“I really feel like we could be the most desirable city in the world if we could all just work together,” said mayoral candidate Torry Nelson.
BY MARK PARKER, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — The last person to qualify for the St. Petersburg mayoral race is no stranger to taking a leap of faith in the pursuit of his goals.
St. Pete native Torry Nelson, 43, qualified just hours before the deadline to enter the race and is probably best known for sneaking into a Pittsburgh Steelers training camp session in 2018 with the hopes of earning a tryout. The incident went viral, but Nelson was serious about giving his life-long goal to play in the NFL a shot. After several debates and with less than a month before primary voting begins, he has shown he is serious about becoming the next mayor, too.
“I’ve been serving the community; the majority of my businesses are based off serving the community,” said Nelson. “I get a really big kick out of being able to earn a living and help people at the same time.”
Nelson is incredibly proud of starting a homeless shelter that he said he ran with no government assistance. In fact, he said he was under constant government scrutiny, which prepared him for his current undertaking.
“I figure if I can battle the whole entire city on my own with limited resources for over a decade, I felt hey, I’m prepared to actually run the city.”
Nelson noted that the homeless shelter was forced into foreclosure because he had false fines levied against him by the city. He said he was issued a permit that the city did not recognize, and since they did not recognize him as the owner, he could not appeal in hearings.
He added that he was prepared to take his case to the Supreme Court but eventually realized there was nothing he could do. Nelson said he could have easily bowed down to the city but chose to fight as long as he could instead, losing a lot of money in the process.
“I wouldn’t change it because it prepared me,” asserted Nelson. “It’s kind of like trials and tribulations of life, and you learn from it.”
Improving public safety is one of the major goals for Nelson. He said that gun violence is at an all-time high, and he remembers a time when it was not this bad. He said now, “kids tote guns around like wallets.”
Nelson added that he would like to reverse the current evolution and target the youth and young adults, asking them to stop and think before they act. He feels he is uniquely qualified for that challenge as he has lived it.
“I’m a citizen first,” averred Nelson. “I’ve been in the community; I’m still in the community. I can reach out to the street gangs; I can reach out to anyone.”
Nelson said he would ask them to try another way because “we got some hope coming in.” He feels like the youth are being misguided by today’s music and would work with parents to ensure the new generation of kids do not make the same mistakes as the older generation. He adds that many kids feel like their only paths are to play sport or rap, and he would like to see more aspire to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and computer programmers.
“Kind of like brainwash them with positive stuff, so it outweighs the negative stuff,” stated Nelson.
He also thinks that incorporating anger-management classes into the curriculum and improving literacy rates would go a long way towards reducing violence. Nelson said that improving his quality of life is what pushed him to graduate college, and if he can help residents improve their quality of life, that would increase public safety.
Nelson said that his accessibility and willingness to take a hands-on, collaborative approach is what sets him apart from the other seven candidates. He is also passionate about the environment and would like to see more recycling, natural fertilizers, and bring back native plants and fruit trees he remembers fondly as a kid.
“We have a lot of people trying to explore space right now, but how are we going to go somewhere else when we haven’t taken care of home yet,” he asked.
Nelson noted that he would take the same approach he took playing college football to governing, as it takes people from all walks of life and across multiple positions to form chemistry and work together to seek a common goal.
“I feel I can be the one to bridge the gap between St. Pete,” stated Nelson. “I really feel like we could be the most desirable city in the world if we could all just work together.”
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