(Source: www.stpetecatalyst.com) – By– St. Petersburg chose Ken Welch to become its 54th mayor Tuesday night, making the self-described kid from the Gas Plant the first African American elected to lead the city in 129 years.
Welch, 57, is also St. Pete’s first new mayor in eight years, taking over for Rick Kriseman. Kriseman strongly endorsed Welch throughout the campaign. He ran against Councilmember Robert Blackmon, 32.
At 7:45 p.m. and with all precincts reporting, the Supervisor of Elections office showed Welch leading Blackmon with 59.67% or 38,037 votes to Blackmon’s 40.33% or 25,712 votes.
Welch is a native of St. Pete, growing up on the city’s south side. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and an MBA from Florida A&M. Welch would move back to St. Pete, where he worked as an accountant for Florida Power Corporation. In 2000, Welch became just the second African American elected to serve as a Pinellas County Commissioner.
Welch ran on a platform of “inclusive progress” and often touted his role in creating the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area (CRA). He has stated that climate resiliency and sustainability will influence every decision he makes on the city’s infrastructure and growth. He has also promised to tackle the affordable housing issue, creating not just workforce housing but housing that people making well below the area median income can afford.
Welch wants to work closely with the St. Petersburg youth and believes that is one solution to curbing the surge in gun violence. He also plans to transform the city’s community centers into what he calls Empowerment Innovation Centers. These centers will offer educational resources, STEM learning, and access to technological devices.
Welch has said he will be an inclusive and collaborative leader and strive for consensus-building and public input. Following Tuesday night’s election results, Welch will soon have a chance to prove he is that leader.