“It’s a good time to be in St. Pete.”
Those were the opening words that Rick Kriseman delivered his first ever State of the City Address as mayor in late January, and this Detroit City native is riding the positive waves that have permeated over this city over the past five years.
While Bob Buckhorn generates headlines across the bay, Kriseman has kept his head down while pushing his progressive agenda in St. Petersburg, arguably the Tampa Bay area’s (if not all of Florida’s) coolest city.
The mayor continues to reap the benefits of development exploding off Beach Drive, but the city’s prowess swells way beyond downtown and into the Grand Central and Central Arts Districts.
Though he hasn’t conquered the issues that doomed his predecessor — the Pier and the Rays — just yet, Kriseman has accomplished a lot in just over a year’s time.
Those achievements include raising the minimum wage for city workers to $12.50 an hour, giving city employees paid family leave, changing the controversial police-car chase policy, pushing to get rid of red-light cameras, implementing a study on climate change, hiring a new police chief (and tearing up the process to get what he felt was the best man for the job) and making the moves necessary to beginning construction of a new police headquarters.
There were also the stylistic touches: promoting the Affordable Care Act and advocating for Medicaid expansion at the state level, for example. Signing on to Mayors Against Illegal Guns and raising the gay pride flag above City Hall as well.
“I think he’s taken the bull by the horns and has led St. Pete to become a beacon of prosperity,” says Democratic political consultant Nick Janovsky. “Folks are relocating there — especially millennials like myself. I never thought I would do that.”
“Mayor Kriseman and his deputy, Dr. Kanika Tomalin, have more than tripled our city’s focus on job creation and economic growth, in terms of dollars, staff and leveraged resources, compared to the prior administration,” says magazine publisher Gypsy Gallardo. “Only part of that uptick comes from the fact that tax revenues are finally beginning to rebound from the recession. The bigger part comes from the dynamic combination of Kriseman’s progressive policy changes and Tomalin’s talent for driving results.”
For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who comprised the panel that assembled it, please read here.