Is Ken Welch the Right Guy To Be Saint Pete Mayor For The Next Four Or Maybe Even Eight Years?
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
One of St. Petersburg's most important elections will take place on Tuesday November 2, 2021.
The polling on the race shows former county commissioner Ken Welch with a decent lead over the other major candidate Robert Blackmon.
So, it's time to start asking the question is Ken Welch the best candidate for Saint Pete mayor?
Ken Welch spent 20 years on the Pinellas County Commission serving as Commission chair, representative to the Pinellas Suncoast Transit board and several other high-profile assignments while serving his multiple terms on the Pinellas County Commission.
In fact, one of the primary efforts of Ken Welch during that time was quietly avoiding the term limit rules put in place by the county Commission. Commissioner Welch always seemed to have a platitude and or response when questioned about his multiple terms.
There's no question Ken Welch enjoys being a politician he's been one for over 20 years. In fact, one could make the point that he spends more time playing politics than he does dealing with the business of the political entity he is serving.
Ken has never been one who was afraid of letting you know who he is as it relates to his political positions and apparently he's not overly reluctant to throw his political clout around to support his own interests as shown in this Tampa Bay Times Editorial: Editorial: Ken Welch's obvious conflict of interest
There's a big difference between being a county commissioner and being a mayor of a city the size of Saint Petersburg. One of the legitimate questions that should be asked regarding Ken's ability to serve in this capacity is whether he possesses the ability to transition from politician to chief executive officer, leader and manager of an organization of over 2000 people.
Of course, that same question can be asked of both of the candidates currently running for mayor. There isn't a well-seasoned businessperson among them.
If you listen to, watch or read Ken Welch’s comments from the first debate, you can see the influence of 20 years as a politician. Once you have had that experience surviving in the political arena it's extremely difficult to view problems and issues with anything other than a political lens.
The Mayor's race, as are all the City Council races, are reasonably nonpartisan. But don't let that throw you. Partisan politics always manages to rear its ugly head in these races sooner or later.
Want some more information? Check out Wikipedia: 2021 St. Petersburg, Florida mayoral election.
St. Petersburg is at a crossroads .
Welch represents the past with not much sensitivity for the future as was demonstrated in Black Lives Matter background debacle. I would expect Welch to spend most of his energy looking south and back, While I would expect Blackmon to have a much more wholistic view of St. Petersburg.
Blackmon, on the other hand has the necessary business acumen, but may struggle a bit with the politics.
Looking at the issues, Rays Baseball, a split baseball season, the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site, low land flooding, rising crime, a Police Chief that needs to be replaced, waste water treatment problems and a host of other issues, all of which have existed for a while, looking for solutions from the past will likely lead to more of the same.
If St. Petersburg wants to end up 4 years from now slightly worse off than it is now, then Welch is the guy.
If the idea is to move forward then Blackmon makes the most sense.
No matter what your view go vote. This mayoral election could well be decided by a hand full of votes, make sure yours is one on them.
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Disclosures: Retired City of St. Petersburg