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St. Petersburg council member Darden Rice picked for Harvard program

Don't expect St. Petersburg council member Darden Rice to be sitting in on many city meetings in July. She's headed back to college.

Rice is one of several public officials selected to participate in the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

The program runs from July 7–25.

Taxpayers won't be picking up the tab, Rice said.

The Washington, D.C.-based Victory Institute is paying $8,000 toward the class and Rice said she is pitching in $4,000 of her own money.

A new investment strategy?

Years ago, the city used the proceeds from a land sale to start an environmental fund.

The idea was to invest the fund and use the interest to pay for an urban forester position and preservation projects. That worked for a while, until low returns plunged the fund to a present balance of about $920,000, leading city officials to cut the urban forester position.

Council member Steve Kornell wants to change that.

He has filed a new business item asking that the city consider investing the preservation fund the same way it does the Weeki Wachee fund, which has been able to achieve higher returns in recent years — leading to more money for recreation projects.

It doesn't make sense for the city to continue such a conservative investment strategy with the preservation fund, he said.

"I think for it to sit there for that many years and not do anything is ridiculous," he said. "I definitely think the investment part makes perfect sense."

Gunning for County Commission

A firefighter seeking an open Pinellas County Commission seat is breaking out the firepower to bring in folks to his meet-and-greet fundraiser on Saturday.

The first 100 people to donate $50 at Macho Liberti's fundraiser at the Palm Harbor House of Beer will receive a ticket making them eligible to win a Smith & Wesson AR-15 rifle. Donors also get pizza and gelato coupons. All 50 beer taps will be flowing for $4 a glass. The event runs from 4 to 7 p.m. at the House of Beer, 34970 U.S. 19.

Liberti, a Largo firefighter and EMT, is a Republican and one of a dozen candidates in the race for the District 4 seat held by Commissioner Susan Latvala, who is not seeking another term.

For information, call (727) 785-2503 or email votemacho@gmail.com.

House candidate opens campaign headquarters

She's not offering the chance to win a firearm, but state House candidate Shawna Vercher is hoping for a big crowd at Saturday's grand opening of her campaign headquarters in Clearwater.

Vercher's camp expects more than three dozen community leaders, elected officials and campaign team members to attend the event, which will include "family-friendly activities." Vercher will also present her campaign platform. The event will run from 2 to 4 p.m. at 1812 Drew St.

The author and media strategist is one of three Democrats in the race for the District 67 seat held by Rep. Ed Hooper, who cannot run again due to term limits.

To RSVP, contact Meri Forte-Namuj at meri@electshawna.com. For information about Vercher's campaign, visit www.ElectShawna.com.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com, (727) 893-8643 or on Twitter @cornandpotatoes. Reach Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com, (727) 893-8779.

St. Petersburg council member Darden Rice picked for Harvard program 05/28/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 10:42am]

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