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Thirteen contend for five St. Petersburg City Council seats

The "for mayor" signs staked in grassy expanses across St. Petersburg are among the many clues that an important election looms ahead.

But there's more at stake than the keys to the best office in City Hall.

The election could change the face of the City Council. There are five seats up for grabs, and 13 contenders already in the race. Half of the council's eight members are up for re-election.

The District 5 seat is wide open, attracting the interest of several political newcomers, because incumbent Jamie Bennett must resign because of his run for mayor.

Council members make $41,120. They approve major expenditures, city laws and the annual budget. The last day to qualify for the Sept. 1 primary is June 29.

Here is a rundown of the candidates.

District 2

Stephen Corsetti

Age: 65.

Occupation: Retired businessman, former police chief.

Education: Some college courses.

What you need to know: Corsetti said incumbent Jim Kennedy's low-key representation isn't working and he can do a better job. "The job requires more than one day a week," he said. Corsetti retired to St. Petersburg in 2001 after decades of active duty in police departments in New Hampshire, including a six-year stint as the part-time police chief of the town of Danbury, an elected position. He served as vice president of the Riviera Bay Civic Association and is active in the Council of Neighborhood Associations. He said he will support line-item budgeting, city funding for Pinellas Hope and push for a city charter change that would give the City Council final say on the hiring and terminating of the police chief to make such decisions less political.

Jim Kennedy

Age: 52.

Occupation: Lawyer, City Council member.

Education: Bachelor of science from Rider College, juris doctorate from Stetson University College of Law.

What you need to know: Kennedy was appointed to the City Council in 2007. This is his first run for elected office. During his stint on the council, he has mostly taken a behind-the-scenes role, allowing the city's more boisterous elected officials to stand in the forefront. In his next term, he wants to help organize a yearlong anniversary in 2014 to recognize St. Petersburg as the birthplace of commercial aviation. He said his analytical skills make him an important member of the City Council. "I view council more as a team effort, rather than eight distinct individuals."

District 4

Leslie Curran

Age: 53.

Occupation: Art gallery owner, City Council member.

Education: Some college courses.

What you need to know: A St. Petersburg native, Curran represented District 8 from 1989 to 1997 and was re-elected to represent District 4 in 2005. On the council, she is an advocate for a waterfront master plan, more effective law enforcement and a reshuffling that resulted in the ouster of the city's popular arts manager in a cost-saving measure that moved art under the city's larger economic development umbrella. She has been a vocal champion for the revitalization of Williams Park and founded the Saturday Art Market in the downtown square.

Jason Diviki

Age: 37.

Occupation: Printer.

Education: Some college courses.

What you need to know: A St. Petersburg native, Diviki is the president of the Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association. He is the founding chairman of the Council of Neighborhood Associations' committee on energy and environment. As a council member, he said he will rally to pass citywide ordinances against incandescent light bulbs and non-biodegradable plastic bags.

Pamela Settlegoode

Age: 60.

Occupation: Writer.

Education: Bachelor of science in physical education from the University of Tampa, master's of education from Portland State University, doctor of philosophy in education from the University of Oregon.

What you need to know: A longtime educator, Settlegoode said she is taking a year off from work following a divorce to write a book on ethics and education. She said the City Council should have acted quickly to revive BayWalk after its owner put the troubled entertainment complex on the market in 2007. As a council member, she said she will rally for more low-income housing, public transportation, including a downtown trolley system, and preservation of the Pier as a recreation facility for fishing, kayakers and runners. In 2004, Settlegoode was awarded $1 million after a court found Portland public schools had violated her civil rights and fired her for complaining about discrimination against her special-education students.

District 5

Steve Kornell

Age: 43.

Occupation: Social worker for Pinellas County schools.

Education: Bachelor of arts in human development from Eckerd College, master's of social work from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

What you need to know: Kornell has quickly established the most organized campaign of any of the City Council candidates, including the incumbents. He was a longtime recreation supervisor in Shore Acres and Childs Park, where he sought grant dollars to build a computer lab in Shore Acres and create a music education program. He plans to support crime prevention measures, including relaunching an annual summer job program and promoting reading. As a council member, he said he will protect the waterfront and advocate for more shelter beds for the homeless.

Joe Smith

Age: 47.

Occupation: Project coordinator of police academics at St. Petersburg College.

Education: bachelor of arts in criminal justice from Saint Leo University, master's of science in criminal justice from Saint Leo.

What you need to know: As a longtime St. Petersburg police officer, Smith was praised by his superiors as the ideal rank-and-file employee who rarely took a sick day before he retired in 2008. He has been active in local sports leagues, rallying for improvements at the St. Petersburg Tennis Center and serving as director of the National Youth Sports Program at Eckerd College, a football coach at St. Petersburg High School and a Boy Scout leader. Smith said he will advocate for expanded public transportation, including more bus routes, and drug and mental treatment for the homeless.

Angela Rouson

Age: 42.

Occupation: Homemaker.

Education: Bachelor of science degree from Hampton, master's of business administration from Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University.

What you need to know: Rouson was chairwoman of the Pinellas County Housing Authority, where she often served as mediator between the feuding staff and board members until she resigned this year amid turmoil and allegations involving the board's staff. She is the wife of state Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. She serves on the fundraising board of the Museum of Fine Arts. She previously worked at Bayfront Medical Center as a marketing coordinator. As a City Council member, she said will rally to expand recreation and parks programs, including family-orientated activities. She supports working with other local law enforcement agencies to curb crime and establishing a summer job program for teenagers.

District 6

Karl Nurse

Age: 54.

Occupation: President of Bay Tech Label, City Council member.

Education: Bachelor of arts in political science from the University of South Florida.

What you need to know: Some black leaders protested Nurse's appointment to the City Council in 2008 because he was the first white man to represent the district in roughly 30 years. He quickly won over critics, including Mayor Rick Baker, with a cooperative approach and a wave of new policy ideas, prompting a quip from council Chairman Jeff Danner about the "Karl Nurse portion of our meeting" during a recent council meeting. He is a longtime neighborhood and environmental leader.

Derrick Frohne

Age: 23.

Occupation: University of South Florida St. Petersburg student and ambassador.

Education: Chemical engineering student at USF St. Petersburg.

What you need to know: To save money, Frohne said, the city could trim its police force, though he doesn't know exactly how many officers St. Petersburg can spare, and redistribute the remaining officers throughout the city's crime havens. A student government leader, he said he has the experience and spare time to keep a close eye on the city's investments and spending. Frohne has a troubled past. At 17, he was charged with lewd and lascivious behavior after a girl reported that he sexually assaulted her while she was drunk. Adjudication was withheld. The next year, he was arrested after his uncle said he broke into his house. The uncle eventually decided against prosecution, and the burglary charges were dropped. At the time, Frohne told police he was homeless.

Vel Thompson

Age: 51.

Occupation: Former city employee.

Education: Some college courses.

What you need to know: After a decade of service as a city employee, Thompson now wants to help run City Hall. "Our city government affects the quality of life of every resident, positively or negatively. I want to be the positive force in our community." Thompson has had some legal and employment troubles. In 2006, while working as a manager for City Hall, she forged a supervisor's signature on an insurance form to claim unearned benefits, according to city records. She was demoted, suspended for five days without pay and given a pay cut. She was fired for misconduct in 2008, records state, after she repeatedly disrespected her supervisors and spoke publicly as a city employee without her supervisor's permission. Thompson claimed her supervisor did not like her and that she was the victim of a "witch hunt."

• Candidate Phillip Garrett did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.

District 8

Jeff Danner

Age: 48.

Occupation: City Council chairman.

Education: Some college courses.

What you need to know: The former president of the Historic Kenwood Neighborhood Association, Danner has yet to draw an opponent in his bid for re-election. That's not surprising. He seems to have kept constituents happy, advocating for new parks, tougher crime enforcement and mass transit. He persisted after other council members shot down a proposal to build a costly dog park in Kenwood, working with city officials to bring down the original cost and sway enough votes in his favor. He was a longtime independent contractor and was active in various land development and business boards before he was elected in 2005.

Times staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.

Thirteen contend for five St. Petersburg City Council seats 06/24/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 6:14pm]

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