St. Pete mayor-elect Ken Welch seeks public input before taking office

Residents can sound off at three “community conversations” this weekend on housing, jobs, youth, environment, infrastructure and health and safety.
St. Petersburg Mayor-elect Ken Welch is holding a trio of "Community Conversations" to seek feedback from the community on issues he's seeking to make a priority during his first term.
St. Petersburg Mayor-elect Ken Welch is holding a trio of "Community Conversations" to seek feedback from the community on issues he's seeking to make a priority during his first term. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Dec. 8, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor-elect Ken Welch is seeking public participation in three events this weekend to shape his administration’s work for the next four years.

So far 300 people have registered for Welch’s “Community Conversations.” Two in-person sessions will be held at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s Student Center Ballrooms on Friday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. A virtual session is set for 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday. The in-person sessions can accommodate up to 245 people.

“I think people want to be part of the process and we’re excited about that,” Welch said.

Each session will kick off with opening remarks from Welch; participants then will break for small-group discussions on each of his five transition focal points discussed by subject-matter experts: education and youth opportunities; equitable development and business opportunities; neighborhood health and safety; environment, infrastructure, and resilience; and housing opportunities for all.

The event will close with a full assembly to hear feedback.

Welch already has heard from residents eager to talk about issues, especially affordable housing, which he said “is almost at a crisis level.” He said he wants to be able to document the issues participants are vocal about so they can be a priority for the new city administrator. That role is second to the mayor, but Welch said he hasn’t hired anyone yet.

Welch recently announced the key leaders of his transition team. Led by Stephanie Owens, his campaign manager, these leaders will advise Welch on hiring and preparing for his tenure in City Hall following his Jan. 6 inauguration.

Welch secured big names to help with his transition, including Lorna Taylor, CEO and president of Tampa-based Premier Eye Care, one of the 75 largest privately owned companies in Florida; Troy Taylor, chairman and CEO of the third-largest privately held, and the sixth-largest independent bottler of Coca-Cola products in the United States and one of the country’s largest Black-owned businesses; Trevor Burgess, the openly gay CEO of St. Petersburg-based Neptune Flood Insurance, the nation’s largest provider of private flood insurance; Melissa Seixas, president of Duke Energy Florida; and Will Packer, a Hollywood film producer and St. Petersburg native.

“To have him be on the committee,” Welch said of Packer, " I just think tells a great story for our city. And each of those honorary chairs has some kind of connection.”

Some transition leaders have deep roots in the community. Ric Davis, president of the Concerned Organization for Quality Education of Black Students, the organization known as COQEBS that sued over the achievement gap between Black and white students in Pinellas County School; Leon Jackson, one of the Courageous 12 who sued to end racial discrimination in the St. Petersburg Police Department; and St. Petersburg College president Tonjua Williams.