When we elect our local officials, we trust them to lead us and to protect our interests in times of need. In my 26 years working for the City of St. Petersburg, countless individuals have held steadfastly to that idea. I am sad to say that Mayor Rick Kriseman has proven to me that he is not one of them.
When faced with the imminent threat of Hurricane Irma, Mayor Kriseman demonstrated a disregard for the safety of his citizens that not only caused confusion within his administration, it wrongly cost me my job.
Our community has weathered many storms, but nothing like what we were told to expect from Hurricane Irma. This hurricane, we were warned repeatedly, was unlike anything the Tampa Bay region had ever seen. Every day the path moved closer to a possible direct hit and people were frantically doing their best to prepare in the face of shortages of gas, water and other essential supplies.
When the threat worsened, state officials made the right choice and issued evacuations for particularly vulnerable communities – including our own. I immediately planned how to ensure the safety of my frail mother, who would have been helpless against this super storm. I had often heard Mayor Kriseman express his values and say how “family comes first.” His sentiment echoed in my thoughts as I packed up my belongings and left behind everything I had so I could take my mother to safety.
As I have since found out, family is not as important to him as he claims.
Confusion seemed to be the order of the day when the city administration failed to properly prepare the community to carry out the evacuation. So before I left, I did my best to notify the necessary people. I treasured my job and fully understood its responsibilities and I knew it was essential for me to communicate my intention to evacuate. But that was not enough for Mayor Kriseman. When the hurricane had finished inflicting its devastation on our hometown, I returned to St. Petersburg only to learn I had been fired by my supervisor.
What a horrible way to learn that this is how the Kriseman administration does business. I lost my job because I honored the principle the mayor claims to stand for – the importance of family. While communities across the state came together to support one another and work toward recovery, Mayor Kriseman sat by in silence as a dedicated public servant was cut off at the knees because she loves and cares for her mother.
Hurricane Irma may have been the worst storm we’ve seen, but it is certainly not the last. And with so many lives at stake, the next time a catastrophic hurricane hits, we need a mayor who will not make people choose between their safety and their jobs. I will never again vote for Rick Kriseman, and neither should anyone else who loves their mother like I do.