St. Petersburg City Councilman Karl Nurse’s determination to make a difference in South St. Petersburg puts Nurse for the first time on the 2014 SaintPetersBlog list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians. He represents District 6, which contains much of the city’s economically troubled, yet politically prized Midtown.
District 6 has always been somewhat of a mixed bag for the city, an area encompassing not only Midtown, but also the bustling downtown district, the always-in-contention Tropicana Field and an increasingly prominent University of South Florida at St. Petersburg.
Before taking a seat on the City Council, Nurse served eight years on the St. Petersburg Planning and St. Petersburg Historic Preservation
“Karl is the non-flashy, steely pragmatist who genuinely cares about the people in his district, a district which encompasses some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city,” says newly elected St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice. “Better than almost anyone else I can think of, he exemplifies leadership by example and hard work. Far from being merely a provincial municipal doer, Karl is always connecting the dots back up to state and federal leadership issues and scans all opportunities to cooperate and get leverage on regional issues like housing and economic development.
“I’ve never met a bigger idealist who can get practical results that make a real difference in people’s lives and neighborhoods,” Rice adds. “That’s why people love the guy.”
Midtown, as a political force, has always been enough to make or break a St. Petersburg candidate, especially during the election year of 2013. It’s not a stretch to say St. Petersburg’s Southside had a key role in electing another new entry to the list, Mayor Rick Kriseman. Nurse easily won re-election with virtually no competition, having never dipped below 50 percent throughout the entire campaign.
Adding to the city’s challenges is the fact that about one quarter of Midtown residents are living at or below the federal poverty level, according to a recent Pinellas County study. Unemployment also hovers around 16 percent.
But Nurse is a man on a mission, evidenced by a range of advocacy projects from buying, renovating and reselling distressed homes and demolishing abandoned structures, to pushing for a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market as the replacement for the shuttered Tangerine Plaza Sweetbay supermarket, once a high-profile success for former Mayor Rick Baker.
Next up for Nurse is defining Midtown as a Community Redevelopment Agency / Tax increment-Financing region. That would provide tax incentives and special financing programs for businesses to open down south, bringing opportunity and jobs. Then there are matters of citywide recycling, urban gardening, waste-to-energy projects and tweaking the city’s troubled red-light-camera program.
No matter what the issue, the soft-spoken Nurse will always put St. Petersburg first.
For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who comprised the panel which assembled it, please read here.