Hillsborough Women's group inducts three political icons to hall of fame

06/13/12 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:


Three former elected officials were inducted into the Hillsborough County Commission on the Status of Women Hall of Fame today at the Tampa Convention Center. People who showed up to honor them laughed as Commissioner Kevin Beckner remembered the late Phyllis Busansky.

“It was always Phyllis that said, everything was always fabulous and as I learned that everybody was her favorite person and I really believe that in her heart they really were.”

Busansky was a two term Hillsborough County Commissioner before being elected Supervisor of Elections. Beckner got to know Busansky on the campaign trail and considered her a mentor. Beckner praised Busansky’s service where she began what is now known as the Hillsborough County Indigent Healthcare program. Beckner said it has saved millions of taxpayer dollars and assists over 17,000 people.

“Phyllis, as she was known, energized programs for the elderly and overhauled healthcare for the poor. Even before Phyllis lived in Hillsborough County she was active in public service. While living in Pinellas County with a six month old child, Phyllis hired a babysitter so she could tutor students in the Pinellas County schools. Phyllis then started a scholarship fund for African-American students.”

Busansky also received the Outstanding Public Official of the Year award from Governing Magazine and the Innovations in American Government award from the Ford Foundation. She also served as the first executive director of Florida’s Welfare to Work Agency under Governors Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush from 1997 to 2000. Her close friend, Ellen Brown, said her good character was passed on to her loved ones.

“In her Bat Mitzvah last month, Phyllis’s granddaughter Sarah talked about choosing to turn obstacles into opportunities and experiences. That was how Phyllis lived her life and urged us to live ours.”

Gwen Miller was also inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame this year. She served 16 years as a member of Tampa City Council and worked in Hillsborough County Schools as an educator for 35 years. During her time as a middle school guidance counselor, Miller mentored Pam Iorio who was student council president at the time.

“We had such a trusting and wonderful relationship for eight years together – she on council and me as mayor – because it started when I was in ninth grade. We trusted each other back then and we’ve trusted each other through our time together in office. I always could rely on Gwen to do exactly what she thought was the right thing to do.”

Miller’s husband, Hillsborough County Commissioner and former state legislator Les Miller, choked up as he recalled all the times Gwen has been the family’s rock, even when she was battling breast cancer. He calls her his Shero.

“She never missed a city council meeting. Through all the chemotherapy, through the surgery, all the toughness she had to go through, she never missed a meeting. And during that time she threw a guy out of a city council meeting. I had never seen her do that before. She told him he had to leave because he got disruptive. But she’s a strong woman. She’s the backbone of our family and taken us through some times. And by the way, in 2005 she told me not to go back to Tallahassee so soon and I did it anyway and I paid for it.”

Not surprising to her friends, family and supporters, Miller accepted the induction with the same mild-mannered humility she was known for on city council.

“I work hard, but I didn’t ever think I would get this. I was doing it for the people of the community because this is what I’m all about. Not to receive awards, but to help people in the community and I’m doing that and I will never stop doing that.”

The other former public servant to be added to the Hall of Fame that was just established last year was longtime Hillsborough County Commissioner Jan Platt. Her friend, Susan Bucklew who is a United States District Judge, followed Platt to Florida State University where she took the opportunity to drop her friend’s name as often as possible. Bucklew said Platt was destined for public service.

“Her public service officially began in 1974 when she was elected to the Tampa City Council. I can remember holding a sign at the corner of Columbus Drive and Dale Mabry in the middle – you know you couldn’t do that anymore – but holding a sign saying Jan Kaminis Platt for city council.”

And Mickey Castor, president of the Hillsborough County League of Women Voters highlighted Platt’s commitment to ethics. During her four years on Tampa City Council and 24-years on the county commission, Platt has received more than fifty awards including the University of Tampa ethics award.

“That it is the example that Jan has given, not just of public service, but of serving with honor and integrity.”

Hall of Fame inductions are based on nominations from the Hillsborough County Commission on the Status of Women. Nominations for next year’s inductions will be made in November and will include women who have made a difference to the lives of residents in Hillsborough County.

comments powered by Disqus