LARGO, Fla. – A city manager facing dismissal after going public with plans to get a sex change said Thursday that he plans to fight to keep his job, because his case represents the struggle "to deal with morality, sexuality and gender."
Steve Stanton said he would try to persuade the Largo City Commission to reverse its 5-2 vote last month to begin the process of firing him. His appeal means the commission must now hold another public hearing so he can make a final appeal to keep the post he has held for 14 years.
"I want to get my job back," said Stanton, who is on paid leave from his $140,000-a-year job. "I'm good at it. I miss it. I miss my friends and I miss this community."
Largo officials declined to take questions on the appeal, said city spokeswoman Heather Graves.
The commission had given Stanton generally good reviews and a hefty raise last year for his management of the city's $130 million budget and roughly 1,200 employees in the community of 76,000 west of Tampa.
But Commissioner Mary Gray Black said Stanton's surprise announcement that he was pursuing plans to become Susan Stanton "caused stress, turmoil, distraction and work disruption" in the city. His contract says he can be fired without cause at any time. Black called for a vote to dismiss him but cited no specific reason.
For his appeal, Stanton said he would bring in activists, business experts and doctors to describe the gender reassignment process and how it has succeeded in other workplaces. A hearing date has not been set.
"It's almost an obligation now," Stanton said. "This isn't just about Steve Stanton. It's not about Largo. It reflects the nation's struggle to deal with morality, sexuality and gender."
Stanton declined to comment on any potential legal action.