ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Ken Welch has been declared the next mayor of St. Petersburg. Welch will become the first Black mayor in St. Petersburg’s 118-year history.
Unofficial results as of Tuesday evening show Robert Blackmon won 39.52% of the vote while Ken Welch took 60.48% of the vote, with 100% of precincts reporting.
Thank you so much, St. Pete. I am honored you have elected me the next Mayor of our incredible city! Because of you, as partners in progress, we will be able to reach new heights.— Ken Welch (@Kenwelch) November 3, 2021
Thank you again, St. Pete, for believing in our vision—you’ve never let me or my family down. pic.twitter.com/Lkj6P0NbP2
Ken Welch will take over as mayor on Jan. 6, 2022, and will serve a four-year term. He is focused on inclusive progress and making sure as St. Pete grows, the residents and businesses can afford to stay in the city and thrive. He told supporters he is honored to be making history but is also ready to get to work.
“It is my distinct honor to be the first African-American mayor of my hometown, but let me clear in stating that making history has never been the priority of this campaign nor will it be the focus of my administration. For me, making history without making a positive impact is an empty achievement. Our election victory must be followed by a purposeful agenda of opportunity, accountability and intentional equity for our entire community," Welch said during his victory speech on Tuesday.
Welch wore his dad’s campaign button from his run for Mayor of St. Pete 30 years ago. He said at the time, his dad received death threats. Now, he said he’s proud of how far the city has come allowing history to be made tonight.
Welch will meet with outgoing Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration this week to begin the transition.
Kriseman endorsed Ken Welch during his campaign. Minutes after Welch declared victory, Kriseman released a statement congratulating him and saying that Welch delivered "a decisive and historic victory that should serve as further proof of St. Pete's progress and upward trajectory.”
Welch has served the past 20 years on the Pinellas County Commission. He said safe neighborhoods, affordable housing, and equitable growth are his top priorities.
Welch will also have a lot to tackle as the new mayor: Keeping the Rays in St. Pete, helping businesses and residents recover from the pandemic, creating more affordable housing, overseeing the redevelopment of Tropicana Field, and preventing red tide and sewage spills.
His opponent in the 2021 mayoral race, city councilman Robert Blackmon, congratulated Welch on his win.
He told reporters at his watch party Tuesday night he plans to wrap up a few initiatives in his district before resigning from the position in January 2022. He said he will return to private life after that.
As far as his bid for mayor is concerned, Blackmon was hoping to introduce some new initiatives to cut down on violence in the city, among other things. And while he's disappointed he won't get to see those things through, he said he's proud of the campaign he ran.
“I think this race, in general, was kind of a return to politics of the past. You don’t have to be at the other guy’s throat to run against him, you know? You can be opponents. No enemies," he said.
Following his loss, Blackmon is putting out a call to the community to come together after Tuesday's election and he's encouraging his supporters to support Welch as the new mayor.
As of now, he says he has no future plans to run for Mayor again.