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The best conversations of 2023 on Florida Matters

A man stands in front of a tree as his portrait is taken. He is smiling.
Matthew Peddie
Bill Maxwell

Florida Matters looks back at some of the best conversations we had with newsmakers from our region.

We've had some very interesting conversations with newsmakers across the greater Tampa Bay region.

Here's a sampling of some of our favorites:

A person with blonde hair and wearing a blue blazer listens with clasped hands while seated at a desk with a microphone
Chandler Balkcom
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor spoke with Florida Matters at city hall before her re-election.

Jane Castor won a second term as mayor of Tampa in March. Before that, we went to city hall to speak with Castor about her tenure over the previous four years.

She talked about the region's transportation woes, sustainability and police reform in wake of the death of Tyre Nichols and the abrupt departure of Tampa police chief Mary O'Connor.

And she discussed the need to address housing affordability in Tampa's increasingly crowded housing market.

In June, University of South Florida researcher Joseph Dituri swam to the surface in Key Largo after spending a record-breaking 100 days living in an underwater habitat. We caught up with Dituri a few weeks later at his office in West Tampa. Dituri's goal was to learn more about the effects of extended underwater stays on the human body, including temporarily losing the ability to see far distances.

 Man in a swimsuit flexing his muscles with people to his left and right
USF researcher Joseph Dituri returns on June 9, 2023, in Key Largo after setting a world record for living underwater.

Goliath Davis, a columnist for the Weekly Challenger newspaper, which covers the Tampa Bay area's African-American communities, wrote a series of columns after a parent of an elementary school student in Pinellas County complained about the Disney movie "Ruby Bridges" being shown to second graders.

A man smiles for a portrait photo being taken.
Daylina Miller
Goliath Davis

It's based on the story of a 6-year-old girl’s experience with school integration in New Orleans during the 1960s.

The complaint, and reports that the movie had been banned at the school, sparked an outcry over the role of parental rights in Florida’s public schools. But a school board review committee decided to continue showing it as part of the school’s curriculum.

Davis met with us in April to talk about the importance of showing a film like "Ruby Bridges" to young students.

Over the summer, we launched Our Changing State, a podcast that explores how the state's rapid population growth is affecting our lives.

We highlighted people witnessing the changes, including retired political science professor Susan MacManus, who talked about the polarizing politics that has made Florida a testing ground for the nation.

A woman with blonde hair, wearing a light green blazer, sits at a desk with a computer monitor
Daylina Miller
Susan MacManus in her office at her home in Land O'Lakes

"Maximum Vantage" is a collection of newspaper columns from Bill Maxwell. The book features almost 20 years of Maxwell's essays from the Tampa Bay Times on racism, living conditions for farmworkers, Florida's environment, and more. They all draw from his life experiences, including growing up as a migrant farmworker. As a child, Maxwell told us, he traveled from Florida to New York annually for 16 years.

In our podcast Our Changing State, we met 52 year old Christopher Powell. He was born and raised in Florida and now lives in Tarpon Springs with his backyard dipping into St. Joseph Sound on the Gulf of Mexico.

Powell talked last summer with WUSF's Jessica Meszaros on his boat at Three Rooker Island, just a couple of miles away from his home.

After the interview was recorded, we learned that Hurricane Idalia brought 11 inches of water into Powell’s home on St. Joseph Sound.

 Man in blue shirt looking into the camera with water in the background
Jessica Meszaros
Christopher Powell was born and raised in Florida and now lives in Tarpon Springs with his backyard dipping into St. Joseph Sound on the Gulf of Mexico.

I am the host of WUSF’s weekly public affairs show Florida Matters, where I get to indulge my curiosity in people and explore the endlessly fascinating stories that connect this community.
Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.