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Judge official on skills, not sex

A Times Editorial
Published February 27, 2007

[Times photo: Carrie Pratt]
Three Largo commissioners say Steve Stanton should be fired, one says he should keep his job, three others are undecided. What should Largo do?
  • Poll: What should Largo do?
  • Video: Local reaction
  • Today: Stanton job may hang in balance
  • Sunday: Stanton's 'circle of trust'

  • Last summer, Largo commissioners gave City Manager Steve Stanton another glowing evaluation. After 14 years as manager, he still won their praise. Yet tonight those commissioners will meet to consider firing Stanton.

    The meeting comes less than a week after he revealed that he plans to get gender-reassignment surgery to become a woman. Commissioners who stood by Stanton late last week are waffling now after an onslaught of critical messages from upset Largo residents. The commission's most conservative member, Mary Gray Black, has called for Stanton to be put on leave, with a public hearing and vote on firing him to follow.

    Stanton, 48, had concealed his private agony from everyone but his wife for years. He said he has known since about age 6 that he was different. Private cross dressing, counseling and years of self-examination convinced him that he is a woman in a man's body. He began receiving female hormones and planned to soon start dressing and living as a woman, a medical protocol that precedes gender-reassignment surgery.

    People who know Stanton were shocked by the news that he is a transsexual who will change his name to Susan. Stanton's physical prowess - he has run marathons and joins Largo firefighters for physically demanding training - and his assertive personality had given a certain impression; his announcement gave another.

    It is understandable that some people would be shocked or feel awkward around Stanton at first. The harsh community reaction to his decision should not have been unexpected, either. A proposed human rights ordinance was bitterly opposed three years ago in Largo, where conservative churches are politically powerful.

    Stanton still possesses the same intelligence and skills that made him a successful city manager. It is on those attributes that he should be judged, not his appearance or his deeply personal struggle. A commission decision tonight to suspend or fire him would be premature at best. Commissioners should take time to assess Stanton's quality of work and leadership during this difficult transition as well as the staff's reaction to him. If Stanton and his employees are able to adjust and continue to perform well on behalf of the public, what he wears or calls himself should not matter.

    [Last modified February 27, 2007, 00:47:20]

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