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Uniform debate escalates

One official thinks the city manager should apologize for comments on an Army reservist's attire at meetings.

By LORRI HELFAND
Published September 25, 2006


LARGO - A tiff between the city manager and an Army reservist who wore her uniform while criticizing city officials at public meetings has provoked some comment from the City Commission itself.

Since last year, Sgt. 1st Class Christine Hughes, who serves as an Army Reserve career counselor, wore her uniform to meetings during which she criticized the proposed plan for redeveloping the area around Clearwater-Largo Road.

City Manager Steve Stanton sent Hughes a letter, saying she had violated an Army rule that bans soldiers from wearing the uniform while politicking or making public speeches. He urged her not to wear her uniform to City Hall in the future. Hughes, 38, responded that Stanton should "stay in your lane" because he didn't know what he was talking about.

Thursday night, local activist Curtis Holmes criticized Stanton, saying he was "aghast.".

At the end of the meeting, Commissioner Mary Gray Black asked the city manager to apologize to Hughes - on Black's behalf.

"I hope you will do that and we can put this behind us," Black said.

But Commissioner Andy Guyette, an Air Force veteran, weighed in, saying it was improper and possibly intimidating to wear the uniform as Hughes did.

"I think she knew what she was doing," Guyette said.

Stanton gave no sign that he plans to apologize.