2013 Mary Harriman Award Winner: Honorable Florence Shapiro

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It’s been said that everything Mary Harriman did, she did with enthusiasm, enlisting others to join her along the way. A natural collaborator, she recognized that women had an important leadership role to play in the community. The same can be said for Senator Florence Shapiro, who for decades has rolled up her sleeves and enthusiastically sought out solutions for meeting the needs in her community.

In 1976, Plano, Texas was an emerging suburb of Dallas. Plano was a community in need of an organization where civic-minded women could join together and work to find solutions to their emerging community issues.

“1976 was when a group of women and myself recognized that with this tremendous influx of people and with this dynamic growth in Plano, we needed more than just volunteers in different places but we needed an organization. We spent a number of years as The Plano Service League but it was very well accepted in the community. Thirteen of us started; the next year we had 26 and then 50, and it just grew by leaps and bounds.” – Senator Florence Shapiro

“We were a very small town at that time – 17,000 people – and I had just moved to Plano, and was taken into the league and got to meet Florence, who was the founding President of the group. Florence was very impressive. She had a vision for what this small group of women could do in the town at that time and a vision for what was needed.“ – The Honorable Pat Evans, Fmr. President, Junior League of Collin County

“I think my league experience was the nexus for everything that I did. The idea that I would organize as one of the founders thirteen 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.” – Senator Florence Shapiro

A committed community and civic leader, Senator Florence Shapiro did not enter public service to make a statement; she simply entered to make a difference. Senator Shapiro began her career in the Texas Senate in 1993. However, her entrance into elected office began decades before, and not long after, she founded the Plano Service League.

“I met Florence when she was Mayor of Plano. She was the first woman mayor of her city, and she was a leader – she was a leader from the beginning. You could see it; she just was a star and of course later down the road…when a state Senate seat became open [my husband and I] both said Florence. We talked to Florence and she was floored. She said, ‘What? Me?’ and we said ‘Of course! You’re the perfect candidate!’ She ran and won and then became a real leader for Texas in the state Senate.“ – Kay Bailey Hutchison, Fmr. U.S. Senator from Texas

Beginning in 1995, Senator Shapiro worked closely with her friend and ally, Governor George W. Bush. Together, they helped to change the future of Texas by changing the education of Texas children. The historic reforms passed into law were simple but they had a profound impact.

“The idea of being Chairman of the Senate Education Committee for eight years, and to actually mold public policy in the education space which is just so very important; I’m not sure there’s anything that affects the lives of your citizens more than the education of their children.” – Senator Florence Shapiro

Another career-defining piece of work was a comprehensive package of bills known as Ashley’s Laws. Seven year old Ashley Estelle was abducted from a Plano park and murdered in 1993, a crime that rocked the community and set Senator Shapiro into action. These laws, which passed in 1995 and 1997, have improved the way our state judges, punishes, and tracks sex offenders and is used as a national benchmark, saving more than 500 children nationally. Senator Shapiro used her skills learned in the league to bring groups together to work collaboratively to affect significant change. Ashley’s Laws have been adopted by almost every state.

“What happened was Senator Florence Shapiro came to our children’s advocacy center and asked, ‘If you could change the system to protect children, what would you do?’ And from that, she created 27 different items, and we formed what we loosely refer to as the Blue Ribbon Panel to look at this. That was the genesis of what we know of as Ashley’s Laws.“ – Michael Johnson, Ret. Plano Police Detective

“She’s tenacious. I respect her greatly. She’s personable, but I can tell you, she can be as hard as a tack. I think that’s why people respect her and love her because she gets the job done.“ – Bruce D. Glasscock, City Manager of Plano

“Florence really honed her skills in the Junior League and as a community leader. And then [she] became mayor where she took those skills – the tenacity, the ‘never take no for an answer’ attitude – she took it straight to the mayor’s office and then to the state senate. ” – Kay Bailey Hutchison, Fmr. U.S. Senator from Texas

“She’s been a tremendous gift to our community. We’re so fortunate to have her in our lives for the last forty years, and our community is all the better. Her contributions and her commitment, and her unwavering affection for the citizens of this area – she is a star.” – Phil Dyer, Mayor of the City of Plano

Senator Florence Shapiro is pictured at the Sci-Tech Discovery Center event with Plano ISD Trustees Missy Bender and Carrolyn Moebius.

With the support of husband and family, Senator Shapiro has been able to embrace her love of improving the community.

“One of the main things with her is her parents were Holocaust survivors, and it was a very big deal to her for her parents to see the transformation, especially going from Germany where they weren’t even allowed to be citizens to one generation later where she was not only a citizen but she was a very involved, vibrant citizen, and a woman able to hold public office and to hold state office. It was an amazing thing for her to just see in one generation that change.” – Staci Shapiro Rubin, Florence’s daughter

“Because of my parents and their past, I have always felt that God put me on this earth to be the bridge between my parents and their past and my children and their future…and now my grandchildren and their future. And I hope that as my time comes that when people look back, they can say that I gave 150% to that vision. 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.” – Senator Florence Shapiro