Outgoing state legislator Arthenia Joyner has been a pioneer throughout her professional career in law and politics, and with just months to go before she ends her legislative career in Tallahassee, she was given a commemoration Thursday by the Tampa City Council honoring her work.
The 73-year-old lifelong Democrat currently represents Tampa’s Senate District 19, where she serves as the Senate Minority Leader, the first African-American women ever to ascend to that position. She was also the first black woman to practice law in Hillsborough County, and one of the few women to head the National Bar Association.
“It has truly been a ride that I’ve enjoyed, every day of it,” she told the Council after being given the award by Councilman Guido Maniscalco. “It was serious, it’s a lot of work, but it’s so gratifying to be able to do what I was taught by my father — to whom much is given, much is required.”
Council members thanked Joyner for all that she has done in representing Tampa in the Legislature over the past 16 years, first in the House and then in the Senate. And they applauded her for her willingness to go it alone on issues of principle, at times in a not so amiable fashion.
“There are very few people that we know in the Legislature that fight harder for the city of Tampa than you do,” Council Chair Mike Suarez said. “I appreciate everything that you’ve done for us.”
“You are courageous, and you speak out for things that you believe in, and take stands, regardless of where the political consequences might take you,” said Councilman Harry Cohen, who called Joyner a “great friend and mentor.”
Councilman Charlie Miranda was more blunt in cheering her straightforward manner.
“You don’t really give a damn if you insult somebody if you feel that you’re right, and that’s what I like about you,” Miranda said. “You just say it just like it is, and very few of us have the guts to do that, and I appreciate that very much.”
Joyner said she felt she was sent by the voters to go to Tallahassee to represent them, which required her to stand alone on some issue. “I’ve always felt that regardless as to how others feel, even if you believe in it, and it’s within your convictions and your values, you’ve got to do it if you want to be peace with yourself.”
Councilman Frank Reddick said he had left his sick bed to make sure he would be at the meeting for her honor, a gesture that the state senator said meant a lot to her. The two competed for the state House back in 2000, the first of 16 straight years that Joyner would ultimately serve in the Capitol.
“We’ve not always been hunky-dory, we were opponents, but our relationship transcended that because you cannot hold something against somebody because they too have the right and the opportunity and the desire to pursue the same dream that you have,” Joyner said.
Observing the ceremony in council chambers were former city councilman and county commissioner Tom Scott, House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, and attorney and legislative candidate Sean Shaw.
Joyner is term-limited out of office this fall. She says she’ll continue to serve on her own, but not in an elected position.
Democrats Ed Narain, Betty Reed and Darryl Rouson, are all running for the SD 19 seat this August. The district consists of mostly Hillsborough County and some parts of Pinellas. It’s a pure Democratic seat, so whoever wins the primary will likely advance to Tallahassee.