ST. PETERSBURG — Pete Boland, who calls himself a self-made entrepreneur and owns two restaurants in downtown, believes his experience and leadership in business will serve him well as he bids to become the city’s next mayor.
“I’ve been an outspoken leader for my hospitality industry through all sorts of crises, going back to Hurricane Irma, through COVID-19, through the noise ordinance discussions and everything else we’ve been facing,” he said. “The restaurants and our nightlife scene have been very much at the forefront; I think a lot of the issues of our city are very much the same.”
The St. Pete native said he is not looking to be a career politician; he just “wants to move us forward and put partisan politics and career ambitions behind us, so we can actually solve true problems going forward for our city with common sense solutions.”
Boland said he wants a city government that puts the citizens and the interests of business and private ownership above political ambitions.
As a resident of the Shore Acres neighborhood who has had to evacuate for hurricanes going back to Elena in 1985 and has had his homes flooded, Boland said he understands climate change hazards.
“I think the only thing that’s going to slow down the momentum of St. Pete is sea-level rise,” he said, adding that the planting of mangroves will help in dealing with the rising tides. “Also, I think we need to recruit fantastic grant writers to help neighborhoods like my neighborhood in Shore Acres. Literally, elevate. When we redevelop, having higher standards — literally higher standards up off the ground — so that we can prepare for those floodwaters.”
Concerning the city’s recent issues with sewage overflows that have led to higher water bills, Boland blamed previous administrations for not tending to the problem sooner.
“We neglected this stuff for such a long time because the politicians didn’t get a great photo op standing in front of a sewer or manhole!” he said, adding that we need to have a “21st-century strategy” to address such problems because the “old ideas” aren’t working.
As to how our public infrastructure can adequately handle current high-rise development, Boland believes impact fees can be key.
“We need to have impact fees that make sense, that fuel infrastructure,” he said. “That’s what they’re supposed to be designed for; that’s what they’re there for. And we need to have the CBA, those community benefits agreements so that we know the infrastructure is not getting disrupted massively when we have these new developments.”
In keeping the historic charm that makes St. Pete special in the face of new development projects, Boland said the city could maintain architectural design standards but firmly believes in expanding development and growth to allow for more opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Concerning rising housing costs in the city, Boland said that we need to “smart and shrewd” about future developments.
“There’s a lot of programs out there that help people to get more accessory dwelling units,” he noted. “Things like garage apartments and in-law suites.”
As for the massive Tropicana site redevelopment plan, Boland said, “putting it over to one developer for all these different projects and priorities doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
“The number one priority for me would be to restore and enhance the beauty that already exists with Booker Creek,” he said. “Booker Creek shouldn’t be this gutted as it is in the middle of a parking lot. It should be a beautiful part of that development. I think a mixed-use housing, a really dense urban housing, that would kind of look like an old-type feel, that’s what I’d like to see there.”
Regarding the city’s contentious relationship with the Republican majority in recent years, Boland said he would put St. Pete first and not worry about party politics.
Citing a line he tells all new employees of his businesses, he said, “‘You can disagree without being disagreeable.’ I want to work with Tallahassee; I don’t care who the governor is, I don’t care who’s on county commissioner, I want to do what’s best for St. Pete and put St. Pete first.”
Boland urged the residents to actively participate in meetings and discussions about the city’s annual budget.
“You have to take an interest in your city,” he said. “St. Pete is a unique place with a lot of civic pride. We need to harness this energy.”
Boland believes that public safety is the number one priority for government and said, “I’m not a ‘defund the police’ guy; I’m a ‘refund the police’ guy.” He said he’d want to challenge the city’s police department to be “the best police force in the United States.”
“We do that by taking a real hard look at qualified immunity,” he said. He’d also like to see more cameras in public areas to prevent things like bicycle and auto theft.
Boland said he disagreed with the “hyper-partisan nature” during the Rick Kriseman administration and believes the administration should have reached out to business owners more during the pandemic.
“They had a Reopen St. Pete committee without one representative of the businesses that were closed!” he said. “There was nobody from the gyms or from the beauty salons or the restaurants.”
Boland aims to “reconnect with the community and bring people to the table and end this partisan nature. We’ve just got to put St. Pete first, and that’s what I’d like to see different.”
For more information, visit peteforstpete.com.