Tuesday, June 19, 2018
News Roundup

Ken Welch bows out of bid to lead Juvenile Welfare Board

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 [email protected] or (727) 893-8779.

Comments
Tech Data sending a record 700 employees to march in Pride Parade

Tech Data sending a record 700 employees to march in Pride Parade

Among the marching bands and twirlers at Saturday’s St. Pete Pride Parade, one major sponsor, Tech Data, is sending by far a record number of employees — more than 700 at last count — to march in Florida’s largest gay pride parade.The parade, which d...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
They usually avoid controversy, but every living first lady has condemned border separations

They usually avoid controversy, but every living first lady has condemned border separations

Every living first lady - including Melania Trump - has condemned the policy of separating immigrant families caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. It is a rare moment of bipartisan unity from the women who make up the small sorority of p...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay boys soccer players of the year

Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay boys soccer players of the year

Hillsborough player of the year: F Eric Ugarte, Sr., Plant CityThe numbers: Ugarte scored 21 goals and added 11 assists to lead the Raiders to their first state title in soccer. He scored 71 goals in his career.Something about Eric: The skilled ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays continue to struggle in close games

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays continue to struggle in close games

The Rays blow a four-run lead in Houston and lose on a walkoff hit to the Astros in the opener of their three-game series. It's the 19th one-run loss for the Rays this season as they continue to struggle in close games. Fortunately, reinforcements ar...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay girls soccer players of the year

Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay girls soccer players of the year

Pinellas Player of the Year: MF Mary Raymond, Jr., Palm Harbor UniversityThe numbers: Raymond scored 13 goals and added seven assists. She spent the first part of the season as the central defender.Something about Mary: Raymond is the type of pl...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Watch: Hunter snares large python while saving small gator in process

Watch: Hunter snares large python while saving small gator in process

A python hunter not only captured a 10-foot python as part of the state’s effort to curb the python population in the Everglades, but he also saved a 4-foot gator in the process.The catch was caught on video by Mike Hubbard, who was accompanying hunt...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Updated: 2 hours ago
This start-up can make avocados last twice as long before going bad

This start-up can make avocados last twice as long before going bad

The new avocados rolling out to Costco stores in the Midwest this week don’t look like the future of fresh produce. But they’re quietly testing technology that could more than double the shelf life of vegetables and fruits.That technology, developed ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
With starting QB Josh Jackson’s status resolved, FSU will open against full-strength Hokies

With starting QB Josh Jackson’s status resolved, FSU will open against full-strength Hokies

Florida State's primetime opener against Virginia Tech looks a little tougher now than it did a few days ago.Hokies starting quarterback Josh Jackson has had his academic eligibility resolved and remains on the team, the Roanoke Times reported Tuesda...
Updated: 2 hours ago
My husband has been on the ketogenic diet for three months. Here’s how he does it.

My husband has been on the ketogenic diet for three months. Here’s how he does it.

This week I wrote about something with which I have become very familiar: the ketogenic diet. If you’re like, "Huh?" you are where I was three months ago, before my husband, Phil, embarked on the weight-loss regimen. The keto diet is a high-fat, low-...
Updated: 2 hours ago