ST. PETERSBURG — Of the eight candidates vying for the City Council District 6 seat, Gina Driscoll has managed to nab the endorsement of the man she could succeed.
Council member Karl Nurse, who is prevented from running again because of term limits, this week endorsed Driscoll, 46, for the seat he will vacate later this year.
Thursday Driscoll told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board that it means a lot to get Nurse's support.
"He served as a sort of a mentor to me," she said.
Driscoll, who is president of the influential Downtown Neighborhood Association and is involved in other prominent organizations based in the city's booming waterfront center, said she is passionate about the entire city.
District 6 covers downtown and parts of the Old Northeast and Midtown, a predominantly poor, African-American neighborhood.
Like Nurse, Driscoll said she will focus on affordable housing, "particularly south of downtown," which is where Midtown is located.
"The idea is to lift entire neighborhoods," she said. "Affordable housing is the starting point" that can create "a ripple effect."
She added that she wants to strengthen the city's existing program that encourages developers to build affordable housing.
Driscoll, who was born in Indiana, grew up in Pasco County. She has lived in St. Petersburg for 12 years and is the sales manager for Hampton Inn & Suites St. Petersburg Downtown. Her former jobs have included a stint at Disney and the Tampa Bay Times as an advertising account executive.
She got into the race late, but has raised $14,005, including $100 from Rudy Ciccarello, who is opening a museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement downtown. Ciccarello also gave $10,000 to Mayor Rick Kriseman's campaign.
Hours after the city announced that it had experienced another sewage spill, Driscoll said Thursday that it was time to move "past the blame game" and continue current efforts to fix the system.
"We didn't get here overnight," she said, adding that she believes plans for upgrades are moving in the right direction.
Driscoll also addressed the unresolved situation with the Tampa Bay Rays. "I don't believe that taxpayer money should go toward funding a new stadium," she said. "I'm very hesitant about putting in money for a private entity."
The 85-acre Tropicana site borders several neighborhoods and any redevelopment should offer "something for everyone," she said.
"It should reflect the communities it borders," Driscoll added, and include housing and "good paying jobs to support a family."
She also supports a new conference center.
Discussing the pier, another controversial issue, Driscoll said that now construction has begun, residents she's spoken with want an approach area that will link the attraction to downtown. She said she supports Kriseman's plans to ask Pinellas County to reallocate an extra $14 million in sales tax money to the Pier District, transportation and parking downtown. Of that sum, $10 million would be used for "enhancements" to the pier project and the remainder for transportation and parking.
Driscoll told the editorial board about organizing a meeting for downtown residents to get details about the Tampa Bay Rowdies' plans for Al Lang Stadium. It's important to her that people's voices be heard and for them to get the correct information, she said.
Concerning crime in District 6, Discroll said that in downtown, the concern is about car and bike thefts and noise. South of downtown, those concerns are different, she said.
"The challenges we face are as unique as the neighborhoods we live in," she said. "You have to listen to each person."
Like some of the other candidates, Driscoll spoke about the importance of early childhood education and noted that after-school programs "are getting slashed." She wants to find a way for the city "to partner" with Pinellas Technical College to offer high school students skills and career options.
Driscoll said she enjoys seeing such a crowded field of committed candidates for the district, She stands out because of her service in the community and for "really rolling up my sleeves" and getting things done. If elected, she plans to bring "thoughtful leadership" and continue to enhance the city's reputation as a "very inclusive" place. She declined to say whether she'd support Kriseman or former Mayor Rick Baker in the mayoral election, but said her priority will be to work with whoever is elected.
"My job is to represent the people of District 6 and work for them and fight for them," she said. Also running for District 6 are Justin Bean, Corey Givens Jr., Robert Blackmon, Maria L. Scruggs, James "Jim" Jackson, James Scott and Eritha "Akile" Cainion.
The Aug. 29 primary will determine the top two candidates who will go on to the Nov. 7 general election.
Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes