“Progress is hope for families locked in generational poverty that today will be better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today,” Ken Welch, mayoral candidate.
BY BRITTANYE BLAKE, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – Former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch kicked off his mayoral campaign virtually last Thursday, Jan. 28.
Campaign advisor Stephanie Owens shared that Welch plans to usher in a new and bold initiative through equity, collaboration, innovation, community and partnership. She revealed that he “moonlighted as an Uber driver to get a better understanding of what constituents had on their minds.”
Rev. Clarence Williams, senior pastor of Greater Mt. Zion AME, gave the invocation, while Dr. Alex Harris, co-founder of Arts Conservatory for Teens, performed an original piece entitled “Humanity.”
Congressman Charlie Crist, who endorsed Welch last year, recorded a short message that speaks to the extent of their longtime friendship and political relationship.
“He’s just a good decent man who really cares about our community, really cares about the people of our city, and I know he will do an extraordinary job,” Crist said. “I really consider Ken to be a public servant who serves with a servant’s heart. That’s what we need; that is what St. Petersburg deserves.”
Welch also received an endorsement from former City Councilman Charlie Gerdes, who he’s known closely for 14 years. Gerdes referred to Welch as the “gold standard” for consensus building.
“He looks for solutions that can unify; he’s not interested in solutions or votes that win just because one side or the other has more people on it,” Gerdes asserted. “He wants everybody on board. He wants everybody invested, and he finds ways to build consensus. That’s been his history, and we need that, especially in today’s environment.”
Welch wrapped up the kickoff with a message of unity. He believes residents need to come together as a city to determine our common goal in terms of progress.
As a third-generation St. Pete resident and a product of the Deuces and the Gas Plant neighborhoods, he has seen the city change from a sleepy little town to a bustling metropolis. Now, he said, we need to understand that progress isn’t new development and shiny new buildings.
“Progress is the presence of opportunity and hope for every part of our city. Progress is safe neighborhoods, its infrastructure built for the realities of climate change.”
Welch said progress looks like the city fully utilizing the South St. Petersburg CRA the way the county commission and city council intended, which should help solve the housing and transportation problem.
“Progress is hope for families locked in generational poverty that today will be better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today. Progress is implementing Tropicana Field redevelopment from a perspective that is informed not only by economic projections, but by the history of the Gas Plant community. “
Welch feels the city must approach the Tropicana Field site, not as a blank slate, but a slate etched by the sacrifice of thousands of people who lived, worked and worshiped on the 86 acres.
“So that kind of informed approach is what progress looks like to me, and I believe progress should be inclusive, authentic to what we love about St. Petersburg and founded in equity,” he averred.
Welch promises to bring leadership that is unified in purpose for common goals to the mayor’s office and encourages those to support his campaign by visiting KenWelch.com to join the partnership for progress.
Other officials on the call included former Public Defender Bob Dillinger, Commissioner Rene Flowers, Commissioner Charlie Justice, Deputy Will Lawson, Commissioner Janet Long, Gulfport City Councilmember Paul Ray, Commissioner Karen Seel, Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, Deborah Figgs-Sanders and School Board member Caprice Edmonds.