ST. PETERSBURG — Wengay “Newt” Newton hosted his 8th annual Appreciation Barbecue to thank the community for supporting him the last eight years as city councilman for District 7 last Sat., Jan. 3 at Dell Holmes Park.
He also used the opportunity to kick off his fundraiser to begin campaigning for the House of Representatives District 70 seat that will become vacant when Representative Darryl Rouson finishes serving his last term in office at the end of the year.
Newton stated that one of his tasks would be “to build and establish coalitions” that would be in sync with him to tackle issues essential to the Tampa Bay area. He would like to work with his coalitions to fix the local juvenile justice system in St. Petersburg, to keep an eye on funds set aside for preserving environmental lands, to find other avenues to support and fund Green Light Pinellas and to monitor health care expansion formerly known as Medicare.
Of the four issues, Newton singled out the influx of youth into the juvenile justice system as a “pants on fire issue.”
“Last year here in St. Petersburg we arrested about 2,200 juveniles, just under 200 youth every month,” said Newton.
He also pointed out that if a juvenile does something that leads to his or her arrest, Florida is one of the few remaining states in the Union where their juvenile record follows them into adulthood, hindering their efforts to find work, continue their education, and rebuild their lives.
“I believe in every opportunity for each kid to realize their full potential. Right now we’re spending on the state level $196 million dollars on juvenile jail cells. Last year the state arrested about 75,000 juveniles,” he said. “Everyone knows this is a pertinent issue with me.”
Ken Welch knows how passionate Newton is about giving young people who have had problems early in life an opportunity to turn their life around.
“Certainly, juvenile justice has been a big issue with Newt,” said Welch who stated that: “He (Newton) has all the attributes that you would look for in someone that represents the community.”
Newton acknowledged that as he travels around the bay area during his campaign that he will become aware of other issues in the different counties as well.
The city councilman’s biggest supporters are his family, especially his daughter Chelsea who works as her father’s campaign manager. She talked about how she ended up with that job.
“Well, I’ve always been daddy’s little girl…and the cutest little person to put on his campaign poster,” said Chelsea, a Boca Ciega honor student.
Newton’s Appreciation Barbecue was definitely a family affair as his wife worked closely with the young adult volunteers from Job Corps who helped serve over sixty people.
Chelsea represented the millennial contingent that came out to show support for Newton and partake of the delicious food.
If the crowd that expanded beyond the confines of the pavilion is any indication of his diverse support base, his continued support could swell like a tidal wave caring him all the way to Tallahassee to fill the House of Representatives, District 70 seat at the end of 2015.
Newton has served as president of the Westminster Neighborhood Association, a member of the Board of Directors of the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club, a business owner of his own professional photography studio and a senior printing system engineer at the Xerox Corporation.