St. Petersburg mayoral contenders offer police chief little job security
ST. PETERSBURG - This might be Police Chief Chuck Harmon's last year on the job.
He wants to stay at the helm, but only one of the seven current mayoral contenders said they would definitely keep Harmon if they won. Read more about Harmon's job security in today's St. Petersburg Times.
Read after the jump to see what the candidates had to say about Harmon.
Former council member Bill Foster said he would not guarantee Harmon or any other administrators a job in his City Hall. "He’s absolutely qualified, but it's just going to be a new day," Foster said. "Change is not a bad thing."
Former council member Kathleen Ford said she has concerns about whether there are enough police officers. Ford, whose 2001 mayoral campaign hit a serious roadblock when she announced she would replace then-Chief Goliath Davis, declined to comment on whether she would keep Harmon or not. "We are going to have to take a look at everyone," she said.
Homeless advocate and mayoral candidate Paul Congemi said St. Petersburg needs a new chief. "He’s a smart man. He knows a lot about police work. He’s been a police officer for many years. But we have had in this city for many years, decade after decade, a drug problem. We have crack houses that are in the poorest of neighborhoods in the south side. The good people who live in those neighborhoods, they keep asking the police for help," Congemi said. "It makes me ask the simple question, 'what is the graft here? Who is getting paid off on this?' Harmon will just have to be replaced with someone who really wants to knock off this narcotics problem.”
Council member Jamie Bennett was the only candidate who said Harmon would definitely be able to keep his job. “Harmon has a job as long as he is performing and doing a good job," said Bennett. "What people are looking for is stability in government.”
Minister Sharon Russ said the decision would be up to the city's rank and file. "I really have nothing against Chuck Harmon. I wouldn’t go in and just put all the blame on the police chief," she said. “I would consider how the officers feel first. If they feel like he is a good chief, then we can work with him.”
Real estate investor Scott Wagman said he would evaluate Harmon's performance and then make a decision. “People’s expectations of someone new and dynamic are that change is going to happen," Wagman said. "What we are seeing out in the field is that crime is unacceptably up and people are feeling a sense of security and comfort that is not acceptable. Blaming the economy is an excuse. It doesn’t give you a pass.”
Amscot executive Deveron Gibbons said Harmon has done a good job, but he wouldn't promise the chief a job in his cabinet. “Harmon has done a good job," Gibbons said. "If you look at the numbers, he has done an excellent job on policing with what he has.”
Cristina Silva, Times staff writer