Jamie Bennett kicks off St. Petersburg mayoral campaign
ST. PETERSBURG - Surrounded by friends, family and neighborhood leaders, Jamie Bennett announced his candidacy for mayor at City Hall this morning, setting the tone for a campaign that will likely lean heavily on his grass-roots connections and experience as a longtime City Council member.
"I've dreamed of this moment, thought about it, gone over it in my head a zillion times," Bennett said to the crowd of more than 60 people.
Although mostly ignored by local media outlets, the press conference allowed Bennett to introduce his campaign slogan and outline the basic principals of his mayoral platform.
He said he would focus on Midtown and other economically challenged areas, assist families facing foreclosure, fatten the Police Department's ranks and give neighborhood leaders a greater voice in city government.
"You need a trusted and steady hand at the helm at all times," Bennett said. "We need a mayor who will fight for our needs and our interests."
Bennett's slogan is One St. Petersburg, a phrase that in many ways seems to pay homage to Mayor Rick Baker's campaign for a seamless city. But Bennett made it clear that his idea of inclusivity would include the gay community.
Arts leader Bob Devin Jones introduced Bennett to the crowd. Jones, who is openly gay, said he and his partner want to see St. Petersburg thrive. "Jamie is committed and passionate and always available to make this a better community," Jones said.
Baker has been criticized by the gay community over his refusal to attend the city's annual gay pride parade.
Noticeably absent were any significant political heavyweights. Meanwhile, mayoral candidate Deveron Gibbons released the names of dozens of supporters this week.
Bennett said he wasn't worried about Gibbons. "I would much rather have 75 voters surrounding me on the steps of City Hall any day," he said.
Bennett submitted his candidate paperwork after the press conference. He also submitted his resignation, effective Dec. 30, 2009.
Bennett was elected to the City Council in 2001. He has owned a lawn maintenance company for more than 25 years and is active at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church.
Cristina Silva, Times staff writer