SARASOTA - Steve Stanton was fired as city manager in Largo two months ago after announcing his plans to become Susan Stanton. On Wednesday, Stanton, wearing a white skirt, pumps and makeup, applied for the top job in this cosmopolitan tourist town and was turned down.

The Sarasota city commissioners instead picked another one of the five candidates. Stanton was their third choice.

"It's just too soon. It's too soon for a transgendered city manager. ... I just don't think the world is ready just yet," the 48-year-old Stanton said as she made a hasty exit from City Hall.

Commissioner Ken Shelin disagreed. Shelin said the determining factor was the winning candidate's "quiet leadership."

Stanton "made it into the top three," Shelin said. "She got serious consideration. She made, clearly, a very strong impression on all of us. There were favorable comments from all the commissioners."

Earlier this year, the Largo City Commission voted 5-2 to fire Stanton from the $140,000-per-year job after 14 years of generally excellent evaluations.

Hundreds of people for and against transsexual rights packed the chambers, and dozens of police officers were posted to keep the peace. In the end, commissioners said it was Stanton's judgment and honesty, not his impending sex change, that prompted their decision.

Things were much calmer in Sarasota, about 50 miles south of Largo on Florida's southwestern coast.

Largo, with a population of 76,000, is a working-class community in the Tampa Bay area.

Sarasota's 54,000 residents are generally more affluent, and the city has a thriving arts scene.

Sarasota is also where Stanton spent much of her secret life as Susan before going public, spending several weekends a year there dressed in women's clothing.

"We need to put a little pepper in the atmosphere," said Sarasota resident Gwen Calloway, 70, who supported Stanton.

"She has the background. She can start running instead of walking. She has proved she's accomplished."

The five candidates for city manager were interviewed separately at an open meeting, during which no one spoke against Stanton.

A few police officers watched over the few citizens who sat through the job interviews.

The five commissioners ultimately voted to hire Robert Bartolotta, 59, who resigned as city manager of Jupiter in 2004 to care for his terminally ill wife. She has since died. Their second choice was Marsha Segal-George, 54, a deputy chief administrator in Orlando.