Sunday, May 27, 2018
Politics

St. Petersburg's marketing director leaves for the Edwards Group

ST. PETERSBURG — When Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman was on the campaign trail, he vowed to scrutinize the city's marketing and communications department, which he said didn't do enough to promote local businesses and hot spots.

With Kriseman ready to assume the mayor's seat Jan. 2, the head of that department said Sunday she's leaving — becoming the first city executive to announce a departure since Tuesday's election.

"I have accepted a position with the Edwards Group and will start tomorrow," Beth Herendeen wrote in an email Sunday. "I didn't announce it until after the election because some of you might have wanted to make a story out of it … and there is no story here."

The Edwards Group, owned by prominent businessman Bill Edwards, controls several Tampa Bay real-estate and business holdings including the Shops at St. Pete, formerly called BayWalk. The company also manages the Mahaffey Theater.

Herendeen earned more than $100,000 to lead the marketing department, which had 19 employees and an annual budget of $2.1 million. She said in her email she "was simply given an offer she couldn't refuse."

Herendeen's new position will reunite her with former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who became president of the Edwards Group in 2011.

The marketing office she led came under fire in August when Kriseman and City Council Chairman Karl Nurse accused the department of failing to adequately promote the city outside the region.

Herendeen, at that time, said the department didn't have the budget to do traditional marketing, so it focused on communicating with residents.

On Sunday, Kriseman struck only positive notes about Herendeen and her service to the city, saying he is sorry she's leaving and wishes her the best.

"Our transition team will work to identify great people to ensure a smooth transfer of power between my incoming administration and the talented individuals already hard at work for St. Petersburg," he said in a statement.

Herendeen's email did not elaborate on her departure. She did not return calls to her cell phone for comment.

According to St. Petersburg's website, Herendeen joined the city in 1993 as an event coordinator at Tropicana Field. She left the city for several years and returned in 2001. She was named the marketing and communications director in 2007, and oversees marketing of the city, communication with the media and the public, the city's website and public access television station and other duties.

Times staff writer Mark Puente contributed to this report. Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at [email protected] or 727-445-4155.

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