xml version 1.0
record xmlns http:www.loc.govMARC21slim xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.loc.govstandardsmarcxmlschemaMARC21slim.xsd leader ntm 22 Ka 4500controlfield tag 008 s flunnn| ||||ineng datafield ind1 8 ind2 024
subfield code a U11-001142 USFLDC DOI0 245 Jan Kaminis Platt oral history interviewh [electronic resource] /c interviewed by Andrew Huse.500 Full cataloging of this resource is underway and will replace this temporary record when complete.7 655 Oral history.localOnline audio.local710 University of South Florida.b Library.Special & Digital Collections.Oral History Program.1 773 t Carlton-Anthony Tampa Oral History Project4 856 u http://digital.lib.usf.edu/?u11.114
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Andrew Huse: Well, it is Tax Day, April 15, 2014; and my name is Andy Huse. Im here on behalf of USF Libraries and the USF Oral History Program. And it is my pleasure today to interview Jan Platt, long-time civil servant and woman of many hats. And we were just talking about the ELAPP
ELAPP is a voluntary program established for the purpose of providing the process and funding for identifying, acquiring, preserving and protecting endangered, environmentally-sensitive and significant lands in Hillsborough County. It is a citizen-based program with volunteer committees involved in every key aspect of the program.
program [Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program] on our way up; so, theresweve got a lot of territory to cover. So, without further ado, we have Jan Platt. Thanks for being with us today, Jan.
Jan Platt: Thank you, Andy. And thank you for the role that USF Special Collections has in compiling the history of our area. Youre wonderful.
AH: Right, well
JP: Thank you.
AH: It includesone of the crown jewels, of course, is Jans extensive collection. So, anybody who wants to know about environmental preservation, human rights, women; thats the place to go, among many other things. Soand one of the few county commissioners during her time that wasnt hauled off to jail at some point or indicted. So, lets start from the beginning. You were born in Saint Pete, right?
AH: Okay, so tell us a little bit about your family, your background.
JP: Okay. I was born in 1936, in Saint Petersburg, Florida; and my dad was a graduate of the University of Florida in mechanical engineering. And so, during World War II, he was with the Navy Department, and overwas he overseeone of the people who oversaw the construction of the amphibious tank that Donald Roebling invented. Donald Roebling
Donald Roebling (1908-1959) was an American twentieth-century philanthropist and inventor. Roebling was most famous for inventing the Amtrak Â in 1937, which started as a civilian transport vehicle known as the Roebling Alligator.
lived in Clearwater, and he developed a tank that he was originally going to use in the Everglades called the Alligator. And when World War II came along, the department of Navy decided that they wanted to use that as a landing device.
And so, my dad worked on behalf of the Department of Navy. And so as a child it was not uncommon for Donald Roebling to come to our home, for me to go to Donald Roeblings house. He wasand he was ayou know, his dad had built the Brooklyn Bridge, and then Courtney Campbell
Courtney Warren Campbell (1895-1971) was a U.S. Representative and World War I veteran in Florida that was elected as a Democrat to the Eighty-Third Congress (1953-1955). He served as Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, he served as a member of the Florida War Labor Relations Board from 1941 to 1946 and as a member of the Florida State Road Board from 1942 to 1947.
was involved in it. And so, we asI would fish in front of Courtney Campbells house.
JP: Soand my dad was an avid fisherman. And he had no sons, but every weekend, we would fish. And we would fish in the bayTampa Bay; we would fish in the phosphate pits, where there were lots of rattlesnakes; we would fish in Anclote River, and the Gulf of Mexico. So, I grew up being very attuned to the water, and how important it was.
And I wouldyou know, I was a fisherman, so I kept up with things. Sweetwater Creek, for instance, was crystal clear when I was a child. And we would fish, and Id see the bass, and I would also see the otter, which was the only place I ever saw otter. Now Sweetwater Creek is a drainage ditch. All these things stuck in my mind, and had later consequences when I got in public office. But
AH: Well, you said that youre a fisherman in past tense, but youre still a fisherman, right?
JP: I am, I am, I am. And luckily, my husband is an avid fisherman, and so is my son. So
JP: Our vacations are down at Boca Grande, or Keyin the Keys or in the Bahamas, fishing somewhere.
AH: All right.
JP: Trying to catch something.
AH: So, now, what would the application have been for this amphibious craft in the Everglades? Do you know?
JP: Well, I think he washe called it the Alligator, originally, and I think he was gonna use it just to explore the Everglades; cause there was no craft, at that time; you know, there werent thewhat are thoseairboats, you know? There werent those. So, it was just to have an access into the Everglades.
AH: Okay. So, tell us about your education growing up. Obviously, you were educated on the water
AH: Outside of school, but tell us about some of your formal education.
JP: Well, I graduated from Hillsborough High School, and then, went to Florida State University [FSU].
AH: Yeah, when did you move to Tampa, then? How old were you?
JP: Well, after World War II.
AH: Okay. Got you.
JP: And so, then Iin fact, my sixtieth reunion for Hillsborough is coming up next week. I was Most Likely to Succeed.
JP: And most representative of the class. But then I went to FSU, and FSU had only been co-ed for seven years.
JP: And so, I becamewell, when I was at Hillsborough, though, a turning point was that the American Legion
The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a veterans organization. It is the nations largest wartime veterans service organization.
Post 111, which still exists over on Florida Avenue, sent me to Girls State
Boys/Girls State are summer leadership and citizenship programs sponsored by the American Legion and
the American Legion Auxiliary for high school juniors. It began in 1937.
; and Girls State was a big opportunity for young people to learn about government, and that was really thein Girls State was when I first fell in love with government.
AH: So, how did you get chosen for the program?
JP: To go to Girls State?
JP: I guess because I was active in student government and activities at Hillsborough High School. Cause that was athat was a high school program.
JP: And so
AH: So, Girls State was atatthat was at Hillsborough?
JP: No, it was in Tallahassee.
AH: Oh, okay, okay.
JP: In other words, American Legion posts throughout the State of Florida sent people up to Tallahassee to learn about state government. And so, we lived in the dorms at FSU, and we had Congress; and I was elected to the Supreme Court, and I got to sit on the Supreme Court. But it gave high school kids an opportunity to go to Tallahassee and learn about state government.
JP: I dont know if itsthat program still exists today, but it was really an outstanding program.
JP: And thats what interested me, one, in FSU; and then, also, in government. So, when I went to FSU, I majored in public administration and political science. And I was the first woman elected Vice President Student Body, since it had been co-ed. It was co-ed for seven years, and even then there werent many men but they were there; and thatwe had a football, and a basketball team, and soand one of the things thatmy senior year, the president of the university and Governor Collins sent three of us to the University of North Carolina to find out how they had integrated their university system peacefully.
Because I went through all segregated schools, and our university system was segregated. And so, Collins, who was a very enlightened governor, was seeking waysto find a way to peacefully segregate our university system. Again, during that time, there werelynchings were common. Ku Klux Klan was alive and well.
And so, the three of us who went to the University of North Carolina found out that that system had admitted a mature student, an older student, to the graduate school level, rather than undergrad level. And so, thats what we came back and recommended to FSU and to Governor Collins. And as fate would have it, when I graduated, I went to University of Florida law school, where I was the only woman in the school, cause women didnt go to law school in those days. And the first African American admitted to the university system was in my class, and he was an older student. He had a couplehe was married and had a couple of children. And so, the governor followed our advice.
JP: Which was so nice. Because, Ill tell you, if he had been admitted at the undergraduate school level, he wouldve probably been lynched.
JP: I mean, thats just how bad it was. They treated me terribly, and here I was a woman; but they didnt treatthey treated him okay. He did nothes nothe did not graduate. He did not make his grades and did notI stayedhe and I both stayed one year. He had come up to me and hed say, Jan, Id sit next to you, except you and I have got enough problems. (AH and JP laugh) But, I made my grades; he didnt. He didnt come back. I didntI didnt. Id never been treated like that before.
AH: Yeah, well, tell us a little bit about how you were treated. I mean
JP: Well, they wouldfor one thing, if a woman entered the library, the law library, the men would shuffle their feet, andso that it was very obvious that a woman was entering.
JP: In some of my classes, my professors would say, Well, Miss Kaminis, would you describe whats in your briefs? And everybody would snicker.
AH: Oh, right.
JP: You know? And Ive been at FSU, where, you know, Ive been treated like a lady; and I wasnt at Florida. And I just thought, Well, you know, lifes short. Id been offered a scholarship to Duke, and, unfortunately, I didnt take it. (laughs)
JP: Cause I think they wouldve been a little bit more enlightened than the University of Florida was at that time.
AH: Now, do you thinkdo you think the law school made it even worse? LikeI mean, it was one thing that youre at UF [University of Florida], but the law school is definitely like a boys club at the time.
JP: Yeah, it was. It was. It definitely was. And see, I was viewed as an intruder.
AH: Well, Im sure.
JP: And see, it never dawned on me. Because, you know, I was nave. You know, Id just gone togoing my merry way, and it was a real shock to me; Id never been treated like that before.
AH: So, that one year was enough, then, at UF, huh?
JP: Yeah, it was. AndI made the grades, though, so
AH: And so, whatd you do from there?
JP: Well, then I came back to Tampa. And I went to Hillsborough High School and talked to Vivian Gaither
At this point, Vivian Gaither was the principal of Hillsborough High School.
, andcause he and I had become close when I was at Hillsboroughand he offered me an opportunity to teach History at Hillsborough. So I said, Okay. Well, Ill do that. So, I taught American History for a year. And theand I couldve stayed. My sister was in school at the time, and all of her classmates I taughtI was teaching; I didnt teach her, but I taught all of her classmates.
But, all my teachers were there who I had been with, and I felt like I was coming back to school again. So, I thought, Well, you know, Im not growing, doing this. So, I found a job with the Girl Scouts. And I became a field director for the Girl Scouts. So, I taught a year at Hillsborough, and then, I became a field director for the Girl Scouts.
AH: Right. Well, Tampa kind of has a long history with the Girl Scouts.
JP: Yes, it did. And so, at that time, it was the Tampa Council, and our headquarters was in the old McKay Auditorium. Andwhich was at Tampa U [University of Tampa]and one of the fun things was, I would go at lunchtime to the park at University of Tampa. And I know, one time, Bobby Kennedy was speaking in the band shell, and I was leaning up against the tree, and it was verynobody came to hear him speak.
So, he came up and shook my hand, and I always remember that he was shorter than I was. (AH and JP laugh) But anyway, but the director and I would routinely go to see Jessamine Link, who was theshe was the leader of the second troop in the United StatesGirl Scout troop.
JP: So, we would go and visit with her. And I had the only integrated troop in the council at that time. And, again, we were going through this integration, and that troop was out at MacDill Air Force Base.
AH: So, this wouldve been the later sixties?
JP: Thisthe early sixties.
AH: Early sixties, okay.
JP: This would be nineteen-sixI taughtit wouldve been 1960.
JP: Nineteen sixty-one. And so, I had to deal with providing and making things smooth for when that troop went camping at our campsite, or when those leaders went to training. You know, the whole integration process was slow and not a happy situation. But I played a role in that.
AH: Yeah, and tell us about, you know, growing up in Saint Pete. I mean, obviously
JP: I wasntI didnt grow up there. Soon as I was born, we moved.
AH: Oh, thats right. Right, yeah, pretty much
JP: And we lived in Dunedin, and thenfor a short time, because thats where that amphibious tank was first developed; then we moved to Lakeland, because then, it was init was manufactured at Food Machinery in Lakeland.
JP: Yes, yes.
AH: Okay. SoBut you had had a chance to, kind of, be in Tampasegregated Tampa, before Brown v. Board of Education
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)
, and all that good, you know, kind of stuff unleashed thisthis integration thing. So, you know, what were your feelings before, you know? I mean, everyone kind of said that they thought it was going to go on forever. What were your thoughts about growing up in segregated Tampa?
JP: Well, you know, I had a last namemy last name was Greek.
JP: Kaminis. So, I was about in the same situation as the blacks.
JP: People didnt like(makes noise)they didnt like Hispanics and Greeks either.
JP: In Tampa. Even though you had Ybor City.
AH: (affirmative murmur)
JP: I mean, the first Girl Scout troop I wanted to join, I was told, We dont want any Greeks in our troop.
JP: I went home and cried and cried and cried. ItThatIt was a bad time, all the way around, you know? And youd get on a bus, and the blacks would just immediately walk to the back. And you justthat was the way things were. And then, when wed go downtown, the faucetthe drinking fountains would say, White only, and it justit was a bad time. So
AH: So, you were only too happy to assist in seeing this go away.
JP: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. And so, I know when I got on the county commission, one of the first things I did was. When George Edgecomb
George Edgecomb was Hillsborough Countys first African-American judge.
passed away, I made a motion that we name a building for him. And that was the first building that, in this whole area, that was named for an African-American. And we named our community action center, which was big, for George Edgecomb.
And then, when they destroyed thatthey were gonna destroy itthen Ithey were building an annex to the courthouse, and I wont say who, but there was somebody who wanted it named for himself, and I immediately said, Well, since weve destroyed this one building, and it was named for George Edgecomb, lets immediateletsits only fitting that we name this courtroom. And so, nobody could say no to that.
AH: Right. And his name is still up there today.
JP: Its still there today. Its still there today. And they take it for granted.
JP: Its just one of those things thats there.
AH: That couldve been Ralph Hughes or something.
JP: Or whoI wont say who. (AH laughs) The person is still very active in the community, (AH and JP laugh) so be it.
AH: So, obviously, it seemed like from a very young age, and with your education and everything, your interest in public service, really, thats youris that your ultimate objective asat a young age?
JP: Well, yes. And Girl Scouting, because Iyou know, I was always active in the scouts; and that was, sort of, a part of it, too.
AH: Yeah. So, how long did your initial involvement with the Girl Scouts last?
JP: I cant say, a couple of years. And then, I decided to go to graduate school. And so, I went to UVA [University of Virginia] to get a Masters. But then, in the meantime, Id met my husband who was a pilot at MacDill Air Force Base with Strategic Air Command. And that was during the Cold War. When there were planes that carried nuclear bombs, and he was a pilot of one of those planes; and thats what was out at MacDill. And so, he played a role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, because, if you remember, they were supposed to have Cuban missilesthere washaving missiles.
I was up at UVA. I had been dating my husband and all of the bombers from MacDill Air Force Base were transferred to Savannah, and MacDill became an infantry base. Because the thought was that what might happen is that it mightthere might be a necessity to bomb Cuba, and that there needed to be a place for troops to leave from Florida, and MacDill became thatto go to Cuba.
JP: So, in a way, I was involved with all that, because I was up at UVA, and we were just a hundred miles from Washington, and we were afraid that if Khrushchev and Castro had those missiles, that they would miss Washington and hit Charlottesville; and so, we were all packed up and ready to go. Cause weand anyway, but thats when I decided to drop out of graduate school and marry my husband. (laughs)
JP: And so, he and I got married after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and then we got transferred to Plattsburgh Air Force Base.
Plattsburgh Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force Strategic Air Command base covering 3,447 acres in the extreme northeast corner of New York, 20 miles south of the Canadian border.
AH: So, how did yall meet?
JP: Um, well, back in those days, there was a group called Spinsters, and I was president of it, and we would have parties every month at somebodys house. And so, we had a party at his househed sharehad a house with some buddies, and I invited him. So, thats how we first met was I invited him to that party.
AH: Well, right. So, this is a club for single women?
JP: (affirmative murmurs) And wed always pick a Bachelor of the Year. I dont think its in existence anymore. It was always a big social event.
JP: To be the Bachelor of the Year. But I was president of the Spinsters.
JP: A sort of dubious title. (AH and JP laughs)
AH: All right. Soso, hes transferred, then
JP: To Plattsburg Air Force Base.
AH: And so, what do you do during this time? Youre
JP: I got involved with the Girl Scouts, and was on the board of that council up there.
JP: As a volunteer. And I did some substitute teaching, and thats when Kennedy was shot. And one part of the story thats never really talked about in this past celebration of hisor commemoration of his death is that nobody really knew for sure how far the plot went. And so, I did not see my husband for quite a while. And, again, Strategic Air Command, up in the air with bombs.
JP: Nuclear bombs.
JP: We went through that, which was notit was an uneasy time. Because people really werent sure what or whohow far that scenario went.
AH: Or if it went to Moscow or
AH: Yeah, right.
JP: Absolutely. And see, thats why
AH: Right. Well, and at that time, thats when they used to have planes on call at any given moment; theyd always be in the sky, right?
JP: They were on alert.
JP: You know, they wouldthey would be on alert or in the air.
JP: And so, he would be home for a week off, but always near a phone. But then, he would be on duty for a week, where he was on alert. And he was either in a barracks, where they all were ready to get in the air, or he was in the plane, up in the air.
AH: Right, right.
JP: That was during the Cold War. And, you know, when we were there, they phased out his plane that he flew, the B-47, and they offered him an opportunity to go to missiles. Because missilesI dont know that the general publicand I dont know if I ought to be talkin about it but there are missiles in the ground today, doing what those planes did.
And he was offered an opportunity to go with missiles or fly a B-52, and he didnt want a B-52, cause it was so big; he loved the B-47, cause it was only three people, and it was a neat little jet. And thats when he decided towhen they phased out his jetto go to law school.
JP: So, he went towent to Nashville. Went to Nashville.
AH: (affirmative murmurs) okay. Soso, what eventually gets you back to Tampa, then?
JP: Well, when he got out of law school, he decided to come back and practice here. And he originally was a trust officer with Marine Bank, and then, and then was offered an opportunity to become a partner with Sam Gibbons firm. And so, he was with Gibbons-Tucker-McEwen until that firm went different ways.
JP: Because congress passed a law that congressmen couldntcouldnt have law firms.
JP: Sobut he was a partner of Gibbons-Tucker-McEwen.
AH: Okay. And thenso, when you get to Tampa, then, tell us about, kind of, your reorientation process.
JP: Well, then I becamewe had a son, Kevin, when we were at Nashville. So, I was a mom, but then, I also got back into Girl Scouting.
JP: And was ultimately President of the Suncoast Girl Scout Council. And thats where I first became involved with the environment, because the Girl Scout Council built the first camphad the first campsite in the Southeast on saltwater. And thats Wai Lani, thats over in Pinellas County. And it was open, I think, in 1972. And soon after we built that campsite, Pinellas County Commission voted to put a sewer plant immediately adjacent to it, with an outa nineteen-inch outfall pipe that would be on the top of the ground; they were even gonna dig up(laughs) they werent even gonna make a hole. They were in Saint Joseph Sound, and dispose of the effluent just out in Saint Joseph Sound, where our girlsour girls were going to be canoeing and sailing and fishing.
And so, thats when I first became involved in environment, wasI was president of the council. And I called Roger Stuart, and thats the first time I ever met him. And we waged a campaign to gowe got the Brownies and we went before the County Commission in Pinellas County, and we got the press all involved; and it really brought to light something that had really neverit never dawned on people is what goeswith sewer plants, what goes out of those pipes, what happens to sewage when itwhen you flush the chain or you turn on the (inaudible)back then, it would just go to a sewer plant, wouldnt be treated, and then, it would be disposed of in the bay and out in a pipe somewhere.
JP: It was primary treatment. And I had been a sailorI used to sail prams, and I wont say what we would see floating in Tampa Bay, because that was what was going in Tampa Bay too. And so, we used itI used it as an opportunity to inform the public of what was going on, and that was really the beginning; that Girl Scout adventure was the beginning of the whole issue of cleaning up water.
JP: Because Mary Grizzle, the GrizzleWilson-Grizzle Bill was passed that required tertiary treatment of sewer plants. And it becamestarted there. And Pinellas County withdrew its plan to discharge the sewage into Saint Joseph Sound and it turned that sewer plant into the first reclaimed plant in our area. And so, the reclaimed water from the sewage in Pinellas County was used to water Innisbrook Golf Course. Which makes sense. I mean, thatit was a naturaland it was right next door to Innisbrook. And so, that was the beginning of reclaimed water. And of course Hillsborough County didnt have any of that.
And sobut that was in 1972, and then, my sister wasshe was a staffer with the Girl Scoutsstaff member. And so, we were very close, and she was six years my junior, and she had a long battle with cancer. And she passed in March of 74. AndI think it was March thirdand whenit was almost that same week, Greco resigned as mayor
AH: Ah, yes.
JP: of the city. And when he did, there were three openings on city council. And so, thats when I decided that life is short, cause Id seen myI may cry when I say this, but, you know, theres nothingits so tragic to watch somebody you love, younger, fight for life and want life, and then be denied that. And it makes you realize how important and short life is, and that its important that you just do and give as much as you can while youre alive. Cause you dont know whats gonna happen.
And so, when thosethatsalmost the next week, I said, Well, Ill run for city council. And I dont know thatcause Imyou may not realize it, but Im an introvert. I dontIm not this bombastic person. Im sort of aIm a Phi Beta Kappa student, study, quiet kind of person. Its sort ofitsI dont get up, and, you know, I dont get up in a crowd and do things. So, for me to run, I dont know that I wouldve ever run, had she not passed away.
JP: And all my friends werecause Id been a Republican at one time, and Id been a Democrat. I was a Democrat at the time. Soand wethey allall my friends were Republicans and Democrats, and city council was non-partisan. So, they all got together and said, Well, well support you, and well raise the money, so, I ran for city council in 74.
JP: And thats when I made a lot of the decisions never to ask anybody for money, because if you do, then if they have something that comes before you, its going to be hard to say no to them after youve asked them for moneytheyve done something for you. So, I neverI made that point in the very beginning, never to ask for money.
AH: But money is speech now, right? (laughs)
JP: Well, and I neverI never got much money, and my opponents always had a lot of money.
JP: And that, in a way, worked against them. Because it was very obvious that I didnt have any money, and I wasntmy friends would send letters to people and ask for money, but it was very obvious that I wasnt going to be beholden to anybody. It was very obvious.
JP: And you couldyou couldyou could almost look at their contributions and it would be a playbook of what was going to come up, because you knew all those people had that much interest in this job, something was going to happen.
AH: Right. It reminds me of what Shirley Chisholm, the first female candidate for president, you know, sheher big saying was unbought and unbossed. (JP laughs) So, that was Jan Platt.
AH: Soso, its 1974, and you get on city council; youre elected?
AH: Okay. So, tell us, that mustve been another kind of culture shock.
JP: Well, and my first two votes were no. (laughs) I started off voting no. Because
AH: You were known as Commissioner No.
AH: Kind of.
JP: Yes, but because, again, I was a Phi Beta KappaPhi Kappa Phi. I was an intellectual whose major was government. So, I was there to try to make government work as it was supposed to work. And the election for city counciland the citywas at the same time as county commission, members of the legislature, everybody else, and the citys budget; so that, when we were elected, the first vote that we were asked to take was on the city budget, which we had never seen or participated in. And so, I used that as an opportunity to articulate, when I voted no, why I should not have been placed in that position in the first place.
JP: And that all my compatriots(laughs) I didnt say it, but, you know, what did they know about the budget? Because theyd just gotten elected. And so, I used that as a reason to move the city elections. So, now, the city elections are in March, because thats when the budget starts. So, I was the one who started that.
JP: And because that had to go to the voters to move itthe city elections to March.
AH: Seems like a strange ritual. Its almost as ifalmost as if new members learn to, kind of, get along and kick the can down the road.
JP: Oh, yeah, thats right. I mean
AH: Right? I mean, just dont even look at it; just vote on the budget, right?
JP: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the City of Tampa is a strong mayor form of government.
JP: And when I say strong, I really mean strong. And sobut let me tell you about my second no vote that was in the very beginning, and that was Dale Troutman came to us to expand the city sewage treatment plant. And so, I saidthats when I articulatedI said, Is that primary treatment or tertiary? And he said, Primary, which isjust goes through the pipes and out back to the bay. And so, then, I used that as an opportunity to articulate why that was a bad idea; and that they ought not expand it in that fashion, but go the extra mile.
JP: And the media covered that in a big way. And he did come back and change it. And so, one of the things that I decided early onthis is academic meis that a no, well articulated, can be as positive as a yes. And so, every time that I would vote no, I would articulate why I did it. Now, that would make my compatriots really mad. (AH and JP laugh)
AH: I bet, I bet.
JP: And I wouldtheyd say, Ah, there she goes again! But, somebody had to do it.
JP: And it really did bring about change. I mean, thats howand so, thatagain, when I got on city council and they didnt have their own attorney. The city attorneythe city attorney really ran the city; it was Henry Williams. He was the attorney for the mayor, and then, hed come in and be the attorney for the city council. They had no budget help.
The mayor would propose a budget, and the city council members just sat there and approved it. And so, I articulated why both of those were bad ideas. And so, the city council then got its own attorney, and it got a budget analyst. And then, I said that there needed to be a city charter, and thats what brought about a charter study committee that looked at the whole scheme of things and proposed a city charter that passed the voters.
AH: All right.
JP: So, I was sort of an academic, you know, about it, because the general politician wouldnt get into that kind of thing. But it was so terrible, because with the city, the chief finance officerunder him was the city auditor. He hadthe city auditorthe person who was auditing the financial advisorhe was his boss.
JP: Now that was all going on with Greco, you have to understand.
AH: All right, right.
JP: So, thats why I ran against Greco when(laughs) later on, because he hadthats how hebut anyway.
AH: Well, he also bailed on his first term for
JP: I know.
AH: To go work for a developer.
JP: I know, I know. But anyway, so, I reformed that.
AH: Well, seems like youd be the odd person out in most political activities around here, at the time, because you were talking about principle, you know?
AH: And in each of the cases, I mean, when you talked about the Girl Scouts in the beginning, with the affluence and everything, the effluvium orthat, you know, itsyoure making a bigger point. Its not just about the Girl Scouts, its about the way were treating our sewage makes no sense; were not treating it.
AH: And so, each time, youre bringing up a bigger issue and not just fighting over the one petty thing.
AH: But kind of biggerbigger issues. And then, you could see how, with your timing coming in during the 70s, you know, youd be in step with a lot ofa lot of people that are becoming more aware of pollution and all that stuff; and youd really have to be blind to not notice those things here in Hillsborough County in the 70s, right?
JP: Right. And thatyou know, thatbut thats reallyyeah.
JP: And also, while I was on city council, Askew was governor. And I had met him at FSUhe was in the legislature when I was president senate, and he would periodically come in and just sit in at our meetings; because he had gone to FSU, and I had advocated that we, FSU, have a lobbyist in Tallahassee. Now think about it. Youre here at USF. Now, there are all these major universities. Back then, there was only Florida and FSU. And all the graduatesall the members of the legislature were graduates of Florida.
JP: Not FSU. And so, all the money that was allocated went to Florida. I said, Thats not right. (laughs) And so, we were so glad about Askew; so, he would come, and I proposed FSU get a lobbyist, and we did get a lobbyist. But, when I was on city council, he appointed me to be Chairman of the Sunshine Amendment Drive; and thats why another nickname for me has been Sunshine, because thats the amendment that requires full financial disclosure of public officials.
JP: And we were the first county in the state to get all the signed petitions. It was the first successful petition drive in the history of the state. And so, that did pass; and then, he later appointed me to the constitution revision commission.
JP: Which met in 1976. And I was there to represent local governmentJohn DeGrove, from the East Coast, and Iand that was an invaluable experience for one year. I met in Tallahassee with all the powers that be to review the state constitution. And Sandy D'Alemberte, whos still alive and very active, was our chairman; and Jim Kines, who had sat next to me, and Governor Collins sat two down, and Ben OvertonI mean, all the biggies were on it. (laughs)
And it was such a wonderful experience, but they have athey have a portrait that they did of the group; and over my head, it said No. (AH and JP laugh) Because they would come up with all these special interest things that they wanted to add to the constitution, and, again, I would tell them why it wasnt a good idea.
AH: Right. Were lucky to have you there.
JP: Yeah. So, Askew wasI was very fortunate.
AH: So, what kind of changes were made? You knowwere there any real major changes to the constitution?
JP: During that time, no. There really werent.
JP: Fortunately. But some of the bad guys wanted to eliminate the cabinet completely. They wanted tothere were a lot of bad ideas, but, fortunately, they didnt pass.
JP: So, there were not. But it was a wonderful experience.
AH: Right. Sounds like it.
JP: (affirmative murmurs)
AH: Soso, anything else on youron the city commission time before we move onto where, I think we can agree you really left your mark?
JP: Uh, no, I think thats probably it.
So, I ran county commission in 78.
AH: Right. And then, what prompted you to do that?
JP: Well, a lot of people in the media said I was needed up there.
JP: And I didnt know what they meant. (laughs) But I found out.
AH: (laughs) Real quick.
JP: I found out real quick.
AH: Well, anddid you feel that?
JP: And seeand I didnt really like being in with a strong mayor form of government.
JP: Because every time I would vote no, you know, it always put me at odds with everybody else. And I wasnt a go along person. I mean, to me, I dont know how anybody withI shouldnt say it, but, its a strong mayor form of government.
AH: Right, right. Yeah, that was my next question; is if that kind of stifled
JP: Yeah. Thats part of it, yeah.
AH: Okay. Soso, you run for county commission.
JP: (affirmative murmurs)
AH: And you do the same thing, right? Youre not asking anyone for money or anything like that?
JP: No, no.
AH: So, basedso, just based on your reputation in city council, you were elected?
JP: Yes. (affirmative murmurs)
AH: Okay. Soso, tell us about this experience. How youyou and I have discussed this a little bit, but what was it like going into city councilI mean, county commission for the first time?
JP: Well, the growth was substantial.
JP: Because thats where the growth was occurring. I think IIve said that the county was getting, I think, about 20,000 new people a year. I mean it was just growing like Topsy, and what I was seeing that the board of county commissioners would approve of everything that came before them. I mean, they wouldnt say no to anybody. And itif it involved mowing downfilling in a cypress head, or mowing down mangroves, they just said yes.
And I kept saying no, and saying why it was a bad idea. And one of the things I proposed was a zoning hearing master law, which did pass; that was one of my early ones. Toso that a zoning hearing masteran individual would hear the zonings. And then, we could not meet with the developers or anything like that. And then, he would make a recommendation to us, and then, wed have to act on it.
But I made the decision early on at the county to not meet with anybody. (laughs) And I didnt. I didnt evenI wouldnt even letI wouldnt even meet with the administrator, because he had a point of view that he was going to try to sell me. And so, I didnt want to be tainted by any of that.
And so, I would read everything. And the University of South Floridas [Library] Special Collections has a lot of that reading material that I read. Because Ione of the laws is that you have to keep all of the written material that comes in to you. And I did that. And I would often question things; and even the staff, I found, sometimes had not read what they had sent out.
JP: So, that was an interesting situation, but I had some commissioners that would vote very strangely, and there would be a few people that, every time they would come before the board, they wouldtheyd just haveall theyd do is stand up there, and they wouldtheydthe commissioners would make a motion to approve whatever it was they had. And they would get it. And I thought that was very strange. And, in fact, my aide was Cynthia Gandy, at the time. Cynthia is now the director for the Henry Plant Museum.
But she was my first administrative assistant, and the two of us, we were babes in the woods. And we asked [Joe] Kotvas, we said, Well, you sure vote strangely. And he told that theythat he voted according to the Farmers Almanac. Farmers Almanac? So, I said, Cynthia, go out and buy a Farmers Almanac. (laughs) And one day, while he wasnt in his office, we went down to look in his office to see if there was a Farmers Almanac on his desk, and there wasnt.
AH: Right, right.
JP: But we got the Farmers Almanac to see if we could(laughs)
AH: To sayfor the pattern?
JP: Yeah, but we couldnt. There was no deciphering it. I mean, they were just
JP: And then, one day, Cynthia was at her desk and I was in, studying the agenda, and Cynthia said, You know, Jan, somethings strange. Jerry Bowmer just walked by and he had two men on both sides of him. They walked out. And I said, Well, thats weird. So, we stood at the office door, and looked down at Fred Andersons office, and there were two men outside his door, and they had ear things on. And I said, Oh, Cynthia, those are just TV reporters. (laughs) Little did I know, they were the FBI. (laughs)
JP: But as we stood there, then those two guys went in and got Fred Anderson, and Fred walked out in front of us. And then, they went down and got Kotvas, and Kotvas went out andI always kid Cynthia and tellsay that shes the only person who saw all three of them arrested. Rodney Coulson, whose office was next door to me, was out of the office that day. He wasnt arrested and he wasnt charged with anything. And soon after that, we got a call from US Attorneys Office telling us to leave our office, close the door, that the guys had been arrested and were being arraigned, and Dont come back anytime soon. So
AH: Why was that? Because they wanted to have a chance to
JP: Well, they were being nice to let us know just to leave, because they knew wed be bombarded with the press, and we didnt know anything.
JP: You know, and just to protect us.
AH: And not get mixed up in
AH: So, what were they arrested for?
JP: For accepting bribes foron zonings.
JP: And so, that left two of us on the county commission: Rodney and me. And so, the governor quickly appointed Jim Redman, so that we could have three people. And so, JimI was the chairman. I was kidding Sam that I was the chairman of the smallest county commission in the history of the county. (AH and JP laughs)
JP: But the three of us governed. And then, it wasthe governor at that time was Graham. And so, he looked for members to make a five-member board, and so, he added John Polk; andoh, goodness. Oh, the fellow who developed Carrollwood, Matt Jettan; anduh, an African-American who was very outstanding. I cant think of his name right now.
And, anyway, and then Jim Redman dropped off, but it was the five of us. Sobut there wereI forget, but those three commissioners were indicted. And Charley Bean, who was not on the board at the time, but had been on the boardI served with him. So, there were four commissioners, and then about eighteen members in the community.
AH: Oh, wow.
JP: Business people.
JP: Attorneys. You never hear about them, but theythey
AH: Weve just got five minutes left on the tape, so
JP: Oh, gosh. Okay.
AH: No, no, no worries.
JP: Okay. But I appeared before the federal grand jury as anot as a target, but as a
JP: As asomeone to give evidence.
JP: And then, I had to appear at the trial. And it was very traumatic. You know, going before a federal grand jury is a great responsibility, because everything you say is so important. And you dont want to falsely say anything or say something that could injure somebody whoso, youit was just very traumatic. And, fortunately, I have a very thoughtful husband, and he arranged for us to go fishing in the Keys after that. (AH and JP laugh) So that after I gave my Grand Jury testimony, I went to the airport and flew to Key West, and we went fishing.
AH: Ah, perfect.
JP: But it was very traumatic.
AH: Right. Well, but there was another good thing that came out of all that, right? Werent you able to go to the Super Bowl?
JP: Oh, yes. Thats right. That was right. How did you remember that one?
AH: That was a great story.
JP: Yeah. Because Ibecause I became chairman.
AH: Yeah, tell us the Supertell us how you got to go to the Super Bowl. This will be a great way to end this segment.
JP: (laughs) Well, because I was chairman
AH: Well, first of all, tell us why you couldnt go to the Super Bowl initially, right?
JP: Well, because I wasnt chairman. And I wasnt on theon theI wasnt on the sports authority.
AH: Yeah, so there were only so many tickets that went
JP: There were so many tickets. And so, it only went to just the chairman of the county commission and the members of the sports authority. And I wasnt on either one of those. So, I got tickets to the Super Bowl, and that was the plus side of it. (AH laughs) And Ill always remember that I went, and in the box next to me was Ted Kennedy.
AH: Oh, wow.
JP: Which I thought was interesting. (AH and JP laugh) But anyway.
AH: Well, I think this is
JP: That was the plus side.
AH: A good way for us to end the first hour of our adventures with Jan Platt. Thank you, Jan.
JP: Thank you.
Well, one of the things I forgot to mention aboutthat occurred while the bad guys were in office was that they voted to take three books off the library shelves. And at that time, the City of Tampa had the libraries. There were only a handful of libraries in unincorporated Hillsborough, because there were no people out there.
JP: And so, I raised Cain about the fact that they were taking these books off the shelves. And I said that there ought to bethat politicians should not have any policy-making authority over libraries; that they should be out of the library business.
AH: So, now, the books were taken off the shelves because they were considered improper, is that right?
JP: Yes. That somebody came and said, These are terrible books. And I cant even remember what the name of the books were.
JP: But they wanted them off the shelves. And so, again, at that time, the City of Tampa operated the system. And so, I went to the then mayor of the City of Tampa, who, as fate would have it, was Bob Martinez. And, as fate would have it, his wife had been a librarian. And so, shehe understood the issue. And I said, Bob, we need to do something about this. And lets create a countywide system.
And he agreed and said, Illyou come up with something, and Ill look at it, and well see what we do. So, I met with Quintella Bruton from Plant City, who was very involved with the libraries in Plant City, and Elizabeth Himes. Elizabeths husband had been a judge, and she was the first woman ever elected to a position in thatin this county. You never hear about it, but its true; she was the first woman ever elected to a position, and that was to the Tampa General Hospital Authority Board, back a long time ago in Tampa General.
But anyway, the three of us met and talked about this countywide system, and Quintella was adamant that she did not want Plant City to be a part of it. She wanted Plant City to be independent. And, when we contacted Temple Terrace, they said they wanted no part of it. And so, we honored that, because theyit took a special act of the legislatureand so, we createdwe came up with a piece of legislation that just dealt with unincorporated Hillsborough and City of Tampa.
And provided for a library board that would be appointed; would be citizens that would be appointed by the City of Tampa and the county commission, and they would be responsible for governing the libraries in the county and the city. That there would be one system, and that the downtown library, which is now the John Germany Library, would stay in ownership of the City of Tampa and would be the lead library.
And we also created a special tax district for the City of Tampa and everything out in the county except Temple Terrace and Plant City. And that would be used to fund the construction of new libraries. And so, Mayor Martinez was supportive of that, and we proposed that to legislative delegation, and they approved it. And thats the library system we have today. And now, there are over twenty-seven libraries throughout the city and county. But most of them have been out in the county, because the county has grown like Topsy.
And we really needed a unified system. And so, since Ive been out of office, Ive stayed active with the Friends of the Library, and to make them a strong organization. And one of myone of my things that I still have on my list is to try to change that law now to include Plant City and Temple Terrace, because I think times have changed, and I think they would probably want to be part of the system too. But it would involve them saying yes to being taxed.
JP: But, but, they both went along the environmental lands program, and theyre taxed for that; so, I think they can see that if, you know, the money is well spent, hopefully, we can get them to be part of the system.
JP: Â But thats the library system that we have today.
AH: I mean, arent they taxed in their municipalities anyway? Are they not taxed to?
JP: They may be. They may be. But its for their independent library system.
JP: And see, theyre not part of theof some of the exchanges and things like that.
JP: You know? And when our Friends of the Library meet, and we have representatives from all those chapters that meet once a monthor once every two monthstheyre not there to hear whats going on throughout the county. And so, its really a detriment to their citizens, not to be a part of it.
AH: (affirmative murmurs)
JP: So, thats still on my list.
JP: Of things to get finished off before I fade away.
AH: Well, you know, youre right, though, about theyou were just talking about the growth of the county; twenty thousand people a year, during the 70s, certainly during the 80s, it didnt slow down. So
JP: I know. Its got close to 1.3 million people right now.
JP: In fact, I think I have the statistics here. Well, itno, I really dont, but it has grown like Topsy. When Iwell, I do have itwhen I waswhen I was inwhen I came into office, Hillsborough County had six hundred anda hundredsix hundredsix hundredsixteen people? Oh, they had six hundred (laughs) Im getting old.
AH: Six hundred and sixteen thousand?
JP: Yeah. Thats what it had. And then, when I left office, it had 1.1 million.
JP: So, it doubled when I was in office.
JP: And see, thats why I came up with that Environmental Land Program. Is because I kept seeing all this land thatyou know, theyd vote yes to all these
JP: And I said, Weve gotta save these lands, and the only way to save them is for the public to buy them. And every time weve put that on the ballotthe first timewell, its been twenty-five years; we just celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary.
JP: Yeah, well, thank you. 61,000 acres have been bought.
JP: And its mangroves and those mangrove shorelines, and cypress heads, and thats the only way to save them.
AH: Right. Its such an important program. And, you knowand I think a lot of people are looking back at the, you know, the financial crisisyou know, 2008 and 9, as being kind of a reprieve for Florida lands, because they were being gobbled up so quickly.
JP: Well, and its interesting that at this last election, I think it was 2009 when the presidential electionwhenever the last presidential election was, the Environmental Land Program was on the ballot, and it won by 71% of the voters. It had the most votes of anything on the ballot. And its been on the ballot three times, and every time, its been byits won by vast majorities.
JP: And its the public is so supportive of saving the lands. And one of the keys to that
AH: I mean, how often does it have to be voted on, anyway?
JP: Well, it wont be for twenty years; its got $200,000,000.
JP: This last time was for twenty years.
JP: And its citizenthe citizens operate it, basically. And I gave a speech the other day on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary, remarking that many of the citizens who were involved in the very beginning are still involved. There are numerous citizen campaigncitizen committees that review the projects and determine whether they meet the criteria, and thenand then, they rank what land should be purchased.
JP: And soand, you know, its a fair program, because if somebody owns the land, its not government condemning them and saying, Were going to take your land, theyre paid. Its appraised. And so, that they get something for that land. But its really been a very successful program of saving. And then, as far as theyou know, I talked about me with the environment, I was on the regional planning council, and I becameI was involved in forming the agency on bay management, which is cooperative of all the environmental groups and regulatory groups dealing with bay issues; and they meet on a regular basis to oversee the seabeds, the sea grasses, and the oysters and everything, to make sure and then, make recommendations to government agencies and elected officials. And that still meets today.
And then, also, another issue that I dealt with was the estuary program. When I was Chairman of the Agency on Bay Management, I noticed that south of usSarasota, Manateethat they were part of the estuary program. And I said, Well, were Floridayou people dont realize that our bay is the largest estuary in the state of Florida. And I said, We ought to be a part of that, too. And so, I went before Congressme and the director of Swiftmud
The Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly referred to as Swiftmud or SWFWMD is one of five regional agencies directed by Florida state law to protect and preserve water resources. The District's responsibilities have expanded to include managing water supply and protecting water quality and the natural systems rivers, lakes, wetlands and associated uplands.
and Sam Gibbons and Bill Young went with us. And we proposed that the bayTampa Baybe part of the estuary programNational Estuary Program,
The National Estuary Program (NEP) is a network of voluntary community-based programs that safeguards the health of important coastal ecosystems across the country.
and it passed. So, were part of the National Estuary Program, which is very helpful, because then, that keeps our bay in line with federal programs and federal funding for variousvarious opportunities.
And, you know, I might say thisthat we always had bipartisan support for the bay. Bill Young and Sam Gibbons would always stand together on bay issues. And that was so important. And I hope that continues, because there wasnt political infighting; they both understood that it was important. When I dealt with some of the Egmont Key issues, I could turn to both of them, and they would both say yes. And they wouldnt try to undercut one another or grandstand or anything like that; they were a team. They could be counted on, and they will be sorely missed.
JP: They were the Monuments Men.
The Monuments Men was a group of approximately 345 men and women, often professors from 13 nations that volunteered for service during the Second World War to protect and recover many works of art from the Nazis. In the last year of the war, they tracked, located, and in the years followed, returned more than 5,000,000 artistic and cultural items stolen by Hitler and the Nazis.
AH: Right. Well, and its funny, cause, you know, I just saw Bob Martinez speak a while ago, you know? And he was talking about some of the environmental things that happened on his watch as governor, and you often forget that today its so, kind of, polarized. Everyone has their, sort of, appointed issues. You know, depending on what aisleyou know, side of aisle youre on. And environmental issues and republicans dont mix anymore. And so, itsyou know, its really disappointing to kind of survey the political scene now and see that theres reallytheres not much of that camaraderie or teamwork going on anymore.
JP: I know. And, you know, the newspaperI think it was this past weekendhad the top twenty focal points for the state of Florida for people from the outside, and number one was our bay. It was water.
JP: Number one. Tampa Bay. I mean, it is so important in so many ways.
JP: And, you know, itswith the shipshipping channel, and now, with the cruise ships and everything, theyre always mindful if theres ever any dredging or anything like that, thatthat be done in a way that does notis not harmful to the environment. But, because everybody understands how important it is. So, they heed all the warnings.
AH: Right. Well, you know, and looking back, although a lot of people can agree that all these environmental issues are important, if Jan Platt wasnt there in the county commission when you were there, would we have any LAPP right now, do you think? I mean
JP: I dont know.
AH: I mean, its
JP: I dont know.
AH: You would think that there would be other people advocating these types of things, but it doesnt seem like many people have surfaced.
JP: I dont know. Another Id star was the history center. Again, under state law, counties are responsible for the artifacts of the county, and the county had an Indiandug out Indian canoe somewhere, and they misplaced it. I heard about thatand I dont know if you ever went to the county, when the county commission was in the old courthouse. Thats where we first met before we built that Fredbefore we bought the Fred Karl Center. But in that building, on the second floor, was sort of a little museum. It was about the size of the room that were in now.
And there was a lady that tended it, and it had a lot of the artifacts. It had beautiful paintings of the Indians and the bay, and things like that. And youd routinely go by those. And so, Iand then, when the legislative office closed, to move to its own office, they had all these photographs of former members of the legislature that they were going to pitch. Well, I collected them in my office, and I said, No way. And so I made sure that the county held onto those. And again, having been a history teacher
JP: Im interested in history. So, I made a motion that we create a citizens task force, made up of representatives appointed by the city and county, to determine what should be done with the countys historic collections. And they metand the irony is Ken Lewis was the chairman. He was the president of the bank. Now, if you look at the papers now, Ken Lewis has made a name for himself in a bad way nationally. (laughs)
JP: Look him up on Google. (laughs)
JP: But anyway, when he was in Tampa, everything was fine. He was chairman of our committee; and they got an outside consultant, and that consultant said that we ought to have a history museum for these artifacts. And so, Tommy Touchton came to me with his wife, and he said, Jan, if you can find the money to build it, Lee and I will get out and raise money to operate it. AndLee and Tommy came and said that. And so, there was really no money to build a history museum.
But one day, in a budget meeting, one of our staffers came inand it was during the budget hearingand he had I forget how many millions that I noticed he didnt have allocated to anything. And I said, What is that? What are those millions for? He said, Well, we really havent determined what that moneys for right now. And I think it was seven million. Anyway, so, I immediately(laughs)seized on the opportunity and made a motion that those millions be allocated to build a history museum. And it caught everybody sort of off guard, and so they said somebody seconded it, and they passed it. And so, that money went to build the history museum.
JP: What is ironic is, months later, that staffer retired from the county, and I often wonder if his(laughs)if his comments before the board helped toward that retirement. I hope not. But anywaybut thats where they got the money to build the history center.
AH: Right. And then, of course, they had to raise moneyso much money to
JP: To operate it. Thats
JP: Yeah. So, anyway.
AH: Okay. So, well, you know, talking about some of your landmark achievementslets see, Tampa Bay Regional Planning
JP: I chaired that.
AH: Planning Council, the Agency on Bay Management
The Agency on Bay Management, the natural resources committee of the Tampa Bay Regional Council, remains the primary community organization focusing on the protection and management of the Tampa Bay estuary.
, the ELAPP Program, the National Estuary Program, or introduction into that. The county library system, another big one.
JP: And the charters. Because I proposed that we have a charter for this county.
JP: And so, we had a charterwhen we had those appointed commissioners that board, we developed the first charter for the county, with a strong administrative form of government. And Ive been on every charter review commission since then, and I continuebecause every now and then, somebody says, Well, lets get a mayor. But Iright now, under our current charter, each personeach voter, votes for a majority of the board. There are three at large, and four single member, so that you have a majority of the commissioners responsible to you. And thats democracy.
AH: (affirmative murmurs)
JP: Every now and then, youll find that people want to have two at large and five, but I say no, because then, you would mess that up. And you wouldnt have a majority responsible to every commissioner. You see what Im saying?
JP: Right now, youve got four
JP: You, as a voter, vote for three at large. So, theyre all responsible to you, plus you have one single member district person whos responsible to you. And so, you always need to remind them of that.
JP: So, youve got a majority that are
JP: Yeah. So, that if you switched it to two
JP: Then youd have those two, plus a single member, but then youd have a majority against you.
AH: (affirmative murmurs)
JP: And then, that would beopen the door to the mayor. And the politics with the countyand weve talked about the growthits not a healthy situation, because development rules the day. Thats why we had arrests. Thats why we have investigations. Thats why we have some of the stuff going on. Because theres considerable pressure
JP: For growth. And to say yes to anything that comes along the line.
AH: Well, I thought that humanity
JP: And thats why
AH: Im sorry, go ahead.
JP: And thats why having the administrator in charge of all the departments and everything, and making the recommendationshes a professional, and they have ethics. And so, hes not beholden to people for campaign contributions when he comes forward with his recommendations. So, there always needs to be people keeping an eye on the county commission.
JP: Because theres just a lot of pressure out there.
AH: (affirmative murmurs) Yeahwell, I mean, the county talked aboutthis is several years ago now, but I think this is a perfect illustration of the humanitarian award; they were gonna do an award for, you know, someone who had done great things in the county for people, and Ralph Hughes wasI think that was the only nominee they had, you know? And Ralph Hughes, hes a successful businessman and a developer, but hes one who isnt exactly humanitarian.
AH: And I thought to myself, God, you know, could you think of so many people around Tampa and Hillsborough County who you could include, but Ralph Hughes isnt somebody that really would pop out at me. But yethow did they end up voting on that issue? Do you remember?
JP: No, I dont. They were gonna change thein fact, that was in the Wall Street Journal, and I was quoted in the Wall Street Journal on that one. (AH and JP laugh) I gavetold em what I thought about that. They were gonna change the name of the Moral Courage Award.
AH: Yeah, that was it. The Moral Courage Award.
JP: Tothey werethat Pamthat Cam Oberting
Cam Oberting is an environmental activist in the state of Florida.
had received, and they were gonna name that for him. But no, they backed off of that.
AH: Right, right.
JP: And they did not do that. But
AH: But is it one of those things that, you know, in the rarified air of county commissionit sounds like a good idea to somebody somewherethey dont realize how transparentI mean, it looks
JP: Oh, absolutely. I mean, he was a puppeteer.
JP: You know? He was a puppeteer. And ultimately, when he was exposed, I think he owed $80,000,000 worth of taxes.
JP: I mean, what kind of person is that? But again, I would encourage citizens who are interested and who are involved with government to periodically review the campaign contributions. They are the key to everything, and you can get a pretty good picture of where things are going.
JP: And why things are like they are.
AH: And I want to spend a lot of time on the Supreme Court decisions, but the recent Supreme Court decisions about money equaling speech, you know, and that its not necessarily a bribe if you give somebody money and all this stuffyou know, watching this play out at the local level, what do you think of the wisdom of those decisions?
JP: I think theyI think that they dont understand the pressures that those contributions create.
JP: Because thats what it does. It creates pressure on the people who receive them. Especially if the people who receive them have been the ones to face-to-face ask for it.
JP: You know what Im saying?
JP: Because, then, when the person comes with their rezoning or they want to be thethey want to operate the taxicabs or whatever, its hard to say no to them.
JP: Down the line.
JP: And, you know, I thinkI think another law thatI think a law that needs to be changed is the one that requires that seven years after youve been in office, your records are destroyed. You know, thatsIm so thankful that the University of South Florida has taken my records. Those are important records. And yet, had you not taken themand its 230 boxes of themthey wouldve been destroyed. There are files on Ralph Hughes. There are files on global warming. There are files on the Environmental Land Program. In fact, the other day, when I gave my speech, I had takenmade copies of some of those and read from them, and shown picturesandbut its the history.
JP: And yet, right now, there is a state law that says, Seven years, theyre gone. No wonderI mean, who does that benefit? I can tell you who it benefits, and its not anybody good. That law needs to be changed. And I saw in the paper that some of the Sunshine Laws are gonna be weakened. They may sound good on the surface, but theyre not.
AH: Right. Im amazed theyve lasted as long as they have. (laughs)
JP: I know, I know. Now, one of my files deals with ICLEI [International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives] and global warming. I used to goas county commissioner, I would go toId go through the United States when conferences were held on global warming. And there was an arm of the United Nations then called ICLEI, of which I was a part. And we would be briefed on all the things that were gonna happen, and with the windmills and solar and all that. And I would come back and brief the county, and they would laugh at me. Now, those records are here; and I would encourage some of your viewers to maybe someday pickpull out those records and look, but there are so many buildings that the county has that you could put solar on.
JP: I mean, really. I said the county jail, for instance, if you ever go on Falkenburg [Road], those are all flat roofs. They could beand windmills. In our state, were perfect for those windmills. If youin the flats areas, say, even along the coastlines, you could put those up and create electricity; but were not doing it. Now, theyre talking about global warming; well, its nothing new. And yetnow, the only thing that wasI was able to accomplish when I was with the countyand I think theyve quit doing thatis Id say, Turn off the lights at night. You dont need the lights on in this building at night.
JP: Now, Ive gone by that building lately, and those lights are on. I need to call somebody and say, Have you forgotten what you wereturn those lights off. And then, the other thing that did happen too was they created a building that just creates iceits called a chiller buildingto be the air conditioning for the county buildings. And thats in a building thats down the street. And so, thats really the only thing they did. The resource recovery plant I was involved with, and thatI was chairman of the board back when that was built, and that is a resource recovery kind of thing, because that takes ourthe countys waste and creates electricity. And that supplementswe sell that to Tampa Electric.
JP: And thats over on Falkenburg Road.
AH: (affirmative murmurs)
JP: And when I was chairman, I went to the cityMartinez, and asked him to get the city to go along with us. And now, unfortunately, that was when the corrupt guys were on the board, and he said, I dont want to get involved with your board. And so, he wouldnt go with us on that one.
JP: Butso, the city doesnt have that kind of facility. But thatwevethe county has won awards for that resource recovery plant on Falkenburg.
AH: (affirmative murmur) I remember the files well in your collection (AH and JP laugh) So, whathave we missed any landmarks from your years with the county? I mean
JP: Im trying to think.
AH: Thereswhat about women and human rights?
JP: Um, I dont know. Lets see.
AH: Well, this may be a good time to start thinking about winding down, but I do have some questions between now and then.
AH: So, lets
JP: All right.
AH: What advice do you have for young women out there who may be interested in public service? Or may not be? Or may not know that they one day might be? Whatany advice for women who want to get into politics?
JP: Well, first of all, know what youre doing and have knowledge about government.
JP: And dont take money. Do as I did; walk the straight and narrow. Because, if you dont, youre in for trouble.
AH: I mean, do you think thats viable advice at the federal level?
JP: I think its viable at any level.
JP: I do.
AH: (affirmative murmurs)
JP: I do. And I think, dont think of yourself as a woman, think of yourself as a person.
JP: And dont get into the women issue. I mean, I never did; I mean I just did it as a person. Cause once you start getting into the, Im a woman, or, Im a. You know, then you get into justyoure an individual who has a right like anybody else.
JP: And be cautious of who you involve in your campaigns. Mine were always close friends who Id gone to school with or had been in Girl Scouts and, you know, all my Girl Scout buddies.
AH: People who you trust.
JP: And, you know, they didnt want anything from government. And none of us wanted anything out of it other than good government.
AH: Well, and thats one of the things that really sets you aside when you talked about getting on the city council was you had a real interest in government and how it worked, and most of the politicians around you didnt, really. They were usually trying to subvert it more than make it function.
JP: (affirmative murmurs)
AH: And then second, in being educated about the issues themselves, you know? And then educated about the budget that youre supposed to be voting on, et cetera. So, all those things certainly served you well.
JP: (affirmative murmurs) And be prepared to read the material.
JP: And dont count on other people, because everybodys got their own slant on things. And youre the one thats responsible. No one else but you; youre the one whos got to look in the mirror at yourself, and ask yourself had you done the best you could that day. And, you know, I go by the Girl Scout motto: On my honor, I will try to do my duty to God and my country. And thatsI sort of live by that. And I would live by that when I was in office. At least youll try. And if you dont succeed, at least youve tried.
AH: Right. Right. Well, theres certainly plenty of evidence, you know, in your record as a public servant, that you tried and tried successfully. And thathad you not been there, I just cant imagine a lot of these programs ever getting off the ground, you know? And maybe someone may have tried in the 21st century, but all that good, you know
JP: (affirmative murmurs)
AH: wouldnt have been done yet, and it probably wouldve been much more difficult to get it off the ground now than your early effort. So, you know, on behalf of USF and the people of FloridaHillsborough County, we really thank you for your service; thank you for talking with us today.
JP: Oh, well thank you.
AH: And if you have anything to add, youre certainlycertainly feel free.
JP: The problem is with when I get home, Ill think of all kind of things. (AH and JP laugh)
JP: But I cant think of anything right this minute. I
AH: Well, I think your career speaks for itself.
AH: It really does. So, thank you, Jan.
JP: Well, thank you, and thank you for taking that collection.
AH: Of course.
JP: Because, hopefully, people will use it.
JP: And it will make a difference for the future, cause you learn from the past.
JP: We learn from the past, and if we dont learn from the past, were gonna make mistakes.
JP: So, thank you for keeping them.
AH: Our pleasure.
COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 2014 University of South Florida. All rights, reserved. This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrighted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 42 02 E. Fowler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.