Kriseman, council members sworn in on Tuesday in St. Pete

It's official!

click to enlarge For the second time as mayor, recently-reelected Rick Kriseman takes the oath of office on the steps of St. Pete City Hall next to his wife, Kerry Kriseman. - Dinorah Prevost
Dinorah Prevost
For the second time as mayor, recently-reelected Rick Kriseman takes the oath of office on the steps of St. Pete City Hall next to his wife, Kerry Kriseman.

There was no ignoring the 50-degree weather in downtown St. Pete on Tuesday. At his own swearing-in ceremony in front of St. Pete City Hall, even recently reelected Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to keep his speech brief because of the “wintery weather.”

Kriseman was sworn in for his second term after defeating former mayor Rick Baker in a bitter and surprisingly partisan race that culminated last November.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Democrat, and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, a Republican, were among the local politicians to attend the ceremony.

In his speech on the steps of City Hall after taking the oath of office, Kriseman touted major projects underway in St. Pete: two new museums, the new 26-acre St. Pete Pier and the new police headquarters, all of which are scheduled to open in 2018 or early 2019.

He highlighted the ongoing efforts to improve the city’s at-times inefficient sewage system, an issue that became a political football for Kriseman and Baker over the election cycle.

click to enlarge The St. Petersburg City Council, left to right: Council members Amy Foster, Brandi Gabbard, Ed Montanari, Steve Kornell, Gina Driscoll, Charlie Gerdes, Lisa Wheeler-Bowman and Darden Rice. - Dinorah Prevost
Dinorah Prevost
The St. Petersburg City Council, left to right: Council members Amy Foster, Brandi Gabbard, Ed Montanari, Steve Kornell, Gina Driscoll, Charlie Gerdes, Lisa Wheeler-Bowman and Darden Rice.

“Over $100 million has already been spent increasing our treatment capacity and reducing the amount of storm water that enters our wastewater system,” Kriseman said. “My hope is that this issue will be less of a political football…”

The city plans to spend more than $200 million on improvements through 2021.

Kriseman also reasserted St. Petersburg’s status as a progressive city.

“Today we are a St. Pete of green initiatives… A St. Pete where 20,000 strong marched along our waterfront for women’s rights and for every other right Donald Trump wishes to deny us of,” Kriseman said. “Literally today, we are a city where for the first time a majority of our council members are women.”

Earlier Tuesday morning, two new female City Council members, Brandi Gabbard and Gina Driscoll, were sworn in, making City Council majority female, five women to three men. Gabbard and Driscoll join female council members Darden Rice, Amy Foster and Lisa Wheeler-Bowman.

click to enlarge Newly inaugurated St. Petersburg Councilwoman Gina Driscoll hugs new colleague Steve Kornell as Amy Foster, another new colleague, looks on. - Dinorah Prevost
Dinorah Prevost
Newly inaugurated St. Petersburg Councilwoman Gina Driscoll hugs new colleague Steve Kornell as Amy Foster, another new colleague, looks on.

“(I’m) happy to be on the end of a five-three minority,” said council member Steve Kornell, who also called 2018 “the year of the woman.”

Wheeler-Bowman was also sworn in as 2018 Council Chair, replacing Darden Rice.

“I’m so honored to be part of history not only council...but also I’m part of the trifecta, as they’re calling it (of African American officials chairing key regional boards), Wheeler-Bowman said.

In 2018, for the first time, three African Americans, Wheeler-Bowman, Ken Welch and Rene Flowers, will chair St. Petersburg City Council, the Pinellas County Commission and the Pinellas County School Board, respectively, in the same year. 

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