It was a festive—at times raucous—atmosphere at the jam-packed Mahaffey Theater April 2 as Mayor Rick Kriseman and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin outlined their vision and operational strategy for St. Pete’s future.
Kriseman led off by praising the members of city council, stating that “we couldn’t do anything that we do in the city without the partnership and the teamwork of this great city council, so I’ll say thank you to you guys!”
To the largest single gathering of St. Pete city employees to date, Tomalin said: “The only way we reach that destination is with the help with each and every one of you,” adding that, “each of us have a different path but we share a common call to action: to serve this great city of St. Petersburg.”
Tomalin feels that one of the benefits to the mayor’s successful campaign was that he had the opportunity to interact with people from every corner of the community, as he spoke with them about their hopes and what it is they see for St. Pete.
“We talked to people from throughout the community to understand where we need to go,” she stated, “and what it means for the sun to shine here in the city of St. Petersburg.”
The new motto “The Sun Shines Here” was emblazoned over a logo of a yellow sun, and figured prominently in the overall theme of a bright future. The short film featuring everyday city employees and independent business owners, along with prominent residents, such as Bob Devin Jones, co-founder of Studio@620, touting the city’s attractive qualities. The new administration hopes to make St. Pete achieve its goal of being a beacon of progress through “pathways” such as service, fiscal responsibility, innovation and community engagement.
The event marked the three-month anniversary of Kriseman taking office, and the mayor called it a “new day in St. Petersburg,” adding that “we want to do things differently — we want to do them better. We want to get over that cusp and become the greatest city not only in the state of Florida but in the entire country!”
Addressing all the employees in attendance, Kriseman said the he needs their help in changing the tone and the climate of the community to one where “we try and solve problems rather than saying, ‘We can’t handle it, we can’t do it.’ We know that working together as a team, we can get there.”
The mayor pointed out a great example of this in our major league baseball team, the Tampa Bay Rays, stating that they’ve been successful not because they have individual stars but because they come together as a unit. They are a team that cares about each other and looks out for one another to do the best job they can, he said enthusiastically.
Right on cue, Rays’ manager Joe Maddon took the stage and playfully tossed out a few rubber baseballs to the crowd before taking the microphone. He talked about his days in baseball as a player, coach, scout and manager, stressing the importance of relationships, teamwork and trust.
“If you guys don’t trust each other and we don’t trust each other, I promise you, nothing works,” he stated. A solid foundation of trust promotes an honest exchange of ideas, he added, drawing on his nearly 40 years of experience in organized baseball. Maddon encouraged everyone present to step out of their comfort zone.
“That is really a boring place to live in, to stay in that box,” he told the crowd. “Who wants to live in a box anyway? The more you get outside that box you’ll feel a lot better about yourself, and when you get out of that really comfortable area you’ll find you’re going to reach all your abilities and all your goals.”
City Administrator Gary Cornwell also was on hand to speak, along with City Council chairman Bill Dudley.
“This is going to be a great journey, and we’re all going to be part of it,” Dudley said.
Kriseman closed by urging the city employees to have fun, enjoy their jobs and above all feel free to let their ideas be heard.
“You’re creative, you’re innovative and we want to hear your ideas,” he declared. “Your idea is just as important as mine.”
In keeping with the fun, easygoing vibe of the gathering, Kriseman finished by taking a “selfie” photo with the theater full of employees posing and smiling behind him.