The Suncoast Tiger Bay Club, recovering from financial difficulties caused by the pandemic and from internal dissension on its board, has elected new officers, including its first Black president.
He is J.C. Pritchett II, 51, a former Republican who switched to no-party affiliation over disillusionment with Donald Trump.
The new vice president is Pinellas School Board member Nicole Carr, a Democrat.
The club is one of 17 Tiger Bay clubs statewide dedicated to promoting civil political discussion among people of all parties. They host political officeholders and candidates for lunch speeches and question-and-answer sessions, and pride themselves on asking tough questions.
Pritchett is pastor of Faith Church St. Pete.
“I think that in the 48-year history of the club, I’m the first African-American president,” he said.
He said it’s significant to him that the club meets at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, a bastion of exclusivity in a city with a history of segregation.
“I used to sell the Evening Independent in front of the Yacht Club,” he said. “Now I’m president of an organization that meets there.”
Pritchett won the office after the presumptive incoming president, Matt Lettelleir, resigned after being embroiled in arguments on the board over conflicts of interest.
Pritchett said those arguments and the club’s other problems should fade over the coming year.
Holding online meetings instead of its normal lunches had deprived the club of revenue, a problem experienced by all Tiger Bay clubs, and eroded cohesion among members, outgoing president Joanna Cheshire said.
The club has now resumed in-person meetings, and Pritchett said the coming political year will increase the importance of its mission and energize members.
“We’re coming off a terrible year,” he said. “But 2022′s going to be a great year.
“There were a lot of hugs today” at the meeting in which he was elected, Pritchett said Wednesday.