As a St. Petersburg native whose love for his city has never wavered, Torry Nelson believes he’s uniquely qualified to be its next mayor.
Nelson, 43, entered the race June 18, just seven hours before the qualifying deadline. The last-minute candidate has no political experience, although as an entrepreneur he has helped countless citizens though his business efforts.
Essentially, Nelson says, it comes down to this: “I’m a people person. I love people and I’m very un-biased. I just love helping people, and I get a good feeling when I can earn a living and actually help people at the same time. There’s no greater feeling.”
In 2010, he opened a homeless shelter, converting a nine-bedroom home in a residential neighborhood into a community group home. He called his business Stepping Stone Housing. “I was able to take 10 families off the street for month,” he says. “All I had to pay was my mortgage, lights and water. It came out to about $1,500 a month.”
He quarreled with the city over zoning and code issues – “I was young, hard-headed and stubborn,” he admits, “but I harbor no ill will and no animosity.”
He operated Stepping Stone for 10 years. “I’ve been battle-tested from my experience of founding and operating the shelter,” he explains. “Every department you can name, I’ve dealt with that for 10 years. And I love it because they battle-tested me and they prepared me to do this job.”
A graduate of Lakewood High School and St. Pete College, Nelson as a younger man had several run-ins with the law; he certainly isn’t proud of his youthful indiscretions, which included convictions for battery and drug possession, but insists he learned from them. They made him a better person.
He earned a BA in recreation and sports management from Henderson State University in Arkansas, and studied law.
His current business is called Department of Advisors, LLC; according to Nelson’s website, the company “has helped fund over a half million dollars for local St. Petersburg businesses and individuals during the global Covid-19 pandemic crisis.”
Among the most pressing issues commanding his attention these days are gun violence and the environment (he’s staunchly against the former and a major cheerleader for the latter).
Then there’s the matter of a certain Major League Baseball team and its future in St. Pete. “I’m scheduled to meet on the 22nd with the Rays’ public affairs officer, so I can get a little better perspective on what they’re experiencing and how they feel,” Nelson says.
“I feel that if there’s a way we can keep our team here, I would keep it because we don’t know when we’ll be able to get another professional team in our city. And I want us to be the number one city in the whole world, not just the nation.”