Democrat Amy Kedron officially announced her candidacy for Pinellas County Commission District 6 seat on May 1.
Kedron, a Buffalo native who moved to Tampa Bay in 2010, says her top issues include healthy beaches and surface water issues (she also mentions prepping for climate change), economic development, bike- and pedestrian-friendly streets, home rule and veteran support.
Her support of getting cities ready for climate change will land on relieved ears if she’s elected to District 6, which includes — in addition to Pinellas Park and Seminole — all Pinellas beaches south of Indian Rocks.
Kedron, who holds both a doctorate and a law degree, left teaching at USF-SP and Ringling last year. She’s currently a business consultant at Mighty Oak Collaborative.
So far, no other Dem has declared candidacy for this office. Incumbent John Morroni announced last year he would not seek reelection, and thus far three Republicans — Kathleen Peters, Barb Haselden and Larry Ahern (currently a state representative) — have thrown their hats in the ring. (We wrote this about the three Republican candidates: “Ahern was an early Trump supporter, Haselden helped block Greenlight Pinellas in 2014, and Peters says she wants to challenge the state legislature’s constant attempts to wrest power from local lawmakers” — so this should be fun.)
We interviewed Kedron; here’s what she had to say.
Why are you running?
Because my area of expertise is in community economic development and I have a passion for helping businesses, organizations and municipalities grow in a way that respects the environment, strengthens communities and creates economic prosperity for everyone. I have researched, taught and implemented solutions in these areas and one of the best ways to effectuate change right now is at the county level.
You talk about being prepared for sea level rise. How do you propose we do that, and how can we do it when we have a governor and a president who refuse to discuss climate change?
First and foremost it is important to have leaders who are brave enough to admit that climate change is an issue. The sooner we can do this the sooner we can prepare ourselves. Harvard University has done excellent research to find solutions to sea level rise such as elevating streets, improving drainage infrastructure and planting additional mangroves, trees, grasses and utilizing other nature-based solutions to drain floodwater and create beautiful public spaces. We also need solutions that are rooted in community resilience, which strengthens community organizations and empowers people to play an active role in climate preparedness. This is why my campaign slogan is “Come Together Right Now!” There is strength in community. We also need to address the root causes of climate change and look for ways to reduce our carbon footprint. This is why building more pedestrian and bike-friendly streets is part of my platform. We need to implement urban planning solutions that emphasize density and walkability so that we are less dependent on carbon-intensive markets. When I ran Buffalo First a decade ago we devoted resources to educating businesses and the public about cost-effective and easy ways to go green, which can easily be implemented here.
How can beach communities can go green?
In my experience with working to build a green economy the “how” can be as important than the “what” in going green. Greening markets and communities significantly changes cultural habits and we need to make sure that we are doing it in positive ways that everyone can embrace such as focusing on public education, cost savings and incentives as opposed to swift mandates. There are great opportunities to focus in on this area including incentivizing alternatives to single-use plastics, encouraging public and alternative transportation and making solar energy accessible. We should also continue to work on improvements to our sewer system. Increasing sewage overflows are hastened by rising sea levels, population growth and increasing storm strength.
How does beach renourishment factor into sea level rise? Is it a solution and why or why not?
I am happy to be asked this question because it is a difficult one and we need public servants who are capable of looking at challenges such as sea level rise as an environmental, economic and community issue. As sea levels rise we will encounter more beach erosion. First, there are proactive measures we can take to stem beach erosion in some circumstances such as planting mangroves and sea grass. Also other states are making great strides on the issue of beach erosion, which we can consider adopting in Pinellas. Beach renourishment is a very sensitive issue and needs to be addressed according to the distinct needs of each locality. We know that beach erosion can damage the tourism industry and property values, but if renourishment is not done properly it can also damage our delicate ecosystem. Renourishment is also not always the most fiscally conservative measure to take either, so we need to focus on solutions that are fiscally responsible and sustainable. As commissioner I will work to make sure that we will access the best research and policies on this issue and that we are addressing erosion on a case-by-case basis that involves as many stakeholders in the decision-making process as possible. I think that the communities that are dealing with erosion and renourishment need to work together to address erosion at a regional level, rather than fight each other for limited resources. Sand does not respect political boundaries.
Who are you biggest donors so far?
Friends, family and the business owners that I helped throughout my career. It pays to be good to people.
Pinellas went red in the last presidential election; how will you appeal to those voters?
By focusing on common ground. There is more that unites us than divides us. We all want safe communities, meaningful work and a healthy environment. At this time in history, especially, we need leaders who can bring us together.
What would Buffalo First look like in District 6?
Buffalo First was a social enterprise that worked with concerned citizens and small business owners to build an economy focused on people, the planet and our shared prosperity. We helped strengthen the local economy by sourcing more goods and services locally and we worked to educate businesses and consumers about ways that they could make more environmentally sustainable decisions and strengthen the local community. Buffalo First was also a founding board member of the Partnership for the Public Good, which works to build a more just, sustainable, and culturally vibrant community through research, policy development, and citizen engagement. The greatest thing about this work is it is impactful and easy to apply anywhere, especially Pinellas County. My goal is to make Pinellas a model of what a thriving, sustainable community should be and inspire visitors from all over the world to apply some of these methods back home.
Contact Cathy Salustri here.