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In less than two months Tampa City Council won’t have any women on its board

This new, woman-free, makeup of the Tampa City Council will set it apart from other boards.

All of Tampa City Council will be men when a new board is sworn in this May.

The board’s only woman, Yvonne Yolie Capin, is leaving office due to term limits. She’ll be replaced by either John Dingfelder or Stephen Lytle in her District 3 seat.

Four men, including three incumbents, were elected March 5 to districts 2, 4, 6 and 7. Districts 1 and 5 each have two men facing each other in the April 23 runoff.

This new, woman-free, makeup of the Tampa City Council will set it apart from other boards. More than half of St. Petersburg City Council is made up of women with five of that board’s eight seats. That majority could grow even more next year when three of four candidates who are women appear on the ballot to replace Steve Kornell.

The Hillsborough County Commission also has a female majority, with women holding four of the seven districts. Women also make up four of the seven seats on the Pinellas County Commission.

“It looks like the timing of the election might have had something to do with it,” said Political Scientist and USF Professor Emeritus Susan McManus. “People are over saturated in politics.”

Campaigning for Tampa City Council ramped up just as voters were coming down from a contentious gubernatorial race between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis and an even more contentious U.S. Senate race between former Gov. Rick Scott and then incumbent Bill Nelson.

Recounts across the state, including in Hillsborough County, were dominating political headlines.

While women did run for Tampa City Council this election, they did so in far fewer numbers than their male counterparts. Women ran in four of the seven City Council districts, but of the 25 total candidates, only four were women.

McManus offered another reason why women might have opted not to jump into local politics this year.

“Increasingly it seems that young people running for office start with the state legislature,” she said.

It didn’t used to be that way.

“Historically the thought was you start local and then move up to state or national [politics,]” McManus added.

Some politically engaged women might have opted to skip the local rung on the political ladder. More than 120 women ran for state seats in 2018.

McManus doesn’t expect this year’s male-driven political dominance in Tampa to repeat itself. She called it a “convergence of forces.”

Still, the lack of diversity could have plenty of downsides, especially for female residents.

“I think it’s frustrating in a diverse city like Tampa we have all male representation. That’s not just bad for women, that’s bad for the entire city since diverse representation has better outcomes,” said Tampa attorney and Surly Feminists for the Revolution co-founder Erin Aebel.

Aebel also sits on the state board for Ruth’s List Florida, a group that helps elect women in politics.

McManus agreed with Aebel’s assertion that lacking female voices in local policies has some downsides. Women offer perspectives some men might lack on things like pay equality and inequitable management-level positions. And their voices can often offer reason.

“Researchers usually conclude that women are a bit more collegial,” McManus said. “Just about every study concludes that women tend to be known more for their ability to compromise.”

While the Y chromosomes will have it on Tampa City Council for the next four years, women might still get some solid representation in City Hall. Tampa Mayoral candidate Jane Castor is leading her race against philanthropist David Straz.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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