St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman stood before City Council Thursday afternoon and told members he would say something not often expressed in these chambers.
“Nadine is a badass,” Kriseman said. “But make no mistake. She is a thoughtful, deliberate leader. She knows how to build relationships and get things done. And she’s done it time and time again.”
Kriseman said he would not feel right leaving office at the end of his current term without honoring Nadine Smith.
Smith received the honorary key to St. Pete during Thursday’s City Council meeting. Smith started her career as a journalist with WUSF and the Tampa Tribune before turning to groundbreaking work as an activist within the LGBTQ community in the early 90s.
The key was an apt metaphor for someone who has spent the last 30 years opening doors for marginalized groups across the state and nation.
In 1993, Smith helped organize the first Oval Office meeting between LGBTQ community leaders and a sitting President when she met with then-President Bill Clinton. She was also the first openly gay Black woman to run for Tampa’s City Council.
In 1997, she founded Equality Florida and still serves as its executive director. She helped found the organization to combat the Defense of Marriage Act. The statute banned the recognition of same-sex marriages and was eventually struck down or made unenforceable by U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Since then, she has worked to advance numerous bills promoting LGBTQ equality and stop bills limiting it. She’s also been named one of Florida’s “Most Powerful and Influential Women” by the Florida Diversity Council.
“I will remember that at a time of great division when we’re told to be fearful of those who are different, who pray differently, look differently, come from different lands with different languages, that it’s important that we extend the spirit of handing that key to strangers and welcoming them,” Smith said.