Mark Puente, Times Staff Writer

Mark Puente

A native of the Midwest, Tampa Bay Times reporter Mark Puente covers St. Petersburg City Hall. He joined the Times in November 2010 and covered real estate issues as part of the Times' Business team until June 2012.

Puente spent more than five years with the Plain Dealer in Cleveland where he won multiple journalism awards for his investigative work. The newspaper nominated him twice for the Pulitzer Prize. His reporting forced a 32-year sheriff in Ohio's largest county to resign from office in 2009 and plead guilty to theft-in-office charges. His investigative work has been recognized by the Associated Press Society of Ohio, the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of News Editors. The University of Colorado presented him with the Al Nakkula Award in 2010, journalism's only award devoted to police and crime reporting.

He took a different path to journalism by logging more than one million miles in the cab of a tractor-trailer over 14 years. After leaving the trucking industry, Puente earned a political science degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has a wife and three sons. Go Tar Heels!

Phone: (727) 893-8459

Email: mpuente@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MarkPuente

  1. Senior administrator Rick Mussett to retire from St. Petersburg City Hall March 31

    Local

    ST. PETERSBURG — After guiding some of the city's biggest projects for more than three decades, longtime senior administrator Rick Mussett is leaving City Hall.

    Mussett — the city's main contact with the Tampa Bay Rays — will retire March 31. He helped bring baseball to Tropicana Field and laid the foundation that transformed downtown from heaven's waiting room to a trendy, urban destination....

  2. St. Petersburg police official says concerns of black officers are broader than promotions (w/video)

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman should not hire an independent auditor to investigate the Police Department's promotion process, says Luke Williams, assistant police chief.

    Williams spoke to reporters Friday to clarify concerns about unfair treatment raised by black officers, activists and clergy members Tuesday evening in a closed-door meeting with Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin at Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church. ...

     Assistant Police Chief Luke Williams says St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman should not hire an independent auditor to investigate the Police Department's promotion process.
  3. Black St. Petersburg officers share their experiences amid allegations of racism

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — Before Lenard Cox hunts drunken drivers on city streets, the African-American patrolman meets with a diverse squad of Jewish, Albanian and white officers.

    Cox, 31, said he doesn't see a department rife with racial tension or an agency that bases promotions on skin color.

    He was one of five black police officers who agreed to speak to the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to either refute or support accusations that a disparity exists between the promotions and treatment of black and white officers within the department....

  4. Tensions high between black, white officers in St. Petersburg Police Department

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The decades-old strain between the black community and the Police Department has permeated the agency's rank-and-file.

    Roughly 125 black police officers, city activists and clergy members met behind closed doors late Tuesday with Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin to discuss widespread racial turmoil. Tensions ran high during the 90-minute meeting held at Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church on 20th Street S. ...

    Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin met with roughly 125 black police officers, city activists and clergy members behind closed doors late Tuesday to discuss widespread racial turmoil in the St. Petersburg Police Department. Tensions ran high during the 90-minute meeting held at Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church on 20th Street S.
  5. David Jolly has lead in close Pinellas congressional race

    Elections

    As polls closed Tuesday, Republican David Jolly had overtaken Alex Sink's initial lead, setting up a cliff-hanger.

    By 7:20 p.m. Jolly was leading with 48 percent of the vote to Sink's 47 percent. But the race is expected to be close, with scores of voters casting ballots in person Tuesday.

    The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections estimated voter turnout at 39 percent through 6 p.m. That includes the unofficial early voting turnout of 27.6 percent and 11.4 percent turnout at the polls....

    Poll worker Dan Moran holds a door open for a voter Tuesday morning at the Precinct 133 polling place, Bede Episcopal Church in St. Petersburg. Pinellas County residents were voting in a congressional election between candidates Alex Sink and David Jolly.
  6. St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman headed to Washington, D.C.

    Blog

    While campaigning to be St. Petersburg mayor, Rick Kriseman stressed the importance of building relationships with federal officials.

    He's heading to Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

    Kriseman and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin will attend the "Mayors in Education Convening" hosted by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation....

  7. St. Petersburg to open City Hall satellite offices

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration will now serve taxpayers from satellite offices to provide Midtown residents better access to City Hall.

    Starting this week, residents will be able to get information on city services at the Enoch Davis Center and Childs Park YMCA. Various city staffers will rotate between the centers, said Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin.

    "By design, it's going to be responsive and reflective of what people are asking about," said the deputy mayor, noting that hours will fluctuate to better serve the community....

  8. St. Pete police investigate speeding ticket issued to former football star

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — Police are conducting an investigation into a speeding ticket issued to Vader Green, a former star football player at St. Petersburg High School.

    An officer cited Green for speeding on Feb. 10 for driving 50 mph in a 35 mph zone on 34th Street S, police records show.

    Last week, Green, 46, said a detective brought a replacement ticket to his house and told him "something was wrong with their computer system." The investigator also asked whether Green called Assistant Chief Luke Williams to complain about the ticket, Green said. ...

  9. Pinellas County not likely to give St. Petersburg money for recycling service

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — Since Pinellas County oversees solid waste services, City Council members recently wondered whether the county would help pay for the city's new universal curbside recycling service.

    That isn't likely to happen.

    "The economic climate has changed significantly," Pinellas Commissioner Ken Welch said Tuesday. "The millions of dollars are not in the budget."

    "I'm not opposed to it, but I'd have to see more details," said Commissioner Charlie Justice. "We are in a tight budget year." ...

  10. St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn to schmooze at Oxford Exchange

    Blog

    St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is headed to Tampa to socialize with Mayor Bob Buckhorn at the Oxford Exchange.

    The men will attend a private event Monday evening to help Al From promote his book, "The New Democrats and the Return to Power." From is the founder and former leader of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council based in Washington, D.C....

  11. St. Petersburg delays releasing proposals for recycling program

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman is delaying the bidding process for the city's new universal curbside recycling service after a council member raised concerns that it wouldn't be competitive enough.

    The request for bids was scheduled to go out to private trash haulers today.

    But the Tampa Bay Times reported Friday that council member Darden Rice feared that some trash haulers wouldn't seek the work if the city combined processing and collection into one contract....

  12. Questions arise in St. Petersburg over the cheapest way to do curbside recycling

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — As the city prepares to bring universal curbside recycling to its 76,000 homes, questions are being raised about how the city will select a vendor for the service.

    With the city requesting proposals from private haulers on Tuesday, council member Darden Rice fears homeowners won't get the best rates if the bid combines processing and collection into one contract.

    She pointed to Hillsborough County getting multiple bidders and competitive prices when it awarded contracts for its recycling and residential trash services in 2013. The county bid out processing and collection separately....

    Darden Rice predicts some major haulers won’t bid on the program.
  13. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman picks firm for police chief search

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Police Department could have a new leader within 90 days.

    After vowing to make it a priority for his administration, Mayor Rick Kriseman picked the Mercer Group to lead a nationwide search for the next police chief.

    The Atlanta-based firm will be paid $14,750 — the lowest of eight bids received by the city. The Mercer Group is expected to recruit, screen and check the backgrounds of candidates. It also would arrange interviews between officials and candidates....

  14. St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman plans beauty tour with former mayor

    Blog

    In his continued quest to learn more about the Sunshine City, Mayor Kriseman plans to roll with a former leader.

    The new mayor is scheduled to take a 90-minute car ride Wednesday with former St. Petersburg Mayor David Fischer, who served from 1991 to 2000.

    The topic: Beauty.

    "Mayor Fischer was a staunch proponent of beautification," said Ben Kirby, Kriseman's spokesman. "He is going to show Mayor Kriseman opportunities for enhanced beautification."...

  15. The Buzz: Political doings and a return of pro volleyball

    Local Government

    He's watching?

    St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman proclaimed he wouldn't sit at the dais for every City Council meeting, and he wasn't there for the start of Thursday's meeting.

    During the public comment period, Dr. David McKalip railed about the cost of the proposed curbside recycling program and noted that Kriseman wasn't there to protect the "struggling, vulnerable and voiceless."...

    April Ross, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, plays in last year’s AVP Tour, which will return in May.