Sunday, February 18, 2018
Politics

A day of exits, entrances and civility at St. Pete City Hall

A low-key exit

Despite his high-profile position, St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon has never been one to seek the spotlight.

It's fitting then that his official exit from public life will be a low-key affair — at least if Harmon gets his way.

Harmon, who is retiring after 31 years with the department — the last 12 as chief — will be feted in a casual ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Monday. It will be in the breezeway at police headquarters, 1300 First Ave. N. The setting is deliberate.

Harmon wanted to be outside so as not to create an atmosphere of exclusivity. The public is invited.

Still, there will be some formality. Mayor Rick Kriseman will present the chief with a retirement plaque. Several of Harmon's peers, including Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri; Pinellas Park police Chief Doreen Thomas; Gulfport police Chief Rob Vincent; Rick Ramirez, the special agent in charge of Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Tampa Bay operations; and a representative from the Secret Service are expected to speak.

In case of bad weather, the ceremony will move to the training building across the street from headquarters.

Civility reigned

When residents and TV cameras pack St. Petersburg City Council chambers, it usually means long debates and bickering between council members and the mayor. Not Thursday.

It was a day to honor departing Mayor Bill Foster and outgoing council members Leslie Curran and Jeff Danner. After a short video clip showing Foster dancing and plunging into a pool, Karl Nurse presented awards to the outgoing officials.

The praise then started.

Council member Charlie Gerdes, who rarely breaks the time limits for speaking, asked Nurse to kill the seven-minute rule, saying: "I might need a half hour."

He lauded Curran and Danner for treating him so well.

"You made me feel a part," Gerdes said, quivering. "You did that for me. I'll never forget it."

Curran replied: "I might need to get a Kleenex."

Many minutes later, Gerdes, a lawyer, told Danner how he has an "economy of words like nobody I've ever met." Danner, unlike other council members, was succinct in his arguments.

He offered this advice to Amy Foster and Darden Rice, the two new members: "It's not a full-time job, it's your life."

The embrace

Does a final parting heal all wounds? Probably not.

Often at odds, Karl Nurse and Curran, left, hugged and even smiled at each other. Note the day. Nurse, whose term as chairman ended Thursday, presented an award to Curran, who left because of term limits. They had been each other's nemesis for several years.

Staff writer Kameel Stanley contributed to this report.

 
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