Five candidates are campaigning to succeed Darden Rice as St. Petersburg’s District 4 City Council member.
They include tech entrepreneur Jarib Figueredo, lawyer-turned-neighborhood association president Lisset Hanewicz, bartender Clifford Hobbs III, investment banker Tom Mullins and private equity consultant Doug O’Dowd.
District 4 neighborhoods include Euclid St. Paul’s, Historic Old Northeast and Meadowlawn. The district generally runs east from Interstate 275 to the water from Ninth Avenue North to 30th Avenue North, then runs along the east side of Interstate 275 to the north.
The candidates will first square off in a primary election on Aug. 24, in which only voters registered in District 4 will be able to cast ballots. The top two vote-getters will move on to the Nov. 2 general election, when all St. Petersburg voters will be able to cast a ballot in the race.
Jarib Figueredo says he had a single Cuban peso in his pocket when he came to the United States at age 19. That experience has influenced Figueredo, now 34 and the head of blockchain-based payroll startup HorusPay, in his City Council bid.
“One of my big things for my campaign is reviving the American dream,” he said.
He wants to bring more technology jobs to the city, saying job creation is key to helping more residents afford homes.
“Everybody talks about affordable housing, and everybody has a plan or whatnot,” he said. “I think that my plan is to elevate the life of the residents and bring in new jobs, and then [they will] be able to afford the house because they earn the right amount of money.”
Figueredo also wants to expand the city’s police force; invest in sewers and roads; and make it easier for residents to get permits for alterations to their properties, like adding a driveway.
Figueredo has a degree in surgical technology from Lincoln Tech in St. Petersburg. He has been endorsed by Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters and Redington Beach Mayor David Will. He had raised $10,687 by July 16, according to his most recent campaign finance report.
Lisset Hanewicz stepped away from her law practice in 2014, when she was pregnant with her daughter. But in 2016, she became president of the Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association and worked to revitalize the organization. That experience, she said, inspired her to run for City Council.
“I really enjoy being able to give back to the community, and seeing how my legal skills and my knowledge and my advocacy have really helped my neighborhood and the surrounding community,” she said.
With a law degree from the University of Florida, Hanewicz, 50, was a state and federal prosecutor and worked at a private law firm before starting her own practice.
She lists affordable housing among her top priorities and said regulatory changes to allow higher density will help, as well as a new state law that allows affordable housing to be built in industrial and commercial areas.
And she wants to invest in the city’s infrastructure and plan for its future growth.
“I think we have to be very thoughtful in how do you balance that growth and trying to keep what makes our city cool and what gives it its identity,” she said.
She says the city needs to view the Tropicana Field redevelopment as a business decision, doing what’s best for citizens without considering the emotional weight of keeping baseball.
Hanewicz has secured endorsements from the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association; the local chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters; the Pinellas Realtors Organization; and Ruth’s List, a group that supports Democratic pro-choice women in Florida elections. She had raised $76,534 as of July 16.
Clifford Hobbs III
A bartender at Birch & Vine, Clifford Hobbs III has a degree from the Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Austin, Texas. But he’s no stranger to public service, from his time as student government president for the downtown campus of St. Petersburg College to his participation in the Euclid St. Paul’s Neighborhood Association and volunteer work at a homeless shelter. He’s also a graduate of the Leadership St. Pete program.
“I love serving people, and I believe that what District 4 needs is a leader that is willing to serve everyone,” Hobbs said.
If he’s elected, Hobbs wants to invest in infrastructure, upgrading roads, alleyways and sidewalks. He’d like to provide more resources for small businesses.
He wants to require that landlords and property management companies accept rental vouchers for some units, while repaying them for costs involved in taking those vouchers. He also wants to ban discrimination based on a renter’s source of income and include the ban in the city’s Tenants Bill of Rights.
“With our housing crisis, everyone has to give just a little bit, so we can ensure that all of our residents have a place that they can call their own,” Hobbs said.
He likes the process of the Tropicana Field redevelopment, saying it’s done a good job of involving input from both residents and developers.
Hobbs has secured endorsements from the Equality Florida Action PAC and Florida for Change, as well as former City Council member Steve Kornell and local attorney and former state Rep. Sean Shaw. He had raised $23,050 by July 23.
Tom Mullins says his global business experience sets him apart from current council members.
The longtime Raymond James investment banker’s work has focused on waste management companies, infrastructure and aviation. Mullins, 57, said he’s helped create local jobs by growing Raymond James as one of its first investment banking employees and by raising the initial private equity capital for Allegiant Air.
American cities are “trending horribly” because of “progressive woke” policies, said Mullins, whose net worth is nearly $32 million according to campaign disclosures. He is a financial conservative who would scrutinize spending.
“If you care anything about having any kind of policy checks and balances on the council or city government, I think I’m a good candidate,” said Mullins, who has lived in St. Pete or “just on the fringes” for three decades.
He criticizes policies designed to prevent business expansion and real estate development as St. Petersburg grows. “Growth moratoriums and anti-development ideologies” eventually push all but the affluent out of cities, he said.
Mullins called the current Tropicana Field development plans “sterile” and “underwhelming.”
Another focus for Mullins is violent crime, which he thinks can be addressed through improved police-community relations, gun control and job opportunities. He’s also concerned with affordable housing.
“You have to increase supply and you need to do it in a responsible, community oriented, consensus driven way,” Mullins said.
Mullins has mostly self-funded his campaign with over $50,000 and raised another $14,000, as of July 16. Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes, whose district covers parts of St. Pete, has endorsed Mullins.
Candidate Doug O’Dowd, 55, said he’ll find the city’s issues by listening to “the people at the bottom.” Experience as a finance executive will help too, he said. He currently works as a consultant for a private equity firm.
“That background gives me a pretty good exposure with a lot of the contract reviews that would be required as a City Council member,” he said.
O’Dowd said his family moved to Pinellas County a year after he was born, and he’s lived in St. Petersburg nearly three decades. He served 10 years on the board of education-focused nonprofit Learning Empowered and three years on the Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association’s board.
Economic development needs to happen “from Central Avenue, south,” O’Dowd said. He wants to see a ninth City Council district added in south St. Petersburg, and he wants to see a strong commitment to affordable housing and Black-owned businesses at the Trop site.
O’Dowd said he would focus on sustainable infrastructure, including wastewater treatment, sidewalks, stormwater drains, emergency response departments and trees.
He hasn’t received any major endorsements yet, and had raised $6,231 as of July 23.
How to vote in St. Petersburg’s municipal primary
The deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 24 St. Petersburg municipal primary has passed. Registered voters can vote in person on Aug. 24 or request a vote-by-mail ballot by calling the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections at 727-464-VOTE (8683) or emailing MailBallot@VotePinellas.gov. The deadline to request a mail ballot is 5 p.m. on Aug. 14, and the ballots can be mailed or delivered in person to an election office through Aug. 24.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that state Sen. Jeff Brandes has endorsed candidate Tom Mullins.