The dust has barely settled from the 2017 St. Petersburg mayoral race, but Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch says he's eyeing the job in 2021.
On Friday, Welch said he was put on the spot during a talk he gave at Café con Tampa, a weekly current event discussion group. He and Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman were discussing regional cooperation at the morning session.
Welch said he's been sharing his future ambitions within political circles since 2016. But his "announcement" on Friday created quite the buzz on social media.
"It's never been a secret," Welch said, chuckling. "I'm strongly considering it. More strongly than ever before. My focus is on the county right now. I have a job."
The longtime county commissioner said he hasn't ordered campaign signs yet or crafted his stump speech, however. He jokingly blamed Bill Carlson, of the public relations firm Tucker/Hall, who helps organize Café con Tampa sessions.
"It wasn't an announcement," he said, laughing harder. "I can blame Bill Carlson … I was asked a question and was being transparent when I answered it."
Welch, 53, was first elected to the County Commission in 2000. From 1987 to 2001, he was a senior accountant for the Florida Power Corp. The son of a former St. Petersburg City Council member, Welch flirted with the idea of running for mayor in 2010 but decided against it because of unfinished business on the County Commission.
City Council member Charlie Gerdes said he was "shocked" that Welch announced so early.
"I guess he wants to clear the lanes," Gerdes said, laughing. "I'm a big Ken Welch supporter. He's worked well with the city. He loves the city. He's a natural fit. The timing though … I've never seen it done so early before."