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Former Times editor to lead St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership


Downtown group gets new leader

Former Tampa Bay Times editor Joni James is the new chief executive officer of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership. James will replace Peter Betzer, who has served as CEO and president the past seven years. He will continue as the partnership's president.

James, 48, most recently was an assistant metro editor at the Times, overseeing coverage of St. Petersburg government among other things. For seven years prior she was the Times' deputy editor of editorials. James, a graduate of Wake Forest University, also covered the Legislature in Tallahassee and worked for the Miami Herald and the Wall Street Journal.

The nonprofit St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership is more than 50 years old and supported by individuals, businesses and organizations who are members. It has worked to bring more marine science to the area as well as the Blue Ocean Film Festival and establish and expand the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.


Interim provost for SPC

St. Petersburg College has chosen someone to temporarily fill the shoes of Seminole Campus Provost Jim Olliver when he retires in May.

Mark Strickland, associate provost for the Downtown Campus, will serve as interim. His starting salary will be about $105,600 a year.

With nearly 45 years in higher education, Olliver has worked at St. Petersburg College since 1989. During his first seven years at SPC, Olliver served as vice president for institutional and program planning. He helped secure an $11 million Project Eagle grant and has been the driving force behind SPC's eCampus, Florida's largest online campus.

He was named the provost of the Seminole Campus in 1996. The first classes were offered at Seminole Mall and groundbreaking for the new campus was in 1997. Enrollment had climbed to 23,000 student semester hours in fall 2014.

Among Olliver's accomplishments: creation of the Career and Entrepreneurship Center and the 40-acre Natural Habitat Park, the collaboration with the city of Seminole for the joint-use Seminole Community Library and the negotiating of free bus service for SPC students, faculty and staff from the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

A permanent replacement has not been named.


Sewer work set to begin

Work on a massive sewer upgrade is expected to begin this month in the following neighborhoods:

•Fulton Drive and the East Bay Drive intersection;

•Fulton Drive between Keene Park Drive and 16th Avenue S;

•Largo Lift Station No. 20 on Wilcox Road near Mia Circle;

•Largo Lift Station No. 16 on Seacrest Drive;

•Largo Lift Station No. 12 at Eighth Avenue SW and Pine Street.

Construction along Fulton Drive is scheduled through July. The lift station construction is scheduled through November. Work at the East Bay Drive/Fulton Drive intersection is expected to take about two weeks.

Largo officials are asking drivers to be careful at all times and be aware of temporary road or lane closures and traffic delays that will occur in various locations across the city.


Drainage bid awarded

Council members recently awarded a $6 million bid to MTM Contractors of Pinellas Park. The bid is for work on the fourth phase of drainage improvements to Park Boulevard.

Park Boulevard has had a long history of flooding, but a little more than a decade ago, council members decided to fix the problems.

The latest construction will take place in the area near the Garnett and N Disston subdivisions of the city, north of 82nd Avenue N and between 43rd and 49th streets.

The project is partly funded by a SWIFTMUD grant of up to $560,807 and a Florida Department of Transportation grant of about $2.8 million. Additional funds are expected to come from other grants.

Staff writers Katherine Snow Smith and Anne Lindberg contributed to this report.