This is the fifth in a series of five stories during National Women’s History Month 2015 about Junior League members who have made a very visible mark on their communities through their election as the first woman mayor of a major city.
In 1976, Florence Shapiro was one of a small group of dynamic women in a rapidly growing suburb of Dallas that formed The Plano Service League to oversee volunteer efforts within their community. Florence served as the organization’s first president. What began with 13 members that first year became the Junior League of Plano in 1984, and is now called the Junior League of Collin County.
For Florence, that experience became a critical element in the success that would come in her long career in public service. “I think my League experience was the nexus for everything that I did,” she says. “The idea that I would organize as one of the founders 13 women, have a mission, define goals, objectives, meet those, participate with people together – it really was the beginning of my desire to continue serving the public.” She adds, “I am convinced that women are enormously accomplished when they put their mind to it and when they decide that they want to do something, there’s no better example than The Junior League – women that have an honest and sincere desire to make the world a better place.”
In 1979, Florence entered politics as an elected member of the Plano City Council, ultimately serving six terms until becoming Plano’s first woman Mayor in 1990. Concurrently, she served as the President of the Texas Municipal League and the North Texas Council of Governments.
Turning to statewide politics, Florence launched a successful campaign for the Texas Senate and served from 1993 until 2013. In 2005, she was elected President pro tempore of the State Senate, thus becoming second in the gubernatorial line of succession, behind the Lieutenant Governor of Texas. She also served there as chair of the Education Committee and the State Affairs Committee. Her package of bills known as “Ashley’s Laws,” passed in 1995 and 1997, have become national benchmarks in the way states judge, punish and track sex offenders.
The contributions Florence has made and her commitment to improve her community have earned her numerous recognitions, including the Champion for Social Change Award from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and Legislator of the Year 2008 from the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas. And, for a lifetime of achievement, she was awarded AJLI’s Mary Harriman Community Leadership Award in 2013!