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St. Pete City Council candidate Brandi Gabbard wants more economic prosperity to Gateway District

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Brandi Gabbard calls herself an everyday person representing everyday people.

Her bid for St. Petersburg City Council District 2 this year may be her first run for public office, but when it comes to working on public policy and serving the community, Gabbard’s no rookie.

The Indiana native moved to St. Petersburg in 2003 and began selling real estate in 2005 (she’s been with Smith & Associates since 2011).

Nearly a decade ago, Gabbard joined the Pinellas Realtor Organization as a volunteer and immediately began serving on their public policy committee. She started their young professional network in 2010, and ultimately became chair of the Realtors board in 2014, the youngest ever for the group.

The Pinellas Realtors Organization had led the effort to pass the Greenlight Pinellas transit tax initiative, which lost badly at the polls in 2014.

“The ballot amendment could have been written better,” Gabbard says in retrospect. “If people can’t understand it, then the automatic response is typically no. That certainly did not play in our favor.”

Representing the Gateway area, Gabbard embraces the renaissance in downtown St. Pete, but says she wants to bring some of that economic prosperity to her neck of the woods.

“We need more opportunities here. More restaurants, more boutique shops,” Gabbard says, believing that the Carillon and Gateway business districts can support more small businesses.

At the Starbucks on 4th Street North at 88th Avenue, Gabbard muses that perhaps in another year or two, a follow-up interview could be instead at a Kahwa coffeehouse.

“That’s my vision for the district,” she says. “I want to see that vibrancy that goes on down there spread to all parts of the city.”

Gabbard has advocated on many issues over the years, and is most proud of her work on flood insurance. This year, she’s vice chair of the National Association of Realtors Insurance Committee, and locally serves on the St. Petersburg Program for Public Information (PPI), a task force to track outreach projects and create a message to educate the public about flood hazards, flood insurance, proper building and floodplain functions.

Gabbard speaks enthusiastically about St. Pete recently being given a 25 percent reduction in floor insurance policies from what is known as the Community Rating System.

Regarding some of the bread and butter issues that are always front and center in St. Pete elections of late, Gabbard says as a fiscally conservative person, she has “concerns” about the cost of a proposed new Pier.

“A decision has been made, a plan has been set in place, a budget is there. Let’s get it done,” G says.

Gabbard also says she’d love to see the Tampa Bay Rays decide to relocate in District 2. Derby Lane on Gandy has been mentioned as a possible new site. Mayor Rick Kriseman said he hopes the team will choose to return to a revamped and improved Tropicana Field site.

“You don’t sell someone a house that they don’t want to be in,” Gabbard says to that idea.

Usually voluble and gregarious, Gabbard suddenly becomes quiet when asked her impression of the Kriseman era.

“I have no comment on the mayor,” she said firmly.

Segueing to the problems ensuring from the sewage problems of 2015 and 2016, she does offer that “the time for finger pointing is done” and says it’s time to move forward.

“I believe that (public works administrator) Claude Tankersley has all good intentions of having a very quick plan to meet the rainy season, and it is my full hope that that happens,” she says, adding that regardless of who made previous decisions, “when you are in a seat of leadership, it’s your responsibility to take the brunt of that.”

Gabbard is married with a 5-year-old son. She says being a “T-ball mom” will add a different perspective to the council.

Gabbard joins Barclay Harless as a candidate for District 2. Incumbent Jim Kennedy is term-limited out this fall.

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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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