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Bill Carlson talks creativity, value and collaboration in the midst of crisis

Megan Holmes



The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce presents: Coronavirus Impact Insights. Click the play arrow above to watch the full video. Video coming soon. 

On this episode, Bill Carlson, Tampa City Council Member and president of Tucker/Hall joins Chris Steinocher, CEO of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Joe Hamilton, publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst.

But first, as usual, Steinocher takes listeners through the Florida Chamber Scorecard for Pinellas County. He says the outlook is optimistic, as the percent of positive tests cases hovers at less than 2 percent, despite the 14-day average of positive cases continuing to increase. “But we’re not out of the woods yet,” Steinocher says.

The positive cases now sit at 20.6 per day, just short of Pinellas County’s peak of 25 positive cases per day in April, though testing has widely expanded since then.

Carlson, who joined Tucker/Hall in the 1990s, was one of the early promoters of downtown St. Petersburg. Carlson helped build a communication strategy around St. Pete arts and culture back when the city was considered something of a ghost town.

Despite his extensive work and volunteerism in St. Petersburg, last year Carlson won a seat on the Tampa City Council. When COVID-19 shuttered businesses and public meetings, Tampa City Council was forced to take a 2-3 week hiatus. Thanks to an order by Governor Ron DeSantis, local governments have been able to meet virtually, but Tampa expects to resume in-person meetings in June.

Because of the Council’s limited capacity to govern during the crisis, Carlson says Tampa Mayor Jane Castor has been running the show. Still, Carlson says constituent and neighborhood concerns are at a high while more people have been spending time at home and in their own neighborhoods.

The Tampa Bay region took staying home seriously, Carlson says, even with strong political leadership in St. Petersburg and Tampa, residents make the decision to stay home on their own. Carlson attributes this to the culture of our region, though he hopes that Tampa Bay doesn’t go for a second round of lockdowns as cases rise. He points to Singapore, where he spent five years as a Rotary Scholar, where a second, far stricker lockdown is already underway.

Carlson urges companies and organizations to took at the opportunities ahead to understand the real value they are providing customers, even if the transmission of that value has changed.

He explains some takeaways for the City of St. Pete, whose identity is wrapped around the idea of collaboration. In St. Pete, he says, we all must do our part to ensure that collaboration continues online, until it can commence once again in person.

“St. Pete is a place where everyone can be who they want to be,” Carlson says. “It’s authentic.” He explains that businesses, nonprofits and other organizations can learn something from that, tap into their own essence and translate it into a new environment. Applying positive and creativity, Carlson says cities like St. Pete can solve problems and create partnerships to fulfill the visions for the future, if only we are willing to be aggressive and assertive about connecting people with intention.


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