The Synapse Summit hosts more than the latest launches in tech. At this large and bustling conference, attendees have the opportunity to network with successful business tycoons, local artists, app designers, and other pillars of the community.
At this year’s event, we had the pleasure of sitting down with former Florida senator, and current candidate for city council, Janet Cruz.
When asked about her impressive $100,000 bid for city council paired with such a positive backing from the community, Cruz stated:
“It is actually a testament to the fact that I served for eight years in the Florida House and then went to serve another four years in the Senate. And this past November, that ended, but I’m not finished, you know, I want to come back and be one of the seven rather than one of 40 and get some local stuff done. That’s part of the reason I’m excited about where we are today. Walking around and seeing all of this innovation, and all of these young men and women who are here, who want to be part of Tampa, and want to be part of the innovation of incubators. The folks I’ve seen and talked to, I want to be part of that and part of facilitating that. And giving these companies a reason to come to Tampa. I mean, we know it’s a beautiful city, and we love it here, but we need to convince others to bring with them high-tech high, paying jobs.”
Hence, the former senator’s attendance at one of the leading conferences for tech and innovation in Tampa. However, that was not her only prerogative for attending the day’s festivities.
As the former minority leader, Cruz is welcoming of the possibility of being one of two women on the Tampa City Council. When asked to divulge her thoughts on representing women and women of minorities, she retorted:
“Well, I will never forget where I came from. I was born in Ybor City, my parents were born in Ybor City, my grandparents were born in Ybor City, and they all worked in cigar factories. So you know, they were immigrants who came and worked ten-hour days rolling cigars, and people always smile when I tell them, but you know- there’s nothing really romantic about it. It was a factory job, and they were happy to have it because they came from places where there was no work. So they were thrilled to be here. And if it weren’t for the Latin Quarter of Tampa, you know, the Sicilians, the Cubans, the Spaniards that came, we would just be a little redneck town in Florida. They brought their culture and created a very peaceful and accepting environment here in Tampa. So we are a diverse and accepting town, and we’re great because of it.”
Cruz went on to recall other roadblocks encountered throughout her career linked to being a woman holding an official government position.
“I served in the legislature, and believe it or not, it’s still a bit of a man’s world. It’s still a bit of a ‘good ole boys’ place’, but I learned early on that when you sit in a minority position, you have to work across the aisle. So, I think that’s what my strength was, and that’s what I’ll bring to the city council- the ability to be the adult in the room and create unity.”
Cruz plans to implement more diversity within the community and boost the employment of those with diverse backgrounds through her yearly job fair.
“For the past 13 years, I’ve held a gigantic job fair, and it’s bilingual. And every year, 100 employers come with the requirement that they are actively hiring. It’s free for everyone to attend. We usually have 1,000 people come through each year. We make sure it is totally bilingual, and then we make sure we have folks come from the local colleges to help people with their resumes. I feel this is a block for lots of Latinos, as they are unsure about their resumes or qualifications, especially women. We want to help them because so many people helped me. When I was 16, my daughter was born, and it really did take a village and a lot of grant money to get me through college. So I feel that I owe that back to this community.”
As a Tampa native and active member of the community, this race is largely different from her running for senate.
“The Senate races, those are big districts. There are half a million people in the district. My Senate seat went from MacDill Air Force Base all the way to Odessa. This is an all-city race, but it’s within the city limits, and we anticipate the turnout to be much lower- about 14,000 people. So, it’s a big difference when you boil a race down to 14,000 people. Every vote counts so much more, so we have to chase votes, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Cruz hopes to continue making an impact within the community and helping its members receive equal opportunities for success.