… Whoever takes charge after Mayor Rick Kriseman must also be up to other challenges…
The race to replace Kriseman is crowded, with several solid candidates. But Ken Welch is the best choice to maintain the city’s momentum.
Welch, 56, grew up in St. Petersburg. He graduated from Lakewood High School and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg before getting a master’s in business administration from Florida A&M University. He’s an accountant by trade, known best for serving 20 years on the Pinellas County Commission. Last year, he did not seek re-election so that he could run for mayor.
On the commission, Welch championed programs to help homeless people, including the county’s first homeless policy group. That led to the formation of Pinellas Hope, a partnership with Catholic Charities. He was part of the commission that started the housing trust fund, which now has $100 million in its coffers, he said. And he helped increase the county’s small business enterprise program from $70,000 to more than $20 million.
In 2012, when a majority of the county commission stupidly voted to remove fluoride from the water supply, Welch stood strong in opposition, and he helped overturn that decision the following year. [our emphasis]
… There are other credible candidates for mayor. Robert Blackmon is a real estate investor, born and raised in St. Petersburg. Since joining the City Council less than two years ago, Blackmon has a record of getting things done, including his recent effort to restore the Science Center of Pinellas County, which was slated for demolition.
… Darden Rice, 51, is coming to the limits of her term on the City Council. She is strong on environmental issues and has an astute understanding of why the city must prepare for sea-level rise. She has a reputation for doing her homework, and she commits to re-tooling some parts of city government, including the building department, which has a long reputation for sclerotic bureaucracy. Given her generally good record, we were disappointed by Rice’s far-fetched efforts to link Welch to former President Donald Trump. The nonpartisan mayoral contest is no place for partisan smear campaigns, especially ones with no local relevance.
Wengay Newton, 57, leads with his heart and has a genuine passion for improving the lives of St. Pete residents, especially in the parts of the city that he calls the “areas of greatest neglect.” As a Democratic member of the Republican-controlled state Legislature, he had a record of building support for projects in his district, which include parts of St. Petersburg. Newton is affable and disarming, even when he gets rhetorically long-winded.
Peter Boland, 37, was a breath of fresh air in the mayoral race, a straight-talking small business owner and first-time candidate with an obvious love of the city. He attended Shore Acres Elementary, Southside Fundamental Middle and St. Petersburg High School before launching a career in hospitality. He now co-owns and operates The Galley: A St. Pete Tavern, The Ship’s Hold and Mary Margaret’s Olde Irish Tavern in the city’s downtown core. He describes himself as conservative-leaning, while supporting the city’s Pride events and eschewing partisan politics at the city level. He’s strongest on issues to support small business and cut red tape.
Although these candidates bring various points of appeal, Welch clearly emerges with the best combination of experience, temperament and judgment. In the race for mayor, with the first round of voting on August 24, the Tampa Bay Times editorial board recommends Ken Welch.
Eight St. Petersburg mayoral candidates are on the Aug. 24 primary ballot. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the votes, the top two vote-getters go on to the general election on Nov. 2. The winner is elected to a four-year term and can serve up to two consecutive terms.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.
*Original article online at https://news.yahoo.com/st-petersburg-next-mayor-answer-142300069.html?fr=sycsrp_catchall