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Maria Scruggs says job in Orange County won’t preclude service on St. Pete City Council

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Maria Scruggs is one of eight candidates running for the St. Petersburg City Council District 6 seat this summer, her fourth attempt for elected office since 2001.

The 59-year-old Scruggs keeps busy. Not only does she head the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP, but she has also had a grueling daily commute to her job at the Orange County Correctional Facility in Orlando, where she manages the community services drug-testing, pretrial release and diversion programs at the jail.

The City Council position is considered a part-time gig that pays $44,452 a year, but any council member will tell you that the gig is hardly part-time. That’s why Council Chair Darden Rice has proposed that the city pays for hiring four legislative assistants to work for the eight member board.

Considering Scruggs’ other obligations, SPB posed the question if she could fulfill her duties if elected?

“One of the fields that I’m most proud of as a thirty-plus year public manager, is time management,” Scruggs told WMNF’s Thursday MidPoint program. “I don’t make commitments to anything that I’m not effectively able to manage or carry out.”

Scruggs went on to say that she immediately notified her bosses in Orange County that she would be filing to run for the seat earlier this year, and says that if she were “blessed enough to be elected, that would be another discussion on how I could do that effectively.”

“There would be no way that I would run for office and not be able to fulfill my obligations — absolutely no way,” she added.

Scruggs lives in Midtown, and has been critical of the man she hopes to succeed in office, Karl Nurse, who she maintains has been resistance to input from members of the community such as herself, and more focused on getting “wins” for himself vs. the constituents in District 3.

Scruggs refers to early education as one issue where her suggestions to Nurse went nowhere.

“If we want to be able to [have] effectively early childhood education, we could do that from an economic standpoint and academic standpoint in the sense that we would be providing these businesses more support to enter preschool,” Scruggs said.

She says she later read in the paper that the city was going to fund that, and Nurse had acted on his own initiative to start up.

“We have these band-aid approaches … that do not directly impact the people, or the businesses who live there,” she says. “In most cases, it’s impacting somebody that is going to come into the community as opposed to building on the assets that are already there.”

Nurse was unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon, but did tell the Tampa Bay Times last month: “I am comfortable that thousands of people a year give me input as to how I should do my job. I have 20 things that I am trying to get done before I leave, but that doesn’t change the fact that there will be many things unsolved and that there will be plenty of things for the next person.”

The primary election for City Council District 6 takes place Aug. 29. The top two finishers will then compete citywide into the November election.

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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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