TAMPA — Tampa will soon be the latest — and last — major bay area city to declare the day that slaves in Texas learned of their freedom in 1865 a city holiday.
Mayor Jane Castor will sign an executive order making Juneteenth a city holiday as soon as the City Council approves the coming year’s budget, which must happen by Sept. 30 by state law.
Castor’s announcement was delivered to council members by chief of staff John Bennett during Tuesday’s budget workshop. The move was in response to council member Orlando Gudes’ July request for staff to make room in the budget to celebrate the city holiday by closing normal operations. Gudes’ request was supported by other council members.
The executive order will be Castor’s “first order of business” after she receives the approved budget from City Council, Bennett said.
St. Petersburg and Clearwater already have made Juneteenth a city holiday.
Gudes thanked his City Council colleagues for their support and said the city holiday was a symbolic victory for the Black community.
He said he raised the issue after hearing from residents.
“I’m going to fight for what people ask me for,” Gudes said.
In July, Bennett said it would cost millions of dollars to shut down the city for the day and said the issue had been vetted with members of the city’s three unions, who indicated they wanted a floating holiday instead. But the council persisted, asking the Castor administration to find the money in the budget for the coming fiscal year.
On Tuesday, Bennett said the mayor had listened to City Council members.
The news prompted a reaction on social media from Tampa activist Gloria Royster, who tweeted that Tampa had its own version of Juneteenth.
About half of U.S. states have declared Juneteenth a state holiday, though Florida has not. President Joe Biden made June 19 a federal holiday in 2021.