Mayor Rick Kriseman presented Rev. Watson Haynes II with the last key to the city in his administration on Dec. 2 at City Hall.
BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – Mayor Rick Kriseman presented longtime city leader Rev. Watson Haynes II with a key to the city last Thursday during the Dec. 2 city council meeting. This honor has been a long time coming, given his many contributions to the political, business, and social arenas for more than 50 years.
“Now, whether through the Urban League or simply on his own, I’m hard-pressed to think of an area of our city where the voice and the work of Watson Haynes has not been heard and felt,” said Mayor Kriseman.
Haynes grew up in the Gas Plant neighborhood and went on to become the first African American elected as senior class president at St. Pete High. He earned degrees in managerial leadership, public administration, and theology. He is an alumnus of both Eckerd College and St. Petersburg College.
In 2012, Haynes took the reins as president of the Pinellas County Urban League (PCUL), where the organization has grown by leaps and bounds. He is the immediate past chaplain for the Eta Rho Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and an associate pastor at New Pleasant Grove Baptist Church.
Throughout the years, he has worked with both Democrats and Republicans to advance his beloved city. Former Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Haynes to the governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, former Gov. Charlie Christ appointed him to the Florida Commission on Human Rights, and former Gov. Rick Scott reappointed him in 2011.
In 2016, Kriseman appointed Haynes to the committee that selected architects to do the visioning of the Tropicana Field site and continued to lean on him for advice and guidance throughout his tenure as mayor of St. Petersburg.
Highlighting a few of Haynes’ accomplishments, Mayor Kriseman mentioned his service as the chair of the St. Petersburg Charter Review Commission, the chair of the Social Action Funding Committee, the chair of the Pinellas County Foundation, and a trustee for the Gulf Coast Legal Services Community Law Program.
The mayor could have spent a few hours mentioning the list of boards, commissions, and other areas of service Haynes has labored on, such as the environment, education, affordable housing, economic development, and so much more, but he wrapped up his praise by saying:
“Rev. Watson Haynes continues to serve as an example to which we should all aspire. And that’s why I am pleased to present him with not just a key to the city of St. Petersburg, but the last key that I get to present as mayor.”
Haynes could have mentioned more of his accomplishments; instead, he gave thanks to those who came before him, such as former NAACP presidents attorney Morris Milton and educator Garnell Jenkins. He continued with former PCS District Administrator Vyrle Davis, former school administrator and community activist Adelle Vaughn-Jemison, former State Representative and Secretary of the Departments of Education and Labor Doug Jamerson, Rev. Bragg L. Turner, Rev. Alvin Miller, and so many others.
“Each and every one of these individuals lived a life of service to this community, and their examples were thoroughly ingrained in my desire to follow suit,” said the president of PCUL.
Haynes said he has many blessings to count, such as having known so many Black luminaires and trailblazers in St. Pete’s history.
“Their legacies are firmly established in the history of our city,” he stated, adding that he has used their examples to forge his path forward. “I shared this honor with a legion of stalwarts. Certainly, I count the honor of receiving this key as a blessing, and I am truly grateful.”
City Council Chair Ed Montanari said when Haynes speaks, things happen, and the city, state and country need more people like him.
Councilwoman Deborah Figgs-Sanders expressed how she cherishes and respects Haynes and appreciates his support throughout her lifetime.
“Continue to walk this journey because I would not be here if it weren’t for giants such as yourself,” Figgs-Sanders said. “You have a room full of people who adore, respect, and admire you, but I’m going to take point of privilege and claim that number one fan.”
City Council Vice-Chair Gina Driscoll reminded Haynes that he is now the luminary that so many people look up to and receive guidance from.
“You have cultivated and nurtured and mentored an entire generation of leaders in our city,” commended Driscoll. “And it’s because of that commitment that you have that shines through the Urban League, and through so many other things that you’re involved in…”
Councilwoman Lisa Wheeler-Bowman could not speak because of recent mouth surgery, but she prepared a statement read through Figgs-Sanders. She wrote how she loves and appreciates Haynes for all he has done for the community and looks forward to continuing working with him.
Congratulations, Rev. Watson Haynes II from The Weekly Challenger!