa Bay Church in Hillsborough County. He was later arrested for violating the county’s safer-at-home order.

After gently correcting Cooper to say that the church was in the county, not the city of Tampa — “or it would have been shut down,” Castor said — she said Howard-Browne behaved irresponsibly.

“That was incredibly reckless on his part,” Castor said, noting wryly, “I don’t know where he got his tape measure from.”

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