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St. Petersburg city attorney to retire

ST. PETERSBURG — After four decades of legal advocacy for his adopted hometown, City Attorney John Wolfe will step down this summer, Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Friday.

The mayor has tapped Chief Assistant City Attorney Jacqueline Kovilaritch to replace him on Aug. 1, pending the approval of City Council.

Reached by phone Friday afternoon, Wolfe said he felt the time was right to retire as he approached his 72nd birthday and felt the office was in good hands with Kovilaritch.

Asked what he viewed as his biggest accomplishment, Wolfe quipped: "Lasting 40 years."

He said taking part in the transformation of the city, including the addition of the Tampa Bay Rays and laying the foundation for the downtown renaissance, would be career milestones.

Wolfe is widely credited with crafting the use agreement with the Rays that strongly protected the city's interests. The agreement is considered iron-clad, with new Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred recently saying as much.

Kovilaritch, 48, took the lead in the most recent negotiations with the team. She was promoted to chief assistant in December. She joined the city's legal staff in 2000 and has specialized in First Amendment law, ethics law, pension and public finance, according to the news release.

"Jackie is uniquely qualified to serve as city attorney," Kriseman said. "I am confident that her education, experience and temperament have prepared her well for this leadership position."

City Council will have to confirm her appointment.

Wolfe joined the city attorney's office in 1975. He became the city attorney in 2000. He came to Florida from Pittsburgh after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University and working for several years as a nuclear engineer.

He will take a 10 percent pay cut and stay on to help Kovilaritch in her transition, formally retiring in January 2016.

Currently, Wolfe makes $162,878 and Kovilaritch makes $151,700. It's unknown what Kovilaritch's new salary will be, said Ben Kirby, Kriseman's spokesman.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago

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