Susan Ashley Stanton (born Steven B. Stanton in 1959) was the city manager of Largo, Florida, until her job termination.
She grew up in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Stanton is married to Donna Becker and they have a teenaged son named Travis. Stanton became the subject of national and international media attention in February 2007 after disclosing that she is transsexual and is pursuing sex reassignment, leading Largo city commissioners to initiate the process of ending his contract as city manager, a decision which Stanton is appealing. Stanton asked to be referred to by the male pronoun until her transition was complete.
Early life and educationEdit
Stanton grew up in the Catskill Mountains of New York. His public school years were relatively uneventful. He later recalled being rejected as a drummer in the sixth grade band and, in ninth grade, being told by a coach that at 5 feet 9 he was too short to play on the basketball team. In high school he worked cleaning offices at night for 30 hours a week, and he was a typist for the yearbook, his only extracurricular activity.
Early in his career Stanton held positions at various times as assistant to the city manager of Newburgh, New York; administrative assistant to the borough manager of Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska; and assistant to the city manager of Champaign, Illinois.
As city administrator in Berea, Kentucky, a position he held for about four years, Stanton took part in negotiations which brought four manufacturing companies to Berea, representing a total capital investment in the city of $120 million and annual payrolls of $10 million. The industries included Tokico Ltd., which planned to build a $20 million shock absorber and brake assembly plant that would employ 150 people, and Alcan Aluminum, which built a $50 million aluminum recycling plant. The Alcan plant became the largest used aluminum can recycling facility in the world. Stanton received an honorary award from Kentucky governor Wallace Wilkinson, who named Stanton a Kentucky Colonel.
Stanton was hired away from Berea to become assistant city manager in Largo, Florida in August 1990. Stanton worked under city manager Stephen Bonczek until April 20 1993 when Bonczek resigned under pressure from city commissioners, who were unhappy with Bonczek's poor relationship with city workers and unions. At that point Stanton became interim city manager, and was formally hired as acting city manager in May 1993 (with a consequent rise in salary). City commissioners cited their confidence in Stanton, as well as the time and cost of recruiting a replacement for Bonczek, as their reason for hiring in-house. City Clerk Henry Schubert was reassigned at the same time to the post of assistant city manager. Both assignments were open-ended, with the commission delaying its decision on a permanent city manager until later that year. Stanton's posting was made permanent in September 1993, with an 18-month contract and another increase in salary.
In total, Stanton has a career spanning 17 years with the City of Largo and as of 2007, has spent 14 years as city manager where he has reportedly received good reviews for his performance. In September 2006, he was given an $11,000 annual pay raise, bringing his annual salary to over $140,000. He manages a $130-million budget and about 1,200 employees.
Stanton is currently on paid administrative leave while the City of Largo begins the legal process of terminating his contract, pursuant to his confirmation on February 21 2007 to the St. Petersburg Times that he is transsexual and is in the process of pursuing sex reassignment.
Largo human rights debateEdit
In 2003, a contentious debate took place in Largo over a proposed human rights ordinance that would prohibit discrimination in the municipality based on race, religion, gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. More than 100 people packed a five-hour public hearing on the proposed ordinance at Largo's City Hall on August 5 2003, hearing testimony from over 40 people on both sides of the question. Had the ordinance passed, it would have made Largo the 64th municipality in the United States to extend equal rights protection to transgendered people through the inclusion of gender identity. However, the proposed ordinance failed by a 4 to 3 vote of the City Commission, leaving both gender identity and sexual orientation as permissible reasons for Largo residents to be discriminated against in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
City workers did, however, receive protection three months later on October 7 2003, when the City Commission unanimously approved the Discrimination and Harassment Prohibition policy, an internal antidiscrimination policy, that applied to all city employees. In contrast with the city-wide August debate, not even one individual opposing the internal policy attended the commission meeting.
The city employee policy prohibited discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, religion, age, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression. The policy applied to city employees and prohibited discriminatory conduct both in the workplace and in any work-related setting, such as during business trips. The policy included definitions of harassment and retaliation, and explained that sexual harassment could involve individuals of the same or different gender. Extensive training for all city employees was set to take place in November and December 2003, under Steve Stanton's direction in his role as city manager. The policy was passed partly in reaction to two incidents in which a fire department lieutenant and a police officer made racial slurs.
Struggle with transsexualismEdit
Stanton reports having had thoughts of becoming a woman since he was a child, and recalls wearing his sister's clogs when he was age 6 or 7 to walk to the candy store. In adolescence, he tried on his mother's tennis dress, and while in college he went to the library to read about cross-dressing. After graduation, he threw away all his "girl clothes" after deciding that cross-dressing was incompatible with a career in municipal government. He continued to collect women's items, but purged them with each new job.
In 1990, Stanton married his wife Donna, and thought he had closed the "cross-dressing" chapter of his life. He and his wife had a son, Travis, in 1993, shortly after he became acting city manager of Largo. However, in 1997 he became involved in an Internet chat group for cross-dressers.
Decision to pursue sex reassignmentEdit
Stanton supported the proposed city-wide ordinance, though he did not take a prominent role in the debate that surrounded it. Afterwards, he began to discuss his feelings with a therapist who had testified in support of the ordinance, and ultimately made the decision along with his wife to pursue sex reassignment.
Since then, Stanton has been undergoing counseling, with clinical psychologist and gender therapist Kathleen Farrell, and hormone replacement therapy in preparation for sex reassignment surgery at some future date. He intends to change his name to Susan, the name he says his late mother would have given him had he been born a girl. Stanton has asked to be referred to by the male pronoun until his transition is complete.
Preparing to go publicEdit
Stanton met privately with Largo City Mayor Pat Gerard on January 1 2007 to inform her that he was transgendered and intended to begin the final stages of "a gender transition" in the coming year. Stanton shared his plans only with a very small group of confidential advisers, including his wife, a medical team and a few top officials at City Hall. Stanton and Gerard worked together to write an eight-page plan to help make his decision public in June, a time chosen because Stanton's 13-year-old son could be out of town and be shielded from the attendant publicity.
One of Stanton's confidantes leaked Stanton's intentions to the St. Petersburg Times, and on February 20 2007 a reporter went to Stanton's office for a regular weekly meeting and informed him that the paper had received a tip. Stanton had little choice but to sit for an interview even though he had not yet discussed the situation with his son. Stanton was accompanied by Largo Mayor Pat Gerard during the interview. Stanton informed his father that he is transsexual that night.
On February 21 2007, the St. Petersburg Times published a news article on the Internet regarding Stanton’s intentions. A press conference was held at City Hall the same day. Stanton and Mayor Pat Gerard explained the plans and events they had developed to make Stanton's transsexualism public in June. Stanton disclosed that he would begin wearing dresses to work on April 2 and would be known from that day forward as Susan Stanton.
Also on February 21 2007, Stanton sent an email to city employees explaining the situation. "Like many transgendered people," Stanton wrote, "I have privately struggled with this very personal matter all of my life and have kept it secret from my family, friends and co-workers. I hoped I could outrun it when I got married, became a father and found a job I love. Unfortunately, I was wrong." He stated his intention to continue in his job as Largo city manager throughout his transition. In addition to his email, Stanton provided two pages of “historical information about myself and my plans for the future.”
Largo Police Chief Lester Aradi sent out another email that same day to employees of the Largo Police Department, expressing support for Stanton and reminding police officers that inappropriate comments, jokes or other communications in the work environment were not appropriate or allowed.
Following the breaking of Stanton's story, e-mails and faxes to the city from Largo residents were mostly negative, while non-Largo residents sent mostly positive notes. Anonymous blog postings from Largo police officers were generally negative or expressed confusion.Initially there was little interest from national media.
One concern commonly expressed by both city residents and city employees was whether Stanton's sex reassignment surgery would be paid for by taxpayers; in fact, Stanton's counseling and hormonal treatments were paid for by Stanton himself, as will be his eventual surgery.
Personal impacts on Stanton and familyEdit
Stanton hopes to remain married, but is uncertain what will happen. He has said that his wife has been dealing with an upsetting situation as best as she can. On Larry King Live on April 13, 2007, Steve Stanton announced that he and his wife were separating.
Subsequent to Stanton's announcement, he was assaulted while out running, though Stanton was uncertain if it was related to the controversy. He suffered a few small scratches on his nose.
Largo City Commission vote to end Stanton's employmentEdit
By the end of the week following Stanton's public outing on February 21 2007, Commissioner Mary Gray Black, apparently the only commissioner Stanton had not personally informed of his plans, called for a special meeting of the city commission to discuss Stanton's contract and future employment. To terminate Stanton's employment according to the Largo city charter, five of the seven city commissioners would have to vote in the affirmative. According to Stanton's contract, upon his dismissal a severance package would include 12 months' salary unless he were convicted of a felony, had violated the state code of ethics, or had committed "gross misconduct."
A special meeting of the city commission was held on February 27 2007. It lasted four hours and was attended by 444 members of the public. Approximately 60 individuals, mostly Largo residents, testified. In a five to two vote, the commission voted to place Stanton on administrative leave until his termination could be made final. Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioner Rodney Woods were the two commissioners who voted to retain Stanton. Commissioners then named assistant city manager Norton "Mac" Craig as acting city manager.
Attempt to retain positionEdit
The vote taken by the Largo City Commission on February 27 2007 began the three-step process necessary to remove Stanton as the city manager. Stanton was placed on paid administrative leave while the city began the legal process required to end his contract, which stipulates that he can be fired at any time without cause with a 5-2 vote. The commission must vote a second time to formally remove Stanton from his position.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is assisting Stanton in an attempt to persuade the City Commission to reverse its decision to terminate his employment. NCLR will represent Stanton in legal proceedings, if necessary, in an effort to help him regain his position. Stanton appealed the City Commission's decision to fire him on March 8 2007, and planned to seek a public hearing within 30 days at which he intended to make a presentation of up to three hours on transsexualism and the workplace transition process for transsexuals.
National media interestEdit
On February 28 2007, the day following the special commission meeting, Stanton, reportedly surprised by the abrupt loss of his job, began fielding calls and taking part in interviews with local television stations. He was also interviewed by Michele Norris of National Public Radio.
Stanton told the St. Petersburg Times that he didn't want to waste the opportunity such media interest provided to help "the next person that comes out with the same disclosure so he doesn't suffer the same consequences." By that afternoon, Stanton had received approximately 45 media calls.
Reaction from national LGBT communityEdit
Transgender activists immediately protested the decision to fire Stanton. One LGBT rights group, the National Sexuality Resource Center, started a 'Stand with Stanton' petition to pressure the City Commission of Largo, Florida to reverse their decision.
The Human Rights Campaign reports that if the vote to fire Stanton is upheld, the Largo city commissioners will be "in direct violation of the city government’s own internal non-discrimination policy... that explicitly prohibits discrimination in public employment on the basis of gender identity and expression," referring to the city's Discrimination and Harassment Prohibition policy, adopted in October 2003. The National Center for Lesbian Rights similarly denounced the commission's decision to fire Stanton, also citing the city's internal non-discrimination policy.
Support in the local communityEdit
On 3 March 2007, the St. Petersburg Times published the results of a survey conducted on its behalf by Communications Center Inc. of Lakeland, Florida. The survey found that a majority of adults in the city of Largo and in Pinellas County, where Largo is located, believed the commission had been wrong to move to fire Stanton as city manager. The survey also found widespread acceptance among city and county residents for transgendered persons in the workplace, whether in the public or private sector.
An interfaith coalition of local religious leaders organized a protest at Largo City Hall to urge the City Commission to reconsider its decision to fire Stanton. The religious leaders involved in the protest wished to counteract the religion-based claims of other religious leaders that support Stanton's termination as city manager. A total of 350 people, including clerics and congregation members from more than a dozen local churches and synagogues, attended the 30-minute protest on March 6.
On March 23 during a six-hour meeting of Largo city council, the motion was made to terminate Stanton's employment. Commissioner Black tabled a motion to terminate the city manager's contract of employment. After a brief deliberation, this was upheld by five of the commissioners while Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioner Rodney Woods dissented. Thus, at five minutes past midnight, Stanton's employment officially ended. 
The five commissioners who voted to uphold the decision to fire Stanton contended that his employment was terminated due to a loss of confidence in him and had nothing to do with his impending transition; "You have to believe us, you have to trust us, it is not about transgenderism," Commissioner Gay Gentry was reported to have said.  It is important to note, however, that the city commissioners did not even consider firing him before his plans to become a woman had been announced.
Announces intent not to sueEdit
On April 13, 2007, Stanton appeared on the Larry King Live show on CNN accompanied by his attorney, Karen Doering, of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. He announced on the program that he "absolutely" would not sue the city, comparing a potential suit against the city as "like suing my mother."
- ↑ Office of City Manager. City of Largo, Florida. Retrieved on 2007-02-28.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Helfand, Lorri (27 February 2007). "Commission moves to fire Stanton. St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 1 March 2007.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Zimmer, Beau, "Transgendered city manager talks about future", 28 February 2007. Retrieved 1 March 2007 from tampabay10s.com .
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Helfand, Lorri, "Stanton appeals his firing." St. Petersburg Times, 8 March 2007. Retrieved 8 March 2007.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Bagby, Dyana, "Fla. official’s firing shines light on trans job bias: 10 states and D.C. offer gender identity protection." Southern Voice, . 9 March 2007. Retrieved 9 March 2007.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Davis, Amelia, "He likes his low profile," St. Petersburg Times, 22 April 1993. Retrieved at Newsbank.com (subscription required) 1 March 2007.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 Reardon, Doug, "Largo gives Stanton try at manager's spot." The Tampa Tribune, 15 May 1993. Retrieved at Newsbank.com (subscription required) on 1 March 2007.
- ↑ Prather, Paul, "Alcan plans aluminum plant in Berea." Lexington Herald-Leader, . 25 February 1988. Retrieved through Newsbank.com (subscription required) on 1 March 2007.
- ↑ Prather, Paul, "Firm announces aluminum recycling plant for Berea." Lexington Herald-Leader, 26 February 1988. Retrieved through Newsbank.com (subscription required) on 1 March 2007.
- ↑ Alcan, Inc. (2003). "Recycling achievements include automotive scrap agreement." Alcan Sustainability Report 2003. Retrieved 1 March 2007.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Davis, Amelia, "Largo manager now permanent." St. Petersburg Times, 8 September 1993. Retrieved through Newsbank.com (subscription required) 1 March 2007.
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Associated Press, "Largo votes to fire city manager who wants sex change", Orlando Sentinel, 27 February 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2007.
- ↑ Tan, Shannon, "Largo rights issue passionately debated". St. Petersburg Times, 6 August 2003. Retrieved 3 March 2007.
- ↑ Steinle, Diane, "Largo takes tiny step on long road to human rights". St. Petersburg Times, 7 August 2003. Retrieved 3 March 2007.
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 St. Petersburg Times (editorial), "One giant step for all humankind in Largo." St. Petersburg Times, 9 October 2003. Retrieved through Newsbank.com (subscription required) on 2 March 2007
- ↑ Tan, Shannon, "Officials revise city policy on conduct". St. Petersburg Times, 8 October 2003. Retrieved 2 March 2007.
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 Stanton, Steven B. (2003-10-14). A-3. Implementation of Discrimination and Harassment Prohibition Policy. City Manager Report No. 547. City of Largo. Retrieved on 2007-03-02. “The City Commission has approved the Discrimination and Harassment Prohibition policy effective immediately. The new policy specifically prohibits bias, prejudice, intimidation, coercion and harassment by any City employee at the work place, during business trips, or at City functions. The new policy mandates treating all human beings with respect regardless of race, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression.”
- ↑ 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 18.7 Helfand, Lorri, "Largo official preparing for sex change." St. Petersburg Times, 21 February 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2007.
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 Davis, Philm Activists: Fired city manager could be transsexual champion. The Palm Beach Post, 28 February 2007. Retrieved on 2 March 2007.
- ↑ 20.0 20.1 Norris, Michele, City Manager Fired for Sex-Change Plan (audio interview with Steve Stanton). All Things Considered, National Public Radio, 28 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
- ↑ 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 Stanton, Steve, Email to employees of the City of Largo, 21 February 2007. Retrieved at www.savestanton.com on 3 March 2007.
- ↑ 22.0 22.1 22.2 Porter, Suzette, "Stanton tell employees he’s transgendered in an e-mail." Largo Leader, 23 February 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2007.
- ↑ 23.0 23.1 23.2 Helfand, Lorri, "Largo officials vote to dismiss Stanton." St. Petersburg Times, 28 February 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2007.
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 24.2 Helfand, Lorri, "Stanton: Abrupt firing a surprise." St. Petersburg Times, 1 March 2007. Retrieved 1 March 2007.
- ↑ 25.0 25.1 Shelton, Dave, "City polarized over sex change decision." Largo Leader, 1 March 2007. Retrieved 2 March 2007.
- ↑ 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 Boey, Valerie, "Largo city manager says he will become a she." The News-Press (Ft. Myers, FL), 22 February 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2007.
- ↑ Aradi, Lester, Email to Largo Police Department employees, 21 February 2007. Retrieved at www.savestanton.com on 3 March 2007.
- ↑ 28.0 28.1 Fox 13 News (Tampa Bay, FL), "No tax money for city manager's sex change", 22 February 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2007.
- ↑ 29.0 29.1 Thompson, Stephen, "E-mail hints at reaction to Largo official's sex change". Tampa Tribune, 23 February 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2007.
- ↑ Helfand, Lorri, "Largo official's future hazy". St. Petersburg Times, 24 February 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2007.
- ↑ Shelton, Dave, "Stanton on his way out". Largo Leader, 1 March 2007. Retrieved 2 March 2007.
- ↑ Buchanan, Wyatt, "S.F. legal group to aid transitioning official". San Francisco Chronicle, 3 March 2007. Retrieved 3 March 2007.
- ↑ Advocate.com. "NCLR to represent transgender Florida city manager". The Advocate, 3 March 2007. Retrieved 3 March 2007.
- ↑ National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender city manager of Largo, Florida requests public hearing" (press release), 8 March 2007. Retrieved on 9 March 2007.
- ↑ National Sexuality Resource Center. (2007).
- ↑ Template:Cite press release
- ↑ National Center for Lesbian Rights.(2007-02-28). "The National Center for Lesbian Rights denounces the ousting of Largo, Florida city official: City manager Steve Stanton target of discrimination." Press release. Retrieved on 2007-03-03.
- ↑ Helfand, Lorri and Jose Cardenas, "Survey: Largo unfair to Stanton." St. Petersburg Times, 3 March 2007. Retrieved 3 March 2007.
- ↑ Porter, Suzette. (2005-03-05). "Tuesday protest planned at city hall: Religious leaders ask commissioners to reconsider" Largo Leader. Retrieved on 2005-03-05.
- ↑ Schulte, Eileen, "350 rally to protest city manager's ouster". St. Petersburg Times, 7 March 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2007.
- ↑ Farlow, Rita, "Steve Stanton Makes His Case". St. Petersburg Times, 24 March 2007. Retrieved 24 March 2007.
- ↑ Stacy, Mitch, "Transgender Fla. City Manager Loses Job". Washington Post, 24 March 2007. Retrieved 25 March 2007.
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