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Meet Angela Rouson, candidate for St. Petersburg District 5 council seat

ST. PETERSBURG

It's 6:20 a.m. and Jared Rouson can't find his socks. His mother, fixing an English muffin and egg breakfast for five boys, tells him to look in the laundry basket.

His socks couldn't be there, he insists, and like many a 7-year-old, his protestations get louder with each repetition.

What happens next could form an object lesson for City Council meetings of years past, where decibels often smothered deliberation.

Angela Rouson bends down to her son's level, summons him with a crooked finger and lowers her voice.

"Trust me, and I will explain to you that that's where I put them,'' she says, stretching out her words until he quiets down. "Check it out.''

Tension defused, the Rouson household continues its calm choreography toward a departure to three different schools. Father Darryl has already left for an early flight to Tallahassee, but no matter.

Evan, 16, microwaves bacon for himself and two younger brothers. When he spills orange juice, his mother hands him paper towels without a word.

While prepping Emanuel, 8, on his spelling test, Rouson's eyes stray to an empty bowl and glass. "Jared, son, I'm still seeing your stuff on the kitchen table. Put it away.''

Parenthood, with its attendant multitasking, is a central theme to Rouson's campaign for City Council.

"I'm the only candidate raising five children to become productive, accountable and responsible men,'' she recently told the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club. "And I acutely understand the peer issues they face.''

The city needs more programs for children and families, she says. Teach inner city kids the joy of fishing. Create library programs where parents read to children. Find summer jobs for teens.

While canvassing in west St. Petersburg she meets a woman whose daughter was stabbed to death by a teenage neighbor.

Yes, we may need more police and more community policing, Rouson tells the anguished woman, but programs for children also reduce crime. "It's far easier to set a kid in the right direction than to fix a broken adult.''

Rouson's experience with young children started early.

Her family moved from St. Petersburg when she was 2, first to Fort Lauderdale and then to Maryland. Her father was a union organizer and math teacher. Her mother taught English. College was a given, she says.

A graduate of Hampton University in Virginia, Rouson was working on an MBA at Florida A&M University when her mother died of breast cancer. Rouson left school to help her father raise a sister 12 years her junior.

She worked for the American Red Cross and gave birth to a son before moving back to St. Petersburg when her father retired. Ten years ago, she married lawyer Darryl Rouson, now a state legislator. Then she returned to FAMU, commuting weekly to Tallahassee.

"It was really important to me to finish my master's,'' she says. She quit because of her mother's illness, "but as time passed, the worse tragedy was not to finish, because I knew that would have been important to her.''

Rouson worked in marketing at the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, Ceridian and Bayfront Medical Center before quitting four years ago to be a stay-at-home mother. Darryl Rouson had a son from a previous marriage, plus the Rousons had three more together.

"We had preschoolers and preteens at that time and those are both critical developmental ages,'' Angela Rouson says of the decision to be a stay-at-home mother.

She serves on the Pinellas County Housing Authority and her neighborhood association and volunteers at schools and the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts.

"Angela always struck me as being very focused,'' says the Rev. Frank Peterman Jr., a former council member. "Once she sets her sights on a given area, she seems to move in that direction quite well.''

Peterman's family and Rouson's family were active leaders in St. Petersburg's black community, he says. Her grandfather was a minister. Her father, Moses Holmes, ran for the School Board.

She will have "wise judgment about what the city needs at the local level, especially communities that need extra support.''

With all five boys in school or preschool, Rouson says, she's ready to juggle parenthood with the City Council. The campaign has been a test run.

"Talking to people in neighborhoods has been a wonderful experience,'' she says. "We all want to live in safe neighborhoods, have good schools for our kids, have jobs and services.

"We are all together in this.''

Meet Angela Rouson, candidate for St. Petersburg District 5 council seat 10/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 4:16pm]

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