Who I am

A photo of my mom, smiling with her arms folded while sitting at a table.

It all starts with my mom. She has always been a “super volunteer”, and extremely active in her community;  getting involved came naturally to me. As my volunteerism and activism grew, it led me to the Gainesville DIY Punk scene of the 90’s, a vastly inclusive community. In college, I majored in political science with the idea of becoming a reporter. I took a class called “The Politics of Poverty,” read Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities, and started volunteering in a Title I school, which I had attended as a child. I quickly became a substitute teacher, then an aide, and–after going to school at night for my Master’s in elementary education–a teacher in that same school. While teaching, I of course served as the school’s union representative – my husband and I are both proud labor advocates.

I’ve been working in international development now for the last several years as an editor and evaluator for USAID projects focusing on monitoring and evaluation, capacity building, and food security, mostly in West Africa. Working with groups that focus on improving people’s lives through better food storage and access, water resources, and hygiene practices really puts life into perspective on a daily basis.

A photo of me, in a red shirt, standing in the bed of a pickup truck, surrounded by two giraffes.

In a way, this has all led up to my appointment to city council. At no point during this life did I “plan” to be a politician, and I still don’t think of myself that way, semantics be damned. My ethos is to do good where and how I can, wherever I happen to be, with whatever capacity I can provide; above all else, that is what motivates me on the council and what motivates me to fight to keep this seat. I am not fighting so that I can have a career as a politician. I am fighting to help people, the best way I possibly can. I believe that’s what I’ve done, and what I will continue to do.

A screen capture of me chairing the CRA. I am wearing my glasses and a pink jacket.

It’s the work I’ve done that strengthens my convictions to work toward a better world. “If you want peace, work for justice” -Pope Paul VI.

My parents, Diane Kulas and Tom Hurtak, both went to USF. After graduating, my mom worked at St. Peter Claver in Ybor City while my dad worked for Dayton Distributors out by the airport.

After I was born at Women’s Hospital in West Tampa, Mom went to work as an accountant down in south Tampa while Dad started his own company in Hyde Park, all the while raising me in Forest Hills—and driving me to ballet recitals at the Cuban Club and the old McKay Auditorium.

I earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s of education from the University of Florida, where I spent my time outside the classroom as an editor of the Independent Florida Alligator newspaper, organizing for women’s rights with NOW’s Gainesville Area chapter, and going to shows at the Hardback.

I taught for ten years at Idylwild Elementary School, a Title I school on the southeast side of Gainesville. I also served as my school’s union representative.

My years as a teacher crafted my approach to the issues facing our most marginalized neighbors, and drove me to dedicate myself to better understanding the causes and solutions of poverty, housing insecurity, and food insecurity. My experiences in the classroom inform my work as a Tampa City Council member every day.

I met my husband, Tim, in 2007 at a party in East Tampa while he was living up in New Tampa. Now we live in Old Seminole Heights, where I served as the neighborhood association vice-president. I’ve also served on Tampa’s Charter Review Commission, the Variance Review Board, and as Tampa NOW’s interim president.

Before joining Tampa City Council, I worked in international development, consulting on USAID programs primarily in West Africa..

In addition to my service in session with Tampa City Council, I serve:

  • As chair of the Community Redevelopment Agency
  • As chair of Public Works
  • On the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee
  • On the Transportation Planning Organization
  • On the Tampa Bay Estuary Policy Board

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