South Tampa neighborhood activist Julie Jenkins vying again to win a Tampa City Council seat

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After losing out to Harry Cohen for the South Tampa seat on the Tampa City Council in 2011, Julie Jenkins didn’t take too long licking her electoral wounds.  Needing to get back to work, she put the word out to her considerable array of contacts that she was looking for a new job, and shortly afterwards   was recruited and hired to serve as development director with St. Peter Claver Catholic School in Ybor City, where she remains today.

But she says in the past six months she’s been asked by people in the city if she would run again in the 2015 municipal elections in Tampa. Beginning in October she says she began seriously contemplating another bid for public office, and on Monday declared herself a candidate for the City Council District Two citywide seat, being vacated by a term-limited Mary Mulher  n next March.

“I’m a doer, and that’s the reason I’ve jumped back into the race, because I  am a responsive person to the community, and I believe I still have a lot to offer to the city and to the people, and so I said, ‘I can do this,'” Jenkins explained on Wednesday.

Her relatively late entry into the race (the period for candidates to declare ends in less than a month) is a contrast to last time around, when she entered the District Four race some 14 months before election day. A neighborhood activist in the South Tampa area for years, she had built up a reservoir of good will and looked like she might be victorious. But that was before Cohen declared his candidacy in December, and ultimately defeated Jenkins in the runoff.

In the District 4 primary election she did get more votes than three other candidates.  One of them was Joe Citro, the only declared candidate in the District Two race so far this year.

However City Council Chairman Charlie Miranda is waiting in the wings. City Hall observers are waiting to see if  enter into the race, since he’s term-limited out in his District 6 seat. Jenkins says she feels good about her chances, regardless of what the final field will resemble.

“I believe that one person at a time can make a difference. Whether Joe’s in or Charlie’s in, I’m running my race, because I believe I have a lot to offer the city,” she says.

The term she likes to describe herself is, “responsive.”

“I am responsive to the city and to the people,” she declared. “I listen well, I get things done, and I hope I inspire other good people to run for office.”

Jenkins is running on a similar platform as in 2010-2011- her involvement in neighborhoods, the community and her record as a small business owner. She says she believes the city is in very good shape, and says that’s a tribute to the current crew of local lawmakers serving in both the county and the city, and definitely gives props to Bob Buckhorn’s leadership as mayor. Interestingly, she says she was the only candidate running four  years ago  who talked about the potential for the Riverwalk, the downtown trail that runs from the Tampa History Museum on the east to ultimately the Tampa Heights area where Water Works Park and Ulele’s now reside on the west side (and is scheduled to be finished early next year).

Regarding the possibility that the Tampa Bay Rays may soon  have the opportunity to begin talking to officials in Hillsborough County about relocating, Jenkins says she’s “all for it,” but cautions that any plan needs to be seriously scrutinized. “You’ve got to protect taxpayers if you can,” she stresses.

And on public transportation? “If we don’t start working on it, and get involved with it, we’re going to be in bad shape,” she says, without going into further detail.

Win or lose, however, she has no plans to leave her gig at St. Peter Claver, considered the oldest active black parochial school in Florida. The school was in serious financial peril when she came on board in 2011, but has made a big comeback in recent years. “They didn’t have computers, now they have computers. They have a science lab. That makes me feel great, that I’m able to help out an entity like that. “

And Jenkins says that though some school officials expressed concerns when they learned about her candidacy, she says they’ve nothing to fear. “I love it, and I’m not going anywhere.  That was a concern with some people. When they heard they were like, ‘Julie!’ I said, ‘no, no, no. I’m still going to be here, and I’m going to be here a long time, whether I’m doing this or something else, because it’s such a great entity.”

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.