Mayor Castor set to cover LGBTQ issues, COVID-19 efforts during student-led town hall

Students must submit their questions for Mayor Jane Castor online before the event for approval by the LGBTQ+ Health Alliance executive board. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/CITY OF TAMPA

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor will speak to students about LGBTQ issues, her role in the community and COVID-19 in the Tampa Bay area at a town hall-style discussion moderated by the LGBTQ+ Health Alliance on Oct. 13.

Kurt Rodriguez, president of the LGBTQ+ Health Alliance and USF student, said the motive behind organizing the event was to provide students of all backgrounds a chance to interact with one of the few openly gay mayors in the country and have the opportunity to ask her questions that may benefit their own personal lives.

“When we were planning for the semester, we were trying to find unique opportunities to be more involved not only at USF but in the city of Tampa,” he said.

Rodriguez said the goals of the LGBTQ+ Health Alliance are to educate LGBTQ students regarding relevant issues in health, and to provide a safe space for any students in need.

“I feel as though we have a lot of pre-med students here and especially ones that are in our club that are part of the LGBTQ community,” Rodriguez said. “I felt like reaching out to the mayor, who is one of the few openly gay mayors of the United States, would be a really cool opportunity that we should take advantage of.”

The discussion will take place in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. and the event lasting from 6-7 p.m. The event will have a capacity of 225 students under a first-come first-serve basis. Students also have the option to RSVP online and send in their questions, which must be approved by the alliance’s executive board prior to the town hall.

In addition to student questions, Rodriguez said the Health Alliance will bring up certain topic points such as how the pandemic has affected the city and what she did to protect Tampa citizens. The alliance will also ask about her former role as chief of police in Tampa to understand her stance on the topic and how she handled protests in the city last year.

It also plans to have a conversation with the mayor on success in her career and in her marriage, and how being a part of the LGBTQ community has impacted her career in politics.

Rodriguez said when the organization reached out to the mayor and asked her to come and speak with students, it didn’t expect much to come of it. However, he said her response was quick and enthusiastic which made the process easier.

“I just sent [an] email and within a week her secretary responded and said that she’d be interested,” he said. “I’m very appreciative that it really was not that hard to get in contact with the mayor through the website.”

Castor’s open mind and willingness to speak with students are what appealed to Rodriguez.

“I feel as though she is very involved with a lot of the events in Tampa, no matter how much money is involved, no matter who’s attending,” he said. “She is, in my opinion, very present. One of the big things I noticed is I went to Tampa Pride this year and I noticed that she was there.

“There’s a focus on being a part of the LGBTQ community and incorporating that into the city of Tampa. I think she just supports that, and I’ve just noticed that since she’s been the mayor, there’s more of an acceptance and a celebration around the diversity that we have in Tampa.”