ST. PETERSBURG — Only a few days before the end of a contentious election cycle, Mayor Rick Kriseman and his wife, Kerry, strolled hand-in-hand into the downtown Pinellas County Election Services building to cast their ballots.
"We just wanted to make sure and remind everybody that early voting is going on," Rick Kriseman said. "It's a great opportunity especially for those who are worried about election day, making sure you aren't late to work or don't miss voting because you ended up having to stay later at work."
As he talked to reporters about his feelings going into Tuesday's election, another early voter noticed the mayor and rushed to him and his wife before they left. Danyelle Paul, one of the owners of a Taste for Wine, told the Krisemans they should come out to her business sometime.
"I just wanted to say thank you so much for what you do," she said. "We were the ones honking the horn last week."
Paul and her business partner posed for a photo with the Krisemans and then went to cast their ballots.
"I just gush about the city and how amazing it is with our progress and community spirit," she said to the Tampa Bay Times. "Our current mayor just brings it all together and he's just the mayor for the people."
Kriseman said he encourages everyone to vote in this election, which contains more than just the mayor's race, including Penny for Pinellas, a 1-cent sales tax that goes toward capital projects in the county. It is up for another 10-year renewal on Tuesday, and St. Petersburg is counting on those funds to help pay for the sewer system improvements mandated by the state.
"I absolutely voted yes," the mayor said. "Penny has had a big impact on our city and this county. We've already said if Penny passes we want to dedicate almost 80 percent of it to infrastructure and $15 million to affordable housing, and that's really important."
Kriseman declined to comment on how he voted in any of the three City Council races on the ballot.
"I think the city's really fortunate they've got great candidates that are on the ballot," he said. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity to work with whoever comes out on top."
Kerry Kriseman said the election experience, despite months of mudslinging, has been positive one.
"It's been a wonderful experience," she said. "The best part has been to be able to get out and talk to people you may not have got to meet otherwise, people who are not necessarily in your neighborhood. We look forward to Tuesday and continuing to move the city forward."
Early voting continues until Sunday. Election Day is Tuesday.