Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Corey Givens Jr. delivers his pronouncements with the confidence and cadence of a preacher.
As a candidate for the City Council District 6 seat, he speaks about his concern for the environment and the importance of engaging fellow African-Americans on the issue. He was brought up by a single mother, he said, and that's the reason affordable housing is important to him. He's in favor of economic development that produces meaningful jobs.
Those are some of the issues that Givens, 25, spoke about Friday during an appearance with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board.
Givens is one of eight hopefuls in the race for District 6, which includes downtown and parts of Old Northeast and Midtown. He said running for the council seat is personal for him.
"I was born and raised in St. Petersburg," he said. The issue of affordable housing, he said, is "near and dear" to his heart.
Givens said he knows what it is like to have no other choice but to live in a neighborhood with drug dealing and gun shots.
He spoke of his involvement with the Suncoast Sierra Club and feeling as though he's the only black person in the room: "Because I was the only black person in the room."
And he talked about the Tampa Bay Rays and Tropicana Field. The team should be allowed to leave the city, Givens said, if that's what they want. The Tropicana site is "prime" land and there must be "community input" about what is done with the 85-acre site, he said.
Givens also spoke about the city's sewer problems. He said the Albert Whitted sewage plant, which was closed in 2015, should be reopened.
"We need another waste water master plan," he said, adding that he holds every mayor over the past two decades responsible for the recent sewage spills.
Givens is a claims clerk at WellCare Health Plans in Tampa who ran for a seat on the Pinellas County School Board in 2012. It was a rocky campaign.
At the time, Givens claimed to have an associate's degree from St. Petersburg College and a bachelor's degree from Florida State University. His campaign material also said that he was pursuing a master's degree at the University of South Florida. None of that was true.
He tried to put the matter behind him at the start of his meeting with the editorial board Friday. He referred to the time when he "embellished" his credentials and called it a "hiccup." He was getting up and trying again, he said.
Then he acknowledged another recent "mistake." In June, the Times reported that a contributor to his campaign, Lucinda Johnston, said Givens had deposited her $500 donation into his personal checking account and would not refund her money.
Givens had said that he gave her the $500 back, in cash. Johnston said he hasn't. She filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission on May 31.
Last week, Johnston said that when she asked for the $500 and other donations she and her husband had made to his campaign, Givens sent her a text, telling her to never contact him again.
The candidate has since mailed her a check for $630.37, which Johnston said accounted for several small checks and in-kind contributions. The envelope was postmarked June 30, she said.
Johnston, who is well known in local Democratic circles, said the episode has her "vacillating between being heartbroken and being angry."
She said she saw Givens as a "promising young man" and felt that "another person of color on the City Council would help unite the city and bring us together to all start working together."
Johnston said she believes he should drop out of the race. But he's still in it.
"I just want to get it behind me," Givens said.
According to his latest campaign report on July 7, Givens has raised $10,857.47 in donations.
The other candidates in the District 6 race are Justin Bean, Eritha "Akile" Cainion, Gina Driscoll, Robert Blackmon, James Jackson, James Scott and Maria Scruggs.
The Aug. 29 primary will determine the top two candidates who will face each other on Nov. 7.
Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes