Expressing outrage and concern over a rash of shootings that left seven dead in the closing weeks of 2015, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman vowed to spend $1 million combating gun violence — particularly in the mostly poor Midtown and South St. Pete neighborhoods.
Kriseman took the first step in making good on that promise this week by hiring a community intervention director. During a speech at the Carter G. Woodson African-American History Museum last month, Kriseman announced a position would be created to lead the charge in stamping out gun violence. This position appears to fit that bill.
Kriesman hired Kenny Irby, a former Poynter Institute faculty member overseeing visual journalism and diversity. He held that post for 20 years. Irby will earn an $80,000 annual salary.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Irby is also a pastor at Bethel AMEC and has been the state director of men’s ministry and youth outreach for eight years. In that capacity, Irby launches chaplain programs as well as peer-to-peer counseling. He also formed “Men in the Making” pairing kids with mentors. The group meets at St. Petersburg College’s Midtown campus.
His role with the church’s outreach programs and status in the community will play a vital roll in reaching young men at the center of the gun violence epidemic in the community.
According to the Times, Irby said he’s still in “brainstorming mode.” He’s evaluating efforts already in place and searching for ways to reach young people who haven’t already been touched by one program or another.
Irby will report to St. Pete Police Chief Anthony Holloway.