Treasure Island Mayor wants GOP to be the ‘big-tent’ party

TREASURE ISLAND, Fla. — Treasure Island Mayor Tyler Payne says that he’s been accepted and embraced by everybody in the Republican Party in Florida since coming out as gay, which is why he was disappointed when he saw that the Texas Republican Party passed a resolution last weekend that calls homosexuality “an abnormal lifestyle choice.”

“We’re supposed to be the big tent party in allowing everybody in,” Payne told Spectrum Bay News 9 earlier this week. “I’ve been very accepted by everybody within my Republican Party sphere, so it really is disheartening to see things like that happening in other states.”


What You Need To Know

  • Tyler Payne defeated then-incumbent Larry Lunn in the race for Treasure Island mayor in March 2021
  • The beachside community is home to approximately 6,600 people
  • Payne recently issued Treasure Island’s first Pride Proclamation in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month

Payne, 31, defeated incumbent Larry Lunn in the election for Treasure Island Mayor in March 2021. He says he’s enjoying leading the city.

“It’s great to give back to the community and listen to what the community has to say,” he says. “A lot of the things that we’re going to get done is not really sexy per se, but it’s the stuff that really is very important to the future of the city, and as a young mayor, that’s really important to me.”

Payne credits City Manager Amy Davis with helping to modernize city policies.

“We’re currently going through the process to revise our comprehensive plan and our land development regulations, which is a huge undertaking that hasn’t been done in over 20 years, so that will set us up to be prime for development of our downtown area,” he says.

While running for mayor last year, Payne was critical of then Mayor Lawrence Lunn’s focus on a plan to redevelop the area between 104thand 108th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard. Payne says he learned during the campaign that residents want the city leaders to maintain Treasure Island’s “charm” while working with developers.

“We have a great mix of tourism and residential, so our downtown area needs to reflect that,” he says.

Payne supports Governor Ron DeSantis’ bid for re-election this year, but he admits to being troubled by the Legislature’s passage of the Parental Rights in Education measure, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. He agrees with the stated premise of the legislation – that human sexuality shouldn’t be discussed in the classroom with students between kindergarten and the third grade. But he fears that it will have a chilling effect.

“As someone who hopes to have a family with my now-fiancé, soon-to-be husband, I want my kids to be comfortable talking in kindergarten through the third grade about having two dads,” he says.

Payne wants to encourage GOP elected officials to “have a little more bravery and come around to be that big tent party” when it comes to considering the LGBTQ community.

“What I’ve said is: let people be who they are,” he says. “I just don’t understand this notion from a conservative standpoint – we’re supposed to be the party of unlimited government. Why are we telling people what they can and can’t do?”

At 31, Payne says he’s keeping his options open to continuing his career in public service when his tenure in Treasure Island ends (though currently there aren’t term limits in Treasure Island, the city’s Charter Review Commission is reviewing changes to that policy).

“We’ll see what doors open up,” he says.

Payne is one of at least five openly gay mayors currently serving in Florida, according to The Victory Institute. However, there could be more, as the organization does not list Payne in their database currently.

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