St. Petersburg swears in Kriseman, first female-majority City Council

ST. PETERSBURG | City officials and an engaged constituency lined the halls and streets of St. Petersburg’s City Hall Jan. 2 for the official Swearing-In Ceremony of Mayor Rick Kriseman and the City Council.

The ceremony began just after 11 a.m. in the council chambers of City Hall, where new and re-elected members of City Council vowed to serve St. Petersburg. Council Members Brandi Gabbard, Gina Driscoll, Darden Rice and Amy Foster were each sworn into the council, creating St. Petersburg history in the process.

“It’s exciting to me that this is the first time ever that our City Council has had five elected women to the dais,” Rice said, welcoming her new colleagues to a round of applause. With the addition of Driscoll and Gabbard, now serving in their first term, five out of eight council members are female.

“You never want to sound reverse-sexist,” Rice continued, “but I think it can be said that women bring a different negotiating style… and typically, a different perspective.”

Council Members Lisa Wheeler-Brown and Steve Kornell were also officially declared the Council Chair and Vice Chair, respectively, following a unanimous vote Dec. 14.

“I’m happy to be on the end of a 5-3 minority, as a man,” Kornell said. “I wish that would happen more places. I think our country would be a much better place if it did… I look forward to the year of the woman on St. Pete City Council.”

The city celebrated the historic day via Twitter.

The ceremony soon moved outside, where Master of Ceremonies and St. Petersburg Poet Laureate Helen Wallace welcomed council members and constituents before Joran Oppelt, Minister at Integral Church and President of Interfaith Tampa Bay, began the invocation.

“We are multi-racial,” Oppelt said. “We are multi-cultural. We are white and black and brown—and now, like our City Council, we are female.”

“We are home to an amazing and thriving LGBT community,” Oppelt continued, to applause. “We live in a city that is vibrant and colorful, and full of people that I am proud to call my neighbor.”

After calling on constituents to put the “neighbor” back in neighborhood, and praising Kriseman’s commitment to diversity in all forms, the faith leader welcomed Wallace back to announce the Joint Honor Guard from the St. Petersburg Police and Fire Rescue Departments. The guard presented the nation’s colors and was soon joined by Cepada McKay and No Limits, who performed the National Anthem.

Judge Mark I. Shames of Florida’s Sixth Judicial Circuit Court subsequently welcomed Kriseman. He administered the Oath of Office for the mayor’s second four-year term, prompting Kriseman’s address.

“There is no place I would rather be today than right here with each of you, at the beginning of a new year and a new term,” Kriseman said. “Four years ago today, standing in this very spot, I made several promises. I pledged, working closely with our city council and the more than 250,000 citizens we represent, to tackle the most stubborn challenges facing our city… including poverty in south St. Pete, the construction of a new pier and police station, our agreement with the Tampa Bay Rays, and our infrastructure; specifically, our transportation infrastructure. All of us, working together, have either resolved these issues, or made significant strides toward resolving them.”

Kriseman detailed his administration’s priorities and accomplishments, but soon looked toward the future. “Today, we are a St. Pete that pursues a Cuban consulate, Amazon’s second world headquarters, and the World Pride celebration,” he said. In June, ahead of his re-election, Kriseman told Watermark he’d love for the World LGBTQ Pride celebration to venture to the city.

“Today, we are a St. Pete of green initiatives, not green benches,” he continued. “A St. Pete where 20,000 strong march along our waterfront for women’s rights, and for every other right Donald Trump wishes to deny us of. Today, literally today, we are a city where, for the first time… a majority of our council members are women.”

Kriseman called on the city to “continue to shine bright, and not dim our light for others,” and for constituents to stand united.

“Because a united St. Pete,” Kriseman concluded, “is an unstoppable St. Pete.”

Photos by Ryan Williams-Jent.


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