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Darden Rice draws challenge for her City Council seat from businessman/student Jerick Johnston

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice has picked up a challenger in her race for re-election this year.

He’s Jerick Johnston, a 21-year-old business major at the University of South Florida – St. Petersburg and CEO and president of Johnston Consulting, where he works with individuals and small businesses on mobile device training.

“I’m a millennial and I have a firm belief that we need more young people in government, and I’d love to be a small part of that,” Johnston says, adding that “I believe that some of the most impactful influences that you can have is on the local level.”

Johnston says his top priority is getting more young people engaged in the community, to bring them together “and bring a fresh, fiscally minded person to City Council.” He says as a small business owner, he’s had the opportunity to work with many other small businesses in St. Petersburg, saying he’d like to bring that “unique perspective” to City Hall.

Regarding the $66 million price tag for the proposed new Pier (which could rise to $80 million), Johnston says he’s “definitely one of those people who are skeptical about the price tag for this new Pier.”

“I think we need to be wise about spending that much money,” he adds.

Johnston also says that he wants the Tampa Bay Rays to stay in St. Peterburg, but wants to be careful about how much it will cost taxpayers to keep them in the city.

He says he hasn’t boned up on the referendum on the ballot in May that would allow the Tampa Bay Rowdies to negotiate a 25-year lease with the city to expand Al Lang Stadium, and therefore wouldn’t comment on that proposal.

Also off the table (for now, anyhow) is any public comment on the woman currently sitting in the District 4 seat, Darden Rice. Undoubtedly that will have to change if Johnston wants to give voters a reason to choose him over the incumbent.

District 4 represents a portion of central and north St. Petersburg, with neighborhoods including Crescent Lake, Euclid Heights, Euclid-St. Paul’s and Meadowlawn.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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