Sunday, January 9, 2022

Mayor Ken Welch - Now the Work Begins


WEST COAST        
Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin  

Now that Ken Welch has been sworn in as Saint Petersburg’s next Mayor, he will have to hit the ground running.

He's off to a pretty good start, picking his top city staff consisting of Stephanie Owens, Janelle Irwin Taylor, Tom Green and Doyle Walsh. It looks like a good team to me, and you can get more details on the new Mayor’s top staff from the Tampa Bay Times by: Colleen Wright: Meet incoming Saint Petersburg Mayor Ken Welsh's top City Hall administrators.

Ken Welch brings a wealth of political experience to the Saint Pete Mayor's office. Where he may come up a bit short is in the area of functional business management.

The City of Saint Petersburg is a very large business. Employing nearly 2800 people and providing services ranging from streets, roads, water and sewer services to law enforcement, the breadth and depth of management problems are an ongoing concern. The new Mayor will quickly find that day to day operational issues require an ongoing level of his attention.

Here are just a few of the critical issues the new Mayor faces:

  • The Tampa Bay Rays
  • Tropicana Field redevelopment
  • Crime
  • Rent control
  • Reparations
  • Climate change
  • Coastal flooding
  • Transportation
  • Police reform
  • Racism
  • Fair representation for the whole city
  • Staffing as retirements increase

Then there is the whole issue of dealing with a contentious City Council. See the Tampa Bay Times By: Colleen Wright: St. Petersburg’s new City Council avoids a coin flip to pick chair, vice chair.

My predictions are that the new Mayor will not put up much of a struggle as the Rays work to leave Saint Petersburg for Hillsborough County and more than likely a split season with Montreal. He will dump the developer picked by former Mayor Kriseman and revisit the whole Tropicana Field redevelopment issue with a sidebar emphasis on moderate - and low-income housing in the redevelopment area as an attempt to work through the very contentious issue of reparations.

If the new Mayor decides to make a major run at some form of rent control in Saint Petersburg, he will more than likely attract a time-consuming level of attention from the legislature and possibly even Governor DeSantis himself as he ramps up his campaign for reelection. I see the chances for a formal form of rent control as very slim at this point.

As flooding continues to increase in the northeast portion of Saint Petersburg, there will be more calls for some sort of action on the City's part. Should we have a bad spring storm season, and/or an aggressive hurricane season these problems could become a major issue for the new Mayor.

Ken Welch has spent his entire political career, in an elected Commission roll where the primary responsibility is developing policy and procedure. In his new role as Saint Petersburg Mayor, he's the person everybody holds responsible for everything that goes wrong and gets little credit for those things that go right.

It will be a major gear shift for the long-time Pinellas County politician. As the Mayor, you don't enjoy the privilege of pushing your chair back from the dais and letting the rest of your City Council do the hard work. The job is pretty much 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Is he up to the challenge? Time will tell.

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