Two years ago Pasco County Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey and attorney Michele Hintson met by chance at a symposium on empowering women in politics and leadership.
They were the only two women at WeWill Tampa Bay from Pasco, but quickly bonded around a singular goal: To form a Commission on the Status of Women.
Hintson joined county staff members on Aug. 23 in presenting a plan to launch the commission.
The Pasco County Commission unanimously approved the concept.
“This is a historical day for women in Pasco County,” Starkey said.
The final vote and nominations to the 15-member commission are expected on Sept. 13.
Each county commissioner will appoint a member to the women’s commission.
Other community organizations, mostly nonprofits, will recommend nominees to fill out the remaining 10 slots. The county commission will make the final selections.
Participating organizations include Metropolitan Ministries, Sunrise of Pasco, Pasco-Hernando State College and Saint Leo University.
“The commission hopefully will be able to provide research and resources to develop opinions and make recommendations to (Pasco County) commissioners about certain needs in the community for women,” said Hintson, a Land O’ Lakes resident and an attorney with the Tampa-based law firm, Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick.
Issues might include equal pay, human trafficking, affordable housing, women’s health care and the needs of children.
Research by Pasco County’s legal staff revealed that the commission organizers aren’t reinventing the wheel.
An ordinance establishing a commission on women’s status won the approval of county commissioners on Oct. 16, 1979.
However, except for that one document, there is scant evidence of what happened afterward. It appears the commission was never fully activated, Hintson said.
Hintson said many women participated in two years of meetings to finalize plans to reactivate the Pasco women’s commission.
They included community activists, educators, county staff and business leaders, such as Rosie Paulson, Kelly Mothershead, Suzanne Legg, Elizabeth Blair, Krista Covey and Stephanie Pontlitz.
More than 200 commissions on the status of women are operating nationally. About 20 such commissions are in Florida, including one in Hillsborough County that began in the 1990s, and a Florida Commission on the Status of Women.
President John F. Kennedy formed the first women’s commission in 1961, with former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt as chairwoman.
Published September 7, 2016