ST. PETERSBURG — Toted along by her political consultant dad, Marcile Powers was surrounded by campaigns before she finished elementary school. Her first paid job was collecting petitions for Adam Putnam. Former Florida Sen. Bill Galvano wrote her a letter of recommendation for college.
But growing up, Powers, 35, said she never wanted to be a politician. At the University of Central Florida, she studied film and worked toward directing. She moved to Los Angeles, came back, and about a year later worked at Manatee County Rural Health doing marketing and communications.
But at 35, she’s switching gears. But even as she launches a run for St. Petersburg mayor, she’s campaigning in a style that lines up with her core beliefs in openness and spirituality.
Powers, who said she fell in love with St. Petersburg when she moved from her native Bradenton in 2013, said she began thinking about running for office when she considered the current divided climate. Her campaign is built on tenets Powers uses in her parenthood, business and day-to-day life: empathy and nonviolent communication.
“I have recently learned what boundaries were and that a lot of boundaries have been crossed and I just wanted to reestablish some boundaries,” Powers said. “With the whole political system.”
Powers said that, as a small business owner, and one who struggled financially in the past year, she can relate to potential voters throughout the city.
She co-owns and runs Kenwood Organic Produce with her husband, Keevy McAlavy. The two opened the company in 2018 after Powers noticed the jump in her grocery bill as she fed her two boys, Orion, 6, and Mercury, 3.
She describes herself as a “Renaissance woman,” saying she’s been involved in politics, marketing, communications, film, agriculture, art and astronomy and more. She said her campaign builds on her ability to listen, adapt and change.
Some of her campaign ideas have been inspired by conversations she’s had around town, Powers said.
Powers said she’d like to see something written into the city plan where real estate agents have to give small businesses the right of first refusal to buy if the owner of their building chooses to sell, an idea a small business owner brought up with her. She’d like to see more people own land instead of rent, which she believes will help with equity and will lead to them taking better environmental care of their property.
When it comes to city council meetings, Powers said she doesn’t think it’s fair that elected officials can talk as long as they want while residents are limited to three minutes.
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Instead, she envisions a more open style of communication, like a nonviolent communication dance floor, a specific format where people can say whether they want empathy or engaged communication.
“In those forums where the people are engaging city council, it’s for them to listen empathetically, it’s not for the city council to restate their opinions,” she said.
High school friend Ashley Hooker, 34, said her friend’s familial insight into politics and her heart would make her a strong candidate. Even when she was young, Powers always cared about equity, Hooker said.
Hooker said her friend’s spirituality and kindness is the change needed to take the political system from something stodgy to something for all.
“I think that Marcie will bring a level of new and fresh insight,” Hooker said. “I think a lot of the older politicians are sort of emotionally stepped out, and they see vulnerability as a weakness, they see a lot of emotions as a weakness.”
Powers said she is also driven by the idea of racial equity, especially in light of the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. She said she thought mayoral candidate and former city council member Robert Blackmon’s ideas around housing were good idea, like helping people buy properties with affordable housing dollars instead of building rental units. Though, Powers said she doesn’t like the phrase “affordable housing,” and that it too often lets developers make the decisions.
As mayor, Powers said she’d have open dialogues and listen to the people.
“I’m really good at delegating,” Powers said. “Finding the right people to do the right thing instead of trying to take it on for myself, and recognizing talents in people. I also know I don’t have all the answers to every single question.”
Other candidates Powers will face in the mayoral race include former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch and former City Council member and state representative Wengay Newton, as well as current City Council members Robert Blackmon and Darden Rice and restaurateur Pete Boland.
The primary election is Aug. 24. If no candidate earns more than 50 percent of the votes, the top two candidates will face off in the Nov. 2 general election.
The new mayor will be sworn in Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, and will serve a four-year term.
The Tampa Bay Times and Spectrum Bay News 9 are hosting a mayoral debate Tuesday, June 22 at noon. Watch it live at tampabay.com/politics and at baynews9.com/watch. It will replay on Bay News 9 at 7 p.m. This is the second in a series of profiles on the candidates.
Robert Blackmon: St. Petersburg mayoral run about ideas, not personalities
Michael Ingram: Could this 20-year-old be St. Petersburg’s next mayor?
Wengay Newton: Newton is passionate, persistent, combative
Marcile Powers: With an open heart, Powers runs for St. Petersburg mayor