ST. PETERSBURG — Four candidates are campaigning to become St. Petersburg’s next City Council member for District 8.
They include former council member Jeff Danner, teacher and activist Richie Floyd, optometrist Dane Kuplicki and small business owner Jamie Mayo. They’re running to replace current council member Amy Foster, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits.
District 8 includes Historic Kenwood, North Kenwood, Disston Heights and parts of Central Oak Park. It’s generally falls between 49th Street and I-275, and stretches from Fifth Avenue North to 40th Avenue North.
The winning candidate will be able to address district issues, like historic preservation, Grand Central development and homelessness. They’ll also tackle citywide issues, like affordable housing, the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site, public transportation and equity.
The candidates will first square off in a primary election on Aug. 24, in which only voters registered in District 8 will be able to cast ballots. The top two vote-getters will move on to the Nov. 2 general election, where all St. Petersburg voters will be able to cast a ballot to pick the new council member.
Jeff Danner served as District 8′s council member from 2005 until term limits forced him out in 2013. He’s campaigning on that experience.
“I’m going to go in there day one with more knowledge than anyone else who’s running,” said Danner, who votes with no party affiliation.
Since his city council stint, the 60-year-old has worked as a city building inspector. He’s seen St. Petersburg grow throughout his career in construction. The city’s biggest issue, he said, is creating “development without losing the character in the process,” which he hopes to achieve with long term funding for affordable housing and more “user friendly” preservation ordinances.
Danner wants to address the trend of local businesses being priced out of rental spaces. He also hopes to create a long term local funding source for affordable housing.
He’s not yet ready to break ground to redevelop the Tropicana Field site, which he calls the largest urban development site in the country.
“We need a lot more community input than we have so far,” Danner said.
During his two previous terms on City Council, Danner helped start the Central Avenue Trolley, and he led an effort that removed 86 billboards from around St. Petersburg and replaced them with 10 digital billboards along the interstate.
He’s served on over a dozen local committees and task forces, including as president of the Historic Kenwood neighborhood and Grand Central district.
Danner has received endorsements from current City Council chair Ed Montanari and former council members Charlie Gerdes and Leslie Curran. He’s raised $8,350, according to a July 8 filing.
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Teacher Richie Floyd may be new to St. Petersburg politics, but the progressive 30-year-old thinks his reputation as an activist will make him stick out.
“I’ve been a part of campaigns that have fought for and won change that has made working people’s lives better,” said Floyd, a registered Democrat. He’s pushed for police reform, Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. Recently, he helped lead volunteer recruitment and coordination for Florida for $15, a group that advocated for the minimum wage increase Florida voters passed in November.
The Fort Walton Beach native, who moved to St. Petersburg in 2018, said he wants to address affordable housing with long-term solutions like public housing investments and community land trusts. He also said he’d expand the city’s CALL police diversion program and work for sustainability and resilience against climate change.
Regarding Trop redevelopment, Floyd said “it’s less about which plan is chosen, less about ‘Is there a hotel or a convention center here,’ and more about how are we going to make good on the promises of the site that were broken last time,” referring to the destruction of the predominantly Black historic Gas Plant area the city razed to make way for the stadium.
Floyd said his campaign is rooted in community voices, and he’s knocked on over 10,000 doors. He leads the pack in fundraising, having raised raised $59,255, according to a July 9 filing.
Floyd has received a handful of key endorsements. Current District 8 council member Amy Foster supports him, and labor unions and progressive organizations like the Central Florida AFL-CIO, Dream Defenders, and Run for Something have, too.
He’s also been endorsed by the Pinellas Democratic Socialists of America chapter. He is a member of the group and thinks that shouldn’t scare voters away. To him, it just means he supports “fighting for working people to have a say in their lives” and “better support and better services from the government.”
Optometrist Dane Kuplicki said that as the only candidate born and raised in South Pinellas, he has a unique connection with the city.
This race is about “serving the community that helped raise me to the man that I am today,” Kuplicki, a registered Democrat, said. That community, he said, is now at a crossroads.
“With all that development, with all the increase in population, we need to make sure that we preserve our culture and preserve what makes our city so special,” the Seminole High School and USF College of Business graduate said.
Kuplicki works for a locally-owned optometry practice. The COVID-19 pandemic hurt business, he said. He wants to pass more small business relief. Other policy goals include establishing a multi-modal transportation center and a wastewater plant, as well as establishing development plans for the Grand Central District and Midtown.
He also wants to pass inclusionary zoning and “up-zoning” rules that would create more multi-family and affordable housing units.
“You can’t just be a city that’s only affordable to people making over $150,000 a year,” Kuplicki said.
The 35-year-old describes himself as a “pragmatic” moderate. He won’t remain hung up on certain issues, and will work across the council to get things passed, he said.
The lifelong Rays fan said the city needs to listen to the community when it redevelops the Tropicana Field site. He thinks St. Petersburg can reach an inclusive deal to keep the team in town, and he would like to see a number of mixed uses at the site, including transportation, green spaces, education facilities, restaurants and a convention center.
Kuplicki hasn’t garnered any endorsements yet, but he’s raised over $27,091 according to a July 9 filing and says he’s knocked on over 3,000 doors.
When small business owner Jamie Mayo unsuccessfully ran for the District 8 seat in 2005, affordable housing was an issue.
Now, “it’s a crisis,” said Mayo. The 59-year-old, who works as a bookkeeper and runs a home maintenance service, thinks supporting small businesses after the pandemic is a top issue, alongside building a grocery store in South St. Pete’s Midtown area, which the USDA has marked as an area of low access to nutritional food.
Above all, she says she’s running on reputation.
“Anyone you meet that knows me will tell you that I’m the hardest working person they know. I just don’t quit … I’m going to think outside the box,” said Mayo, who votes with no party affiliation.
Among her unconventional ideas are establishing and seeking a city “no-hunger” accreditation, building up technology access for older residents and creating a city hub for affordable housing similar to the small-business oriented St. Pete Greenhouse.
She also wants the Rays to stay — “We’ve got to figure out a way to keep them” — but thinks previous Tropicana Field development plans should be tabled until new city leaders are elected.
Mayo served on the Civilian Police Review Committee for five years before running against Jeff Danner in 2005. She comes from a police family, and said she’s “very much pro-police.”
She hopes to “move the needle towards a greater quality relationship between our citizens and our police force.”
Since she last ran, Mayo has been active in the St. Pete Vineyard Christian church, and her four children are now adults.
“I’ve kind of walked that life where people struggle financially,” Mayo said. That experience has informed how she would govern, she said. “I want to give you a hand up, not a handout.”
Mayo said she hasn’t yet received any endorsements. She has raised $742, a July 6 filing showed.
Register to vote
The deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 24 St. Petersburg primary election is July 26. You can register to vote online at registertovoteflorida.gov or find more information on registering and voting at votepinellas.com.