HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla — 91-year-old Pat Frank’s success comes from a desire for, “Well, equity,” she said. It’s at the core of her many accomplishments.
“I think that was my whole life. Everything that I did I thought that we should be equal,” said Frank.
In the 1970s she served on the Hillsborough County School Board and fought for black students and integration. She spent more than a decade in the Florida legislator as both a state representative and senator before she came back to Hillsborough County as a commissioner and finally the clerk of court, with a goal in mind.
“I created a minimum wage to $15 an hour, I had to stagger it because the legislature kept cutting my budget $1 million a year. I wanted to get more minorities into the office and I wanted to promote them,” she said.
But, that was hard because positions were already filled with people who were doing a good job, she noted. But, she wanted more opportunities available.
“I had to set up a ladder for people to be able to work their way up and now we have supervisors, we have managers and the clerk's office is a minority-majority,” said Frank. “There are more minorities in the clerk's office than there are Anglo-Saxons. And I’m very proud of that.”
She’s advocated for gay rights, which include same-sex marriage and same-sex couples being allowed to adopt children. She’s also pushed for women’s rights. She would like to see an equal rights amendment passed for women.
“The equal rights amendment would create a special class for women the same as it does for African-Americans and for other groups, for disabled,” she said. “We need that. And we need to build really strong structure around getting that passed. We just have to open our eyes a little wider, and give her heart to chance to work.”
That starts with a conversation.
“If you don’t talk to people you’re not going to break barriers. And today we’re not talking,” she said.
If you are willing to come to the table she wants you to know losing is part of the journey and it’s okay. In the beginning, her run for the school board ended in defeat more than once.
“I like to say I am a three-time loser,” she said, with a smile. “But, I’m not. But I’m not a loser, because I got myself together and got going.”
She says energy and drive will get you far.
Thursday, October 14, Hillsborough County leaders will hold a dedication ceremony where friends, family, and former colleagues will join Frank as the old courthouse is named after her. The ceremony starts at 10 a.m. outside 419 North Pierce street on the west-facing entry.
“I’m very humbled by this and I respect the judiciary so much and my husband was a judge and my daughter was a lawyer who is gone now, both of them, and I think the law is very important to us,” she said. “it’s just a really wonderful honor to give me and I know I don’t deserve it, there are so many people who have come before me who could have walked through that courthouse. But, I love it because that’s where I started out in that courthouse and I spent a lot of time there."