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Hillsborough Makes Juneteenth County Holiday, Other Counties Still Undecided

Commissioner Gwen Myers Juneteenth.png
Hillsborough County
Commissioner Gwen Myers presents her motion to make Juneteenth a county holiday at the July 14 Hillsborough County Commission meeting.

Hillsborough County just made Juneteenth a county holiday. Where do Tampa Bay’s other counties stand?

The Hillsborough County Commission unanimously passed a motion Wednesday to make Juneteenth a county holiday starting in 2022.

It will give the day off to all Hillsborough County employees.

The decision came about a month after President Joe Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19 in honor of the last people who were enslaved in Texas being freed in 1865.

While President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 to free the slaves, many in Texas were not told that they were free until two and a half years later.

“The African American community, the culture of celebrating Juneteenth, and having it as a national holiday, you want to be equitable, and make sure that all have the opportunity to observe that day as a holiday and to understand the importance of Juneteenth,” said Hillsborough Commissioner Gwen Myers, who brought the motion forward.

“I think it's not just appropriate, but I think it's really important that our holidays follow the federal calendar. As a separate issue, it's very confusing to people when some things are closed and some things are open,” Commissioner Harry Cohen said.

Myers hopes the motion will trickle down to other governing bodies in the county and be taken up by Florida officials as well.

“I'm hoping that the city of Tampa, the (Hillsborough) school board, the state would all pattern after Hillsborough County and make it a holiday as well,” she said.

Whether or not other counties in the Tampa Bay region will include Juneteenth on next year’s holiday calendar has yet to be determined.

“County designation of observed holidays is evaluated and determined at Appointing Authorities meetings that include the County and all constitutional offices, (such as Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections, etc.),” said Dave Connor, public information manager for Pinellas County, in an email.

“The next meeting is at the end of July and will be discussed at that time.”

Pasco County officials won’t discuss next year’s holiday schedule for another few months.

“The County Administrator and Board of County Commissioners approves the observed Holiday Schedule once a year, usually in October, for the upcoming year,” said Pasco County Public Information Officer Ryan Hughes in an email.

The topic hasn’t been formally discussed by Manatee County officials either, but there is some expectation that county facilities will close to correspond with the federal holiday.

“The (Manatee) Board of County Commissioners has not yet discussed this matter, but I would imagine that Juneteenth will be recognized by Manatee County as every other federal holiday is — by closing county facilities in honor of the special day,” said Commissioner Misty Servia in an email.

Requests for comment from Sarasota and Polk counties have not yet been returned.

Jorgelina Manna-Rea is a WUSF Rush Family/USF Zimmerman School Digital News intern for the fall of 2021, her second straight semester with WUSF.
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