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City Council District 5 race pits incumbent Steve Kornell against Philip Garrett

Philip Garrett, City Council candidate for District 5
Philip Garrett, City Council candidate for District 5
Published Oct. 14, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — Philip Garrett, the novice candidate who ran unsuccessfully last year against Darryl Rouson for a state House seat, has now set his sights on the St. Petersburg City Council.

Garrett is trying to unseat another incumbent, Steve Kornell in District 5, which spans many of the city's southernmost neighborhoods, including Pinellas Point, Lakewood Estates, Maximo Moorings and Pinellas Bayway.

Kornell won the seat with almost 60 percent of the vote in 2009.

As with his first run for office a year ago, Garrett is financing most of his campaign.

"A district needs a leader that is passionate and is not tied to interest groups," he said. "The real issues in our community are jobs and education and taxes and fees. The utility bills keep going up every year and they've gone up since 1997. As we revitalize our city, we must assure our citizens of less taxes and quality services."

Garrett, 50, said Kornell has failed to focus on those issues and put his efforts into one particular business district instead of working to rejuvenate struggling shopping centers in the area.

Kornell, 49, says he won't be dragged into a negative campaign.

"I think it's a positive that 300 people came together to form the Skyway Marina District. I think it's a positive that there's a business district where there was none before," he said of the 1.5-mile section of 34th Street S that is home to Ceridian and several shopping centers.

"It's a positive that Ceridian found a tenant in Jabil Circuit," Kornell said. "That's a good company with good jobs. I think those are all positives."

If he's elected, Garrett has pledged to give up his job as an appraiser for Hillsborough County to devote himself to his council responsibilities. The former political action chairman for the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP added he would use his council position to work with the Pinellas County School Board.

"I firmly believe that as a City Council member I can use that seat to help market and advertise the importance of early childhood education," said Garrett, who has a bachelor's degree in American studies from Eckerd College.

Kornell said he is proud of his efforts on behalf of educational opportunities for the city's youth. As an example, he said he helped to establish a partnership between the city and the Juvenile Welfare Board for a program with certified teachers that provides enrichment activities for children at recreation centers. He also applied for a new National League of Cities initiative that will bring environmental education to disadvantaged St. Petersburg children. St. Petersburg is one of 16 cities selected for the program, he said.

Kornell, who has a master's in social work from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and is a counselor with Pinellas County Schools, spoke of other accomplishments. Among them was working with neighborhood leaders and developers to get new ownership for a troubled Pinellas Point apartment complex that has since gotten a multimillion-dollar upgrade and new tenants. He also mentioned his role in the expansion of the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve and renovation of Lake Vista Recreation Center.

But Garrett slammed him for his stand on the Rays, which has meant refusing to sign off on an agreement Mayor Rick Kriseman worked out with the organization to let the team look for stadium sites outside St. Petersburg.

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"I believe in a free market," Garrett said. "I believe that the Rays are of regional interest. We don't want to see them leave, because that wouldn't be a good thing. To hold this organization hostage and not give them an opportunity to grow is wrong and to hold them hostage for money is wrong."

Kornell said the feedback he's getting is different. "I hear a lot of people saying that they're happy I'm protecting the taxpayers' interest," he said.

He's got plans for the next four years, Kornell said.

"I'm working on multiple projects at the same time and things are moving in a good direction," he said. "I'm probably more enthusiastic than when I first ran. I'm so excited about where this city is going."

Garrett said he can make a difference by being "an all-out advocate" for youth, parents, employees and businesses.

"I want to spend the next eight years helping our district grow and generate more funding that will help lighten the physical and financial load on families and businesses," he said.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

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