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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sierra Club explains endorsements of Wagman, Nurse, Kornell



ST. PETERSBURG -- Kathleen Ford talks about making St. Petersburg the solar energy capital of the United States.

Jamie Bennett helped St. Petersburg become the first green city in Florida.

Deveron Gibbons says the city should work with a private firm that would recycle local goods.

But the mayoral hopeful who scored the Suncoast Sierra Club's endorsement is newcomer Scott Wagman, the former owner of a paint company.

"Viability of a candidate is certainly something we look at, we'd be crazy not to, but it really had to do with Scott stepping up and saying, 'I will do that,' not 'I will encourage this,' " said Cathy Harrelson, conservation co-chair for the Suncoast Sierra Club. "Every one of them said, 'I will encourage' except for Scott."

Wagman's plan to push white roofs, a measure touted by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, also helped earn him the endorsement.

"He understood. He had read a lot of the issues," Harrelson said. "It wasn't perfect, but none of them were, but for him, he is energized and we felt the commitment was there."

The club also endorsed City Council candidates Karl Nurse in District 6 and Steve Kornell in District 5. Both candidates also expressed a commitment to green energy, Harrelson said.

"Karl we just see as a very much get 'er done kind of guy," she said.

Ford impressed the group with her solar energy plan, but a plan to look at wind energy came across as uninformed, Harrelson said.

"Kathleen was talking about these wind turbines, which don't make a whole lot of sense in an urban county like Pinellas," Harrelson said.

Bennett was a contender for the endorsement, she said, but blew his shot partly because members didn't see him as someone who would fight for their causes. For example, he advocated for a recent soft ban on nitrogen for lawn care products, but when asked whether the city should pass a full ban, he backed down.

"He is knowledgeable, but I question the commitment. I question the ability to say something that is not popular," Harrelson said.

Cristina Silva, Times staff writer


[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:59am]


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