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Kriseman comes from the heart; in search of St. Pete organization chart; fleeting civility

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For a politician with an affinity for prepared statements, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman stepped out of the box last week.

After a stream of top cops lauded outgoing police Chief Chuck Harmon during a retirement ceremony, Kriseman pulled out a statement prepared by a staffer. But then he put it away.

Hizzoner joked he was scrapping the statement and instead would "talk from the heart" about Harmon's 12-year tenure. That's a familiar refrain for Kriseman. His aides even inserted this line in one of his previous public speeches: "Introduce and talk from the heart about family."

Friends and enemies

A casual observer of the Pinellas County Commission would pick up on the fact that Republican Commissioner Norm Roche, right, and most of his colleagues hold vastly different views on many issues. So it shouldn't come as a complete surprise that some of his fellow commissioners aren't eager to see him return for a second term in 2014.

The latest campaign finance records show that Democratic commissioners Janet Long and Ken Welch are supporting one of Roche's challengers, Largo Mayor Pat Gerard, left. A Democrat, Gerard announced in October that she would seek Roche's District 2 at-large seat.

As of the end of December, Gerard's campaign had raised nearly $28,000. That includes a $150 check from Long and $100 from Welch.

Where's that org chart?

St. Petersburg City Hall saw a hiring boom in recent weeks. When Mayor Rick Kriseman took office a week ago, he brought eight new faces with him. He also signaled he may change some departments around.

But how will all the moving parts work?

Not clear. So far, the organizational chart remains unfinished.

Interim City Administrator Gary Cornwell said he is working on it and it may be available in about a week.

People appear to be getting antsy though. It came up twice at Thursday's council meeting.

Outspoken activist Theresa "Momma Tee" Lassiter demanded to have the resumes for the new people. She also asked city leaders how they were paying for them. The salaries for the positions, which include a chief of staff and deputy mayor, total $885,500.

"I'm hearing he's going to find money for these positions, but I want to know where it's coming from," Lassiter said.

Short-lived civility

New City Council Chairman Bill Dudley made a few requests when he opened the first meeting of the year on Thursday.

Dudley, right, encouraged his colleagues to stay focused on serving residents with "pride and perseverance." Then he challenged them to remain civil to each other. Too often, he said, people swipe at each other.

By the middle of the meeting, it appears some had forgotten the message.

During a brief discussion about red-light cameras, Dudley attempted to move forward with a vote on a resolution.

Council member Wengay Newton took exception. He has tried numerous times to kill the program and had more to say.

"Everyone's pushing lights and you're trying to vote without people talking," he sniped at Dudley.

The audience tittered.

Mark Puente can be reached at or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter @markpuente. Anna M. Phillips can be reached at or (727) 893-8779.

Kriseman comes from the heart; in search of St. Pete organization chart; fleeting civility 01/10/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 10, 2014 5:49pm]
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