Rick Kriseman‘s strong advocacy of St. Petersburg police chief Tony Holloway has become a campaign issue in the race against Rick Baker, but it won’t be in the race for City Council District 2.
Both Barclay Harless and Brandi Gabbard both support Holloway staying on the job, regardless of who is elected mayor in November.
“We must work to reduce crime in all corners of St. Petersburg. The recent community policing programs should continue and be expanded,” Harless said in a statement released late Friday morning. “Chief Holloway should be allowed to continue building on the progress that has been made, and I support him staying in his role. Finally, at-risk youth prevention programs, including early learning, should be expanded in the city to increase opportunity for our youngest generation. All of these factors will reduce crime.”
In a subsequent phone call, Gabbard followed suit in extolling the virtues of Holloway’s tenure.
“Chief Holloway has been a real blessing to the department,” she said, adding that Holloway’s greatest achievement has been building up the morale of the department, saying that SPPD officials tell her it’s the best it’s been in 20 years.
“Chief Holloway is really known for training and grooming the young officers and helping to prepare them for future leadership roles, and so I think that is so important [for] our police force and career development inside the force,” she added.
Harless’ statement calling for the retention of Holloway as chief comes a day after Gabbard won the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police Pinellas Lodge 43. “I find it to be interesting timing,” she said.
In his statement, Harless said he believes Holloway and the police department have done a good job overall in both reducing major crimes and rebuilding trust in the community.
“Chief Holloway’s ‘Park, Walk, and Talk’ initiative has certainly improved the communication between neighborhoods and the police,” he said. “Although we have a higher officer-to-resident ratio than other similar Florida cities, I believe our sworn officers have done the job in a professional way to rebuild trust.”
Holloway was serving as police chief in Clearwater when hired by Kriseman in July 2014, six months after Chuck Harmon resigned after 12 years on the job. Baker selected Harmon as chief in 2002 during his first term in office.
Baker has not stated whether he would retain Holloway if he defeats Kriseman in November. Kriseman referenced that ambiguity during his election night speech Tuesday night at the State Theater, predicting Baker would fire Holloway if he becomes mayor.
Harless faces Gabbard for the District 2 seat vacated this fall by term-limited Jim Kennedy.