ST. PETERSBURG — Kanika Tomalin, St. Petersburg’s deputy mayor for the past seven and a half years, will join Eckerd College’s ranks as vice president for strategy and chief operating officer in January.
The private St. Petersburg liberal arts college announced the hire Tuesday morning in a press release. She will be phased in and will officially begin her new role in the new year at the end of Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration. Kriseman, who was elected in 2014, is term-limited.
In her new job, Tomalin will oversee operations and strategic advancement, including infrastructure planning, large capital projects, environmental sustainability and resilience projects. She will also engage external support of the college’s key priorities, including the development of the St. Petersburg Center for Engaged Citizenship and Social Impact, which seeks to provide real-world opportunities for students to develop professional skills and the empowerment required to be active citizens and agents of change.
Tomalin said she met Eckerd President Damián J. Fernández, who began his tenure at the college last summer, while welcoming him to the city. She said the two “found great simpatico” and conversations began about opportunities.
“It’s a great honor and I’m very excited about the opportunity,” Tomalin said. “It’s a time where I am organically considering my next steps and my next chapter in higher education has long been an aspiration. I can’t think of a better palace than Eckerd for the next chapter in my career.”
Fernández said he recruited Tomalin for the job.
“This is a major coup for the college and really for the city of St. Petersburg,” he told the Tampa Bay Times. “The city is trying to define itself as a hub of the arts and education, and Eckerd is also aligned with that vision of itself as a place that connects the campus to the city.”
About the college’s new engaged citizenship and social impact center, Fernández said, “Dr. Tomalin is just the perfect person to move our strategy forward.”
“It is a new day for the college,” Fernández continued. “It is showing that education can be real world and high impact. And we can do nothing more important than having our students engaged in the civic life of the city. Kanika will be our bridge and our catalyst to bring that vision to fruition.”
Tomalin is a fifth-generation St. Petersburg resident. She began her career at the then-St. Petersburg Times before joining Bayfront Medical Center in 2000 as a fundraiser. She climbed the ranks at Bayfront to eventually become the regional vice president of external affairs for the Bayfront Health Network and director of strategy for Health Management Associates’ 23-hospital Florida Group.
Tomalin, however, has not ruled out seeking elected office someday.
“A love for St. Pete is what brought me to city hall,” she said. “I’ll always seek to serve St. Petersburg and her people in whatever capacity. I find the skills, talent, experience completely transferable. Should that play out in the arena of politics, I’d be wide open to that, but this certainly feels like an ideal fit for those things I have and am ready to contribute to St. Petersburg and higher education.”