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Catalyze 2024: J.C. Pritchett II

Mark Parker

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We’re asking thought leaders, business people and creatives to talk about the upcoming year and give us catalyzing ideas for making St. Pete a better place to live. What should our city look like? What are their hopes, their plans, their problem-solving ideas? This is Catalyze 2024.

Despite prevalent contrarian perceptions, Rev. J.C. Pritchett II believes people have more commonalities in life than divisions.

Pritchett, the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club’s first Black president and current executive director, plans to prove that point in 2024. He also wants to reassert the organization’s status as a nonpartisan forum for constructive conversations.

“I literally believe that we are the public square,” Pritchett said. “We have transitioned from the theme … of  ‘carving up politicians’ to be the public square because these conversations around candidates, elections and policy are important – and never more so than in 2024.”

Founded in 1978, St. Petersburg’s Tiger Bay affiliate built a reputation as an expansive and influential political club. However, the pandemic brought financial challenges for an organization based on in-person meetings as partisan divides seemingly expanded.

Pritchett is well aware of the recent misperception that the club has an increasingly left-leaning agenda. The prominent community advocate was himself a registered Republican from 1988 until 2016, and noted he worked under conservative local officials.

“The Republican Party is the party of Abraham Lincoln,” Pritchett said. “I have been a Republican 90% of my life, and all parties are welcome to the club. We have Republicans on our board of directors.”

He noted intentional efforts to create programming that fosters diverse opinions as Tiger Bay transitioned back to in-person meetings. Pritchett plans to increase opportunities for cross-aisle conversations in the new year.

Talks regarding the Tropicana Field and Historic Gas Plant District redevelopment, affordable housing and transportation issues will continue. Pritchett also plans to feature local state representative and city council candidates and Presidential campaign surrogates in what he called Tiger Bay’s “most important year.”

Pritchett announced his idea for a summer “Politics in the Park” event. He envisions it as a picnic that provides a forum for area politicians and another opportunity for nonpartisan camaraderie.

Organizers would conduct an informal straw poll at the conclusion to gauge participant opinions. Pritchett believes recent Tiger Bay meetings have proved that people with varying ideologies and backgrounds can come together to move the area forward.

A Women’s History Month event featured Lisa Cane, a Republican school board member, and City Council Chair Brandi Gabbard, a Democrat. Pritchett noted Nadine Smith, one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People and a Black lesbian, led a presentation on equality.

“There are so many things that unite us – our families, our loved ones, Thanksgiving, Christmas, our faith,” Pritchett added. “That’s what unifies us. Not the differences that some will lift up to show we’re divided.”

He then expressed the importance of regionalism. Several current and former local leaders have recently opined whether the Tampa Bay Rays should change their name to include St. Petersburg; the topic is on the Dec. 14 city council agenda.

Pritchett believes regional commonalities – sports teams, schools, transportation and the environment – help overcome political divisions. “We have more in common than what separates us,” he stressed.

Pritchett announced that Tiger Bay would kick off its 46th year in grand fashion with its Jan. 4 with its “State of the Bay” event. The Vinoy Resort & Golf Club will host St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst Sr. at 5 p.m.

“Come and hang with the mayors and not have to rush in a beautiful five-star facility,” Pritchett said. “We’re going to talk about what unites us and what our issues are.”

Robert H. Miller, a former Republican speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives, has joined Tiger Bay’s board. Two young adults from St. Petersburg College’s Institute for Strategic Public Policy Solutions will join Miller in 2024, and Amy Shore, COO of R’ Club Child Care, will serve as Tiger Bay’s new president.

Pritchett called those additions “a big deal” that will help the organization build on its foundation. He said Tiger Bay must provide a critical resource in upcoming local, state and national elections, as he believes “democracy is at stake.”

“Then, as a regional entity and collective, we can find solutions,” Pritchett added. “Suncoast Tiger Bay is the one unique place that you can go and see Blacks and whites, Jews and Christians, men and women and young people and older people.”

 

 

 

 

 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    December 12, 2023at6:58 pm

    The Rays are a Regional baseball team and the name Tampa Bay Rays should remain.

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