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St. Pete City Attorney John Wolfe steps down this week

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete City Attorney John Wolfe is signing off from his longtime post as top lawyer in city government. And he’s leaving behind his right-hand lady, Jackie Kovilaritch, to fill his shoes.

Wolfe, as noted by Shadow of the Stadium blogger Noah Pransky, is the man behind the original Rays contract keeping them from searching, or even talking about searching, for a new stadium outside of St. Pete.

The use agreement drafted by Wolfe ties the Tampa Bay Rays to Tropicana Field until 2027. In order for them to even consider other options, another agreement is needed. But it wasn’t Wolfe who crafted the latest Memorandum of Understanding, it was Kovilaritch.

Mayor Rick Kriseman hand-picked her to craft the MOU and not Wolfe. Wolfe has long warned City Council about allowing the team to look outside the city for fear it would ultimately degrade the entire region’s chances at keeping Major League Baseball in town.

Kovilaritch has worked under Wolfe’s tutelage since she was hired in 2000, the same year Wolfe was promoted to city attorney. That means it’s possible that his ties to the use agreement and lack of enthusiasm for letting the Rays flirt with other stadium options may have rubbed off on Kovilaritch. But it’s also entirely possible she’s friendly to the mayor’s rush to sign off on a deal.

Kovilaritch takes the helm of the city’s legal department on August 1. While Wolfe is officially stepping down this week, his retirement doesn’t officially begin until January. Wolfe is taking a small pay cut to stay on board long enough to help Kovilaritch transition.

Wolfe has worked for the city for four decades. He now earns $162,878. Kovilaritch’s current salary is $151,700. It’s unclear what she will make after the transition.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, when asked what his greatest accomplishment was as an attorney for the city, Wolfe apparently joked, “lasting 40 years.” On a more serious note, he added that bringing the Rays to Tampa Bay and paving the way for the downtown renaissance would be “career milestones.”

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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