St. Petersburg names interim chief equity officer

Mayor Ken Welch tapped Carl Lavender, who previously worked at the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg.
Carl Lavender has been tapped to serve as St. Petersburg's interim Chief Equity Officer.
Carl Lavender has been tapped to serve as St. Petersburg's interim Chief Equity Officer. [ City of St. Petersburg ]
Published Nov. 3, 2023

Mayor Ken Welch announced Friday that Carl Lavender, who has previously led nonprofit efforts to address community disparities related to race, as the city’s interim chief equity officer.

Lavender, who retired this summer after five years at the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, fills the role that was abruptly vacated by Lenice C. Emanuel. She was the city’s first chief equity officer before she quit last week less than a month on the job.

Lavender worked at the foundation as the chief equity officer and interim chief executive officer. He previously served as the executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast.

Lavender’s first day at the city will be Nov. 14. Like Emanuel, he will report to Chief of Staff Doyle Walsh, who reports to Welch.

In a news release, Welch noted that the foundation helped fund the Takin’ it to the Streets project to raise awareness of a city structural racism study. The chief equity officer position was one of the recommendations from that study.

“Carl is a transformational leader and advocate in our community whose expertise will help us advance equity and inclusive progress at the City, in partnership with community stakeholders,” Welch said in a statement. “His vast experience, historical knowledge of the community, and breadth of equity efforts will be valuable as we move forward with establishing this office.”

Lavender will earn the same $185,000 salary Emanuel made. He was not among the 112 people who originally applied for the job. City spokesperson Erica Riggins said the city will continue its search for a permanent replacement and Lavender is not being considered for the permanent role.

Lavender referred a reporter to the city’s spokesperson for comment.

“I am excited by the possibilities and the outcomes of smart, well-thought-out plans of action supporting Mayor Welch and the entire equity community,” Lavender said in a statement. “This is a compelling opportunity to guide the next steps for two significant studies (2021 Structural Racism Study and 2023 Employee Climate Study) that, after follow through, will position the City for successful outcomes in equity.”