Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ken Welch bows out of bid to lead Juvenile Welfare Board

Pinellas Commissioner Ken Welch launched the bid amid uncertainty over a term limits lawsuit.

Pinellas Commissioner Ken Welch launched the bid amid uncertainty over a term limits lawsuit.

Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch took himself out of the running to be the next executive director of the Juvenile Welfare Board on Tuesday, saying he was sparing the agency a political fight with Tallahassee.

Welch, who has served on the commission for 12 years, applied for the job earlier this month, propelled by uncertainty surrounding the outcome of a term limits lawsuit against him and three other commissioners. Knowing that the lawsuit could force him out of office, Welch decided to try for a new job and an early exit in January 2014.

It was a bold move for a politician who shuns risk, and it did not go as planned.

On Tuesday, Welch sent the board a statement saying he was withdrawing his application.

"It has become obvious that, in the minds of some, my political persona overshadows all other aspects of my business, managerial and professional experience," he wrote, singling out an editorial that ran in the Tampa Bay Times. The editorial questioned whether the board would be swayed by Welch's prominence and hand him the job without seriously considering other applicants.

In an interview on Tuesday, Welch said he had received calls from Tallahassee objecting to him making a bid for the job. Claiming he did not want to "fan the flames," he refused to say whether the political pressure came from state elected officials, the governor or both.

These "party loyalists," as he called his opponents, did not like the idea of a high-profile Democrat leading the agency, he said, adding that some Republicans believe he played a back-room role in getting two Democrats elected to the commission in November and resent him for it.

"We haven't weighed in on this appointment," said Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott. "We haven't told anyone to withdraw their name or application."

Opposition to Welch taking the JWB post materialized before he even submitted his resume and cover letter to the search committee. Hearing that Welch might apply, state Sen. Jack Latvala, a Republican, said he called several JWB board members to warn them it was a bad idea. Last Friday, he said, he talked directly to Welch to make his opinion clear.

"I think Ken Welch is a very competent public official," Latvala said. "I just told him I thought there were some unfortunate consequences if he were to get that job."

As Latvala sees it, if Welch, the county's most prominent Democrat, were given the job and granted the delayed start date he requested, it would thrust a nonpartisan agency focused on improving the lives of poor children and families into the political fray. The fact that Welch plans to run for mayor of St. Petersburg in 2017 only made the political tension worse, Lat­vala said. "I thought this appointment and the fact that he could be running for office could potentially hurt JWB," he said.

Though Welch's appointment was not a foregone conclusion, he was among 11 semifinalists the board had selected to begin interviewing for the job. But by last weekend, some board members said they began to hear that he might bow out, said Dr. Jim Sewell, who is leading the search committee.

"I think all of us were a little bit concerned about this," he said.

Other board members were surprised.

"I'll never understand the political thing," said Ray Neri, president of the Lealman Community Association and a JWB board member. "I just thought: Here's a quality guy who's on the market, and why else not be able to give him a shot as well as everybody else?"

Times staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report. Anna M. Phillips can be reached at aphillips@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779.

Ken Welch bows out of bid to lead Juvenile Welfare Board 02/19/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 10:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bill Clinton coming to Miami Beach on Saturday for mayors' convention

    Blogs

    From our friends at the Miami Herald:

    Former President Bill Clinton gives the opening address to kick off a meeting of International Aid Groups at the InterAction Forum 2017 at the Washington Convention Center on June 20.
  2. Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault

    National

    WASHINGTON — Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried "eyes only" instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Barack Obama shake hands at the COP21 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, France, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. [Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]
  3. GOP's challenge: Finding votes for Senate health care bill (w/video)

    National

    WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has finally unwrapped his plan for dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law. Now comes his next challenge — persuading enough Republicans to back the measure and avert a defeat that could be shattering for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks to reporters at the Capitol after Republicans released their long-awaited bill to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. He is one of four GOP senators to say they are opposed it but are open to negotiations, which could put the measure in immediate jeopardy. [Associated Press]
  4. Trigaux: Halfway through 2017, a closer look at six drivers of the Tampa Bay economy

    Business

    We're nearly halfway through 2017 already, a perfect time to step back from the daily grind of business and ask: How's Tampa Bay's economy doing?

    Is there one theme or idea that captures the Tampa Bay brand? Not really but here's one possibility. The fun-loving annual Gasparilla "Invasion" of Tampa is captured in this photo of 
The Jose Gasparilla loaded with pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla on its way this past January to the Tampa Convention Center. In the future a vibrant downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg may be the better theme. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. Harmeling first woman to receive lifetime honor at Sneaker Soiree in Tampa

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the last quarter-century, she has combined passion and meticulousness to keep the Gasparilla Distance Classic humming and evolving. Indefatigable and detailed, Susan Harmeling braces for every race-weekend contingency.

    Susan Harmeling gives a speech after accepting an award  during the annual Sneaker Soiree, at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, Thursday, June 22, 2017.