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Monica Abbott hopes to unseat Charlie Gerdes so she can be a full-time representative

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Monica Abbott is self-funding a campaign to unseat St. Pete City Council chair Charlie Gerdes … to the tune of $11,000. Abbott wants a shot at representing West St. Pete residents in District 1 because she thinks Gerdes isn’t paying enough attention to the district.

“He’s more for the city,” Abbott said. “That’s more being a council member at-large.”

Abbott complained that Gerdes failed to secure Penny for Pinellas funds for a Pinellas Trail expansion in their district. She said he doesn’t return emails and rarely shows up at community meetings. When he does, she said, he doesn’t stay for the whole thing.

Abbot wasn’t happy with plans Gerdes pushed that would have turned Sunset Park, one near Park Street and Central Avenue, into a large playground.

“That’s not what people wanted,” Abbott said. “That money would have been wasted.”

She’s also concerned with what she describes as another unwanted change coming to West St. Pete. The baseball fields at Walter Fuller Park are being expanded to include a stadium. The idea is to have space for college and international baseball games and tournaments.

Mayor Rick Kriseman touted the expansion at a press conference in March, saying it would serve as an “economic driver for West St. Petersburg.” He didn’t mention Gerdes in his remarks and Gerdes didn’t attend the press conference.

Regardless, Abbott says that’s another improvement residents just didn’t want.

“People in District 1 did not have a voice in that plan,” Abbott said. “At least they would have liked to have been consulted.”

Instead, Abbott says she would work full-time to make sure residents in her district were more closely represented.

“I’ve got nothing but time to give to people,” Abbott said.

She claims she’s not retired, but she also doesn’t have a regular full-time job. Abbott dabbles in various things from blogging about city issues to taking free online classes from places like Yale and Harvard.

When asked how she had enough cash to spare $11,000 for her own campaign, Abbott simply said she’s good with money.

Abbott was opposed to Mayor Rick Kriseman’s deal with the Tampa Bay Rays – something her opponent wholeheartedly supports.

She wants to see sweeping improvements to the city’s sewage department and hopes to further her efforts as a former member of the City Beautiful Commission by making city streets and rights of way more appealing.

She also isn’t a huge fan of the new(ish) blue recycling bins doled out all across the city. Abbott says she takes her recycling to a nearby drop-off center and instead uses her blue bin for hurricane supplies.

Abbott will need a funding edge against Gerdes to bridge the name recognition gap. As a nearly four-year council member, Gerdes already is well-known among most likely voters – those who tend to be more civically engaged.

The only name recognition Abbott is likely to have outside of her community is as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city in which she argued City Council unfairly applies time limits to public speakers. During a meeting she was cut off at the three-minute mark. Abbott argues other speakers were allowed to continue past the bell.

If elected, Abbott said she will drop that lawsuit.

Abbot faces Gerdes at the polls November 3.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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