My colleagues over at Patch are asking for nominees for St. Petersburg’s ‘Person of the Year’ with the only qualification being who “most influenced the news this year for better or worse.” My choice for ‘Person of the Year’ is rather clear-cut: Bill Edwards, the man and the money behind so many of this community’s most important projects, whether it be the Republican National Convention or the BayWalk property, the Mahaffey Theater — or even the “Welcome” at the north entrance to the city’. In my estimation, no one — no politician, no celebrity, no sports figure — has had as much an impact on the city of St. Petersburg as Edwards had in 2012.
But coronating Edwards is not the purpose of this post. Rather, in considering the year Edwards and other newsmakers have had, I am left wondering where are the female nominees for ‘Person of the Year.’ Since when did Pinellas and St. Petersburg become such all-boys clubs? Or has it always been this way?
Looking at the roster of local politicians who might be considered for ‘Person of the Year’, it’s certainly a male-oriented list of possibilities. Two of Pinellas’ three representatives in Congress are male — and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor did not have that good of a year to be considered a top newsmaker. Both State Senators are men. So were all of the State Representatives until Kathleen Peters was elected. The mayors of the two largest cities — Clearwater’s George Cretekos and St. Pete’s Bill Foster — are from Mars, although Largo’s Pat Gerard is from Venus.
The County Commission certainly has its share of strong females on it, including Susan Latvala, Karen Seel, and, until November, Nancy Bostock. Recently, Janet Long was added to the board. But have any of these women had years worthy of making them a nominee for ‘Person of the Year?’
There is a case to be made for St. Petersburg Council Chair Leslie Curran as ‘Person of the Year’ for her role in leading the charge for the ‘Lens’ design for the new St. Petersburg Pier. But she hasn’t influenced the news more so than Edwards or Foster or Stu Sternberg, etc. In fact, Curran, as the lone female on the eight-member City Council, is kind of the exception which proves the rule.
It’s not just in politics where there appears to be a genuine lack of female representation. In May, you might remember, I coordinated a panel for the Suncoast Tiger Bay on new vs. old media. Although it was a worthwhile program, my friend Darden Rice was struck by the lack of any women on the panel, a glaring omission which prompted me to wonder aloud who were the leading females in new or old media. The list, I am sorry to say, was limited.
I mention this because its worth considering someone outside of politics as St. Petersburg’s ‘Person of the Year.’ I certainly agree with this notion and that’s why I selected Edwards as my newsmaker of the year. Perhaps in a field outside of politics — education, health care, philanthropy, sports — there are female nominees who had a better 2012 than Edwards and will prompt me to reconsider my selection.
If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments section.