The Tampa Bay Times has labeled Kevin King, the chief of staff to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, as “divisive” and “destructive” in an editorial published online Friday.
Oh yeah … the Times also endorsed Rick Baker‘s bid to unseat Kriseman, but the points about King should not be overlooked.
The Times, in fact, doesn’t bother to use King’s name in the editorial. Instead, it writes that “some of Kriseman’s key players have failed the mayor and city residents,” and that King “never should have been hired.”
King and Kriseman have worked together for more than two decades, so it was no surprise when, in 2013, Kriseman announced that he had carved out a chief of staff position for King.
Still, because of King’s checkered past, the hiring was met with some controversy.
As Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times reported at the time, King had been dogged by questions about his 2001 arrest stemming from accusations he propositioned a teenage girl to have sex.
The case has since been expunged from court files, and its outcome could not be determined.
“It was resolved favorably,” said King, who is married and has a son. “The judge decided to seal the case. I never let it define my life.”
After others had criticized Kriseman for giving King a spot in City Hall, I came to King’s defense and pushed back against those who wanted to hold King’s disputed criminal history against him. I argued that King absolutely deserved a second chance from those people who had not given him one.
Unfortunately for Kriseman, King, and the city at large, King, while fiercely loyal to the mayor, has not succeeded at his job, which, above else, is to see that the mayor does a good enough job that he is re-elected.
Over the last three and half years, King has been described as “controversial” or a “lightning rod” by the Times and other local media. Behind the scenes, everyone from City Council members to City Hall staff wondered aloud why Kriseman stuck by King. If Kriseman had fired King after the sewage crisis, he might have lost his closest aide, but he may have saved his mayorship.
Instead, here Kriseman and King are today with the Tampa Bay Times essentially blaming King for much of the failure that surrounds an otherwise decent mayor of a prosperous city.