Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Council member Karl Nurse knows clock is ticking

Since his controversial appointment in May, City Councilman Karl Nurse has been trying to win over the mainly black residents he represents in District 6.


Since his controversial appointment in May, City Councilman Karl Nurse has been trying to win over the mainly black residents he represents in District 6.

ST. PETERSBURG — Karl Nurse couldn't catch a break in local politics for nearly two decades. Finally on the inside, he doesn't want to take a break.

Nurse, a former community activist with two failed bids for public office, has quickly become the hardest working man in local government since his controversial appointment to the City Council four months ago.

Since then, Nurse has launched a foreclosure prevention campaign, pushed for more government transparency, demanded increased protection for the downtown waterfront, chastised the police chief over crime-fighting efforts, suggested overhauling the code compliance process, lobbied for greater environmental standards and presented a key to the city to Barack Obama.

Council Chairman Jamie Bennett, only half joking, has taken to referring to the one-man crusade as "the 100 days of Karl Nurse" and even Nurse's fiercest political rivals begrudgingly acknowledge his drive.

But the original controversy that overshadowed Nurse's appointment stands. Nurse, sworn in 100 days ago today, is the first white person in nearly 30 years to represent the predominately black, low-income neighborhoods that comprise District 6, and he has yet to assure some black leaders of his commitment to their struggles.

He's making waves, they acknowledge, but are they the right ones?

"He has no clue about what being a council person from Midtown is all about," said Theresa Lassiter, a black activist who protested Nurse's appointment. "What is he doing for 16th Street, to revitalize that?… What is he doing for 22nd street?"

Even Nurse worries his skin color could keep him from being elected to the post when his term expires next year.

"I work under the assumption that the clock is ticking," said Nurse, who owns Bay Tech Label, a printing company. "I have to use every minute that I've got."

Nurse was appointed in May after Earnest Williams vacated the post to make a failed bid for the Legislature. Nurse, 53, beat out four well-known black applicants.

District 6, which includes parts of downtown, Midtown and Coquina Key, is 54 percent black, Pinellas County voter registration records show.

Nurse failed to make it past the primary when he ran for District 6 in 1993. He ran for mayor in 2001 but lost to Rick Baker.

Still, his political profile was on the rise. His background includes stints as chairman of the St. Petersburg Planning Commission, founder of Pinellas Living Green, and president of the Council of Neighborhood Association, a group that wields clout at City Hall.

The self-professed policy wonk wasted no time when his dream finally came true. While new council members tend to sit back and watch their first few days, Nurse charged ahead, e-mailing city staff members to set up meetings and suggesting new legislation.

"He is a little more attuned to the process than most" new council members, said Leslie Curran, a longtime City Council veteran.

Some of Nurse's proposals were met with disdain.

In the thick of the debate over whether to put the Tampa Bay Rays' $450-million stadium plan before voters, Nurse suggested a referendum to preserve Al Lang Field as a waterfront park.

It crashed and burned. First-term council member Wengay Newton even accused Nurse of being in bed with stadium opponents.

True to form, Nurse didn't raise his voice. He waited patiently and tried again. And on Thursday, the council scheduled a workshop to discuss rezoning Al Lang as a park and to limit the height of what can be built there, steps that could make it harder to build a new stadium there.

Nurse is taking the slow and steady approach to winning over black constituents. He has attended a prayer rally at Gibbs High, talked at NAACP events, asked local black politicians for advice and gone door to door to introduce himself to voters.

"He seems to really want to reach out and let people get acquainted with him," said black activist Abdul Karim Ali. "I've even heard some people say, 'Hey, that Karl Nurse is not all that bad.' "

Council member Karl Nurse knows clock is ticking 08/07/08 [Last modified: Saturday, August 9, 2008 9:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo


    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  2. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies


    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  3. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win


    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.
  4. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  5. Report: Kusher wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin


    Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, U.S. …

    The name of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, has come up as part of the Russia investigation. [Associated Press]