ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council candidates for District 6 agree on the most important issues facing the city: the economy, crime and the environment.
They disagree on who is best equipped to tackle those challenges.
Incumbent Karl Nurse was a longtime community activist who was appointed to the seat 18 months ago. This is his first run for the seat.
"The nice thing about being in office is that it gave me an opportunity to not make promises," Nurse said, "but to deliver results."
His opponent, Vel Thompson, is making her first run for public office. But she's no rookie when it comes to city government. She's touting her experience as the former manager of the City's Neighborhood Team assisting elderly and indigent residents.
Nurse, who owns a printing business, was president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations and a critic of Mayor Rick Baker before his April 2008 appointment.
He also was chosen over four black applicants to represent a district that is 54 percent black and had been held by an African-American for nearly 30 years.
After the council voted to appoint Nurse, Wengay Newton, the council's lone back member, stormed out of the chambers.
But Nurse, 55, shrugs off the importance of race, saying it's not an issue for him.
"I'll tell you that the more I work on economic issues, the less color matters," he said. "I've tried to work on foreclosure prevention, working against predatory lending, working on a credit union.
"My opponent's campaign periodically talks about it, but it doesn't seem to be a major problem."
Thompson, 51, said it is still an issue for her, and for voters she has spoken to on the campaign trail.
She said African-American residents in her district have been represented by African-Americans since the 1930s, and they should be so represented again.
"At that point we began to take pride in ourselves," said Thompson, a cosmetology student.
As a native of District 6, which encompasses downtown St. Petersburg and neighborhoods south to roughly 45th Avenue S, Thompson said a different approach is needed.
"You cannot come in with a one size fits all solution," she said. "Unless you've worn those shoes you won't understand those issues.
"I have. It makes me a better candidate."
But Thompson's time with the city was not without controversy. In 2008, she was fired for misconduct. Thompson said she lost her job to a "witch hunt."
Nurse pushed for federal stimulus money for new police officers. He's also come out for transparency in city government, leading the way to get public records online and get City Council workshops on TV.
If elected, he said, his next project will center on obtaining more stimulus money: to bring energy-efficiency to entire neighborhoods.
"The intent is to weatherize, to make energy-efficient, whole neighborhoods at a time," he said. "I tend to do a fair bit of work trying to grow the green economy, and we're really at the forefront of that."
Thompson wants to reduce what she calls "unnecessary" spending in the city and improve accountability. She also wants city departments to partner together to reduce waste.
She also wants to see government lure more green industries to St. Petersburg. But Thompson thinks the key is recycling. The city still doesn't have a curbside recycling program.
"I would really love to see green jobs come to the city," Thompson said, "and the way we do that is by starting to recycle. Having a recycling program here is vitally important because there's a lot of things you can make from recycled goods.
"By doing so you can bring back economic growth."