ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — On August 24, voters in St. Petersburg will decide who should be the next person to lead as mayor in the second-largest city in the Tampa Bay region.
Currently, eight people are running for St. Pete’s top spot. Those in the running include current city council members Robert Blackmon and Darden Rice, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, State Representative and former St. Pete City Council member Wengay Newton, Restauranteur Pete Boland who owns the Galley, Ship’s Hold and Mary Margaret’s Olde Irish Tavern, 20-year-old USF St. Petersburg student Michael Ingram, Stepping Stone Homeless Shelter founder Torry Nelson and Kenwood Organic Produce owner Marcile Powers. ABC Action News is highlighting each candidate for mayor, including Ken Welch.
Ken Welch recently completed 1,000 Uber and Lyft rides. He says it was his way of getting to know the residents of St. Petersburg who may have never stepped inside city hall. That’s even more important as the city continues to grow, he says. “I want everybody to feel they’re a part of the progress and not that they’re being left behind or displaced by it.”
As a 3rd generation Floridian, Welch wants to make sure small businesses and residents aren’t displaced from the place they call home while also working to attract big companies to relocate here.
“I’m going to be aggressive reaching out to those companies and saying ‘Hey, come check out St. Petersburg, look at our climate, look at our business culture,” he added.
Welch also wants to improve transportation and tackle crime by funneling more money towards hiring officers and boosting anti-violence programs.
“That’s how you get to neighborhood safety long term by giving kids hope and opportunity,” he elaborated.
Welch recently held a forum with teens and asked them candid questions about gun violence and solutions to combat crime.
“I wanted to hear from the kids without any fear of this whole snitching issue and the kids gave us some really good feedback about where the guns are coming from, what they are seeing in their neighborhoods,” Welch explained.
Welch also wants to invest in affordable housing. He tells ABC Action News he helped create the housing trust fund in Pinellas County, which created 4,000 affordable units. “I want to bring a sense of urgency to bring those funds down even faster. There’s 100 million dollars in that fund,” he elaborated.
Current St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman recently announced he’s endorsing Welch to take over his seat.
Welch says if he is elected, he’ll focus on three things to help St. Pete thrive: leadership, partnership and “working with everyone to move us forward,” he explained.
St. Pete’s primary election is August 24. If no candidate earns more than 50% of the vote, the top two will face off in November.
To view Welch's candidate website, click here.