1. Florida Politics

Rick Kriseman says management style is his strength, rival Rick Baker's weakness

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman spoke to the Tampa Bay Times editorial board on Wednesday and made the case for why he should be re-elected to office. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman spoke to the Tampa Bay Times editorial board on Wednesday and made the case for why he should be re-elected to office. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Jul. 13, 2017

Editor's Note: St. Petersburg Mayoral candidate Rick Baker is scheduled to speak to the Tampa Bay Times editorial board on Thursday.

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman made his case for a second term on Wednesday, saying the city's historic upswing under his tenure has captured the attention of the region, the state and even the nation.

SUNSHINE CITY SHOWDOWN: Keep up with the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the St. Petersburg mayoral race

The mayor attributed much of that success to his leadership style, which he said has helped the city break the logjam on previously intractable issues: building a new police headquarters, a new pier and settling the future of the Tampa Bay Rays

Voters should give him a second term, he told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, so he can guide those efforts to fruition.

"That should speak volumes," he said when asked why he was the right leader to lead redevelopment efforts on Tropicana Field's 85 acres — a project that could transform the city.

It also wouldn't be possible, the mayor noted, had he not negotiated the 2016 deal that gave the Rays three years to look for a new home — and to look in Tampa — freeing the prime urban parcel for redevelopment.

Kriseman said his management style has been to hire bright people while taking the "30,000-foot" big-picture view, preferring to delegate to his chosen team.

He said his foe in the Aug. 29 primary, former mayor Rick Baker, is the exact opposite.

"Big difference, Kriseman said. "Big difference in leadership style.

"I'm not a micromanager. I don't try and manage by intimidation or fear."

Kriseman said that's the impression he got of Baker's management style from city employees who served when Baker was mayor from 2001-10.

Baker's campaign said Kriseman's record speaks for itself.

"Nobody under Rick Baker's leadership had to file for whistle blower protection. Baker had an open and inclusive style of leadership," campaign spokeswoman Brigitta Shouppe said.

During the city's sewage crisis, wastewater plant operator Craven Askew asked for whistleblower protection when he alerted the public to previously undisclosed aspects of the release of tens of millions of gallons of waste in 2016.

Kriseman has hit other rough spots with his employees. Sanitation workers have complained repeatedly about cameras recording them while they drive garbage trucks. The Water Resource Department, which handles the city's water and sewer systems, has been riven with racial tension and factionalism. The city also tried to implement a policy last year that would have allowed workers who spoke to the media without permission to be fired.

It went into effect shortly before Askew went public. Kriseman later changed it back.

Kriseman still doesn't have the endorsement of the union representing city employees, which strongly criticized the mayor on that policy. He says he's working toward securing it.

The mayor has been endorsed by the police union, but not the firefighters' union.

So far, Kriseman trails Baker in local polling and fundraising. Seven candidates will appear on the ballot, including Theresa "Momma Tee" Lassiter, a longtime community activist, Paul "The Truth" Congemi and Anthony Cates III, perennial fringe candidates and Uhuru-associated Jesse Nevel. Votes for first-time candidate Ernisa Barnwell won't be counted after she was disqualified for not paying her qualifying fee. She is challenging that decision.

For most of the hour-long interview, Kriseman focused on the positive, touting the city's impressive economic renaissance, including areas outside of the booming downtown.

Kriseman said development west along Central Avenue and south along 34th Street in the Skyway Marina District was the result of his administration's vision and a close partnership with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

"It feels like for the first time the city and the chamber are moving in the exact same direction in lockstep," Kriseman said.

He also addressed the sewage crisis. Kriseman said he was taking the necessary steps to fix the city's sewers. He said he regretted the mishaps that took place explaining the scale of the problems to residents, especially when 58 million gallons of waste was released in West St. Petersburg neighborhoods. The city posted warning signs but didn't otherwise alert residents.

"That was a big mistake," he said. "No question about it."

Kriseman again apologized for his handling of the situation — but also blamed ex-Public Works Administrator Mike Connors.

Kriseman said Connors, who abruptly retired in August 2015, gave him bad advice and misled him about the state of the city's sewers at the start of the crisis.

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


  1. Visitors head to Florida's Old Capitol building on Tuesday, the first day of the annual session. The same day, the advocacy group Equality Florida denounced four bills filed by Republican lawmakers, calling them “the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida legislature in recent memory.” [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Most of the bills try to eliminate local ordinances, and Republicans say they’ve been unfairly labeled.
  2. Attorney Joseph Bondy tweeted this photo of his client, Lev Parnas (right) with former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi on Friday, Jan. 17. Bondi on Friday was named on of President Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers. [Twitter]
    Parnas’ lawyer tweeted out the photo of the former Florida attorney general along with #TheyAllKnew.
  3. In this Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, speaks to reporters outside the West Wing in Washington. President Donald Trump's legal team will include Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general, former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who led the Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton, according to a person familiar with the matter. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) [J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP]
    The former Florida attorney general reportedly will join former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton.
  4. Florida Senator Rob Bradley, R- Fleming Island, watches the action on the first day of the session, 1/14/2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    A popular bill would allow judges to dole out punishments less than the mandatory minimum sentences spelled out in state law for many drug crimes if the defendant meets certain criteria.
  5. Vice President Mike Pence take selfies with supporters after giving a campaign speech during the "Keep America Great" rally at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, January 16, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    ‘Come November the American people are going to have our say,’ Pence said.
  6. Rep. Stan McClain, an Ocala Republican, presents a bill that would allow Florida public colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools, during a January 2020 meeting of the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    Alternative authorizers have been found unconstitutional in the past. But that isn’t stopping the effort.
  7. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, members of the Florida Cabinet, left, and the Florida Supreme Court, right, stand at attention as the colors are posted in the Florida Senate during the first day of the Florida legislative session in Tallahassee, Tuesday, January 14, 2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    The court ruled that Amendment 4‘s “all terms of sentence” include the payment of all court fees, fines and restitution.
  8. Thousands rallied and marched from the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center to the Florida Historic Capitol to demand more money for public schools Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Thousands of school workers from around the state thronged Florida's Capitol on Monday to press Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature to more than double the nearly $1 billion the governor is proposing for teacher raises and bonuses.  (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP) [TORI LYNN SCHNEIDER  |  AP]
    The PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee cutting exercise would come in nearly 25 percent below Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal.
  9. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,, center, speaks as fellow candidates businessman Tom Steyer, from left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. listen, Tuesday during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
    The candidates’ proposals reveal differences in how they plan to approach the issue.
  10. Vice President Mike Pence points to supporters before speaking during a campaign rally at the Huntington Center, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Toledo, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) [TONY DEJAK  |  AP]
    Vice President Mike Pence will take the stage in New Tampa, at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, at 1:30 p.m. It wasn’t planned that way.