Stanton remains a top finalist for Sarasota job

Published May 15, 2007

SARASOTA - The Sarasota City Commission Tuesday made Susan Stanton one of six finalists to be interviewed for the city manager's job.

The commission did not discuss Stanton or other finalists before voting on a list of recommended candidates from the Mercer Group, which is helping the city with its search.

Stanton and the other finalists are scheduled to be interviewed on May 29 and 30.

After the decision, Sarasota City Commissioner Ken Shelin said he was not surprised that Stanton was one of the finalists considering her long and distinguished career in Largo, where Steve Stanton served as city manager for 14 years. He anticipated that Stanton would "perform well in the interview process."

Stanton, 48, was fired as Largo's city manager in March, a month after revealing plans for a sex-change operation. Stanton has undergone hormone treatments and electrolysis to remove body hair and began her public transition to being a woman in earnest last week after she posed for a portrait for a story in Sunday's St. Petersburg Times. She plans to undergo gender reassignment surgery in the future.

In firing Stanton, a majority of Largo city commissioners said they had lost confidence in his judgment and said he had held other employees to a higher standard than the one he sought for himself.

Looking at the decision from the outside, however, Shelin said "the only thing I could recognize was discrimination."

"I couldn't understand the decision because he had - she had - a successful career in Largo, so what was the basis for her firing?" Shelin said. He said Sarasota would be "much more open to someone like Susan Stanton" than Largo was.

Asked whether he thought Susan Stanton could perform the city manager's job as well as Steve Stanton did, Shelin said, "Of course. You are who you are, whatever you look like."

Stanton is in Washington D.C. this week to meet with members of Congress to lobby for transgender rights.

In Sarasota, the commission's meeting drew an unusually large number of journalists, whom Mayor Lou Ann Palmer said wouldn't have been there if not for Stanton's application.

"Can't you all go and let this individual live her life?" Palmer asked reporters as she entered the commission chambers.

Shelin expected that there would continue to be additional publicity surrounding Stanton's candidacy, "but I expect that will die down pretty soon."

As part of its presentation Tuesday, the Mercer Group gave commissioners written answers that each finalist had given to a series of questions.

Asked how the job in Sarasota fit into her overall career goals, Stanton wrote, "I'm looking forward to coming to Sarasota as a fully authentic person who has survived a profound personal and professional crisis with a sense of dignity and pride."

Another question asked each candidate whether they had been fired or asked to resign.

Stanton replied:

"It is my sincere hope that my experience in Largo and the national media coverage of my termination will educate future elected officials on the complexities of many medical conditions which manifest in the work environment.

"Despite my termination, I am very proud of my service to the Largo community."