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Catalyze 2024: Mayor Ken Welch

Mark Parker



We’re asking thought leaders, business people and creatives to talk about the upcoming new 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.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch has some “good problems” to address in 2024.

Foremost is creating a small, minority and women-owned business pipeline to ensure the city can meet its 30% hiring goal throughout the Historic Gas Plant’s redevelopment. Welch also plans to raise awareness of the generational project’s career opportunities for residents.

“In all of Tampa Bay, I don’t think we have the businesses that are ready to participate to meet that goal,” Welch said. “So, to me, it’s all about capacity building and partnerships.”

However, he is not taking the $6.5 billion project for granted. Welch noted that the city council must still approve multiple agreements this spring.

The mayor compared that process to passing the city’s billion-dollar budget. Welch explained that he and Administrator Rob Gerdes listen to council members’ priorities and would present recommended agreements that incorporate their feedback.

“After we get the approval from council, God willing, we want to focus on getting folks ready to participate in the economic progress that will be coming for the next couple of decades,” Welch added.

He said Pinellas Technical College, St. Petersburg College (SPC) and the Pinellas County Urban League are part of his all-hands-on-deck approach. Tonjua Williams, president of SPC, has discussed creating an “educational ecosystem”; Welch wants to involve high school students.

Residents will see movement on other significant projects in 2024. City officials unveiled proposals from two companies vying to redevelop and operate the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina in July.

That was the last time residents heard an update on an estimated $50 million to $70 million project first discussed in 2017. Welch noted the proposal process began under the previous mayoral administration and encountered well-documented challenges.

“It hasn’t been on the back burner at all,” Welch said. “I’m looking forward to us resolving the marina issue and going to council with a recommendation.”

Welch said he would also focus on his staff’s capacity in the new year. While he called the influx of new growth and redevelopment “a good problem,” he realizes administrators have their hands full.

“We haven’t really increased our personnel count … and so I’m really impressed by the amount of work they’ve done,” Welch added. “At some point, we’ll have to add staff.”

He noted the budget includes $1 million in Gas Plant contingency funding. While Welch did not say that could go towards new hires, he added that the “worst thing you can do is overburden folks with a project that is this important.”

Welch also said City Hall has reached its capacity. He plans to carefully examine the historic building’s burgeoning issues – and potential solutions – in the future.

St. Petersburg continues evolving. Welch, a native, said the focus is now keeping residents rather than attracting them to the city.

Welch said he has “never seen this level of activity and excitement” emanating from St. Petersburg. However, he called that a “double-edged sword.”

“We kind of got what we’ve been asking for the last 30 or 40 years,” Welch said. “But we have to make sure we’re focused on maintaining that accessibility for everybody.”

A new department coming online in 2024 could help achieve that goal. While St. Petersburg’s first chief equity officer resigned after 23 days, Welch is confident in Carl Lavender’s ability to establish a solid foundation.

Lavender, the interim chief equity officer, filled the same role at the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg. He also served as that organization’s interim co-CEO before retiring in June.

Welch said Lavender would soon hire an education and youth director and an office of community impact director. Those additions will complete the equity office’s team.

“He (Lavender) will be with us as long as he would like to because he’s doing a fantastic job,” Welch said.

He expressed pride in what administrators and council members accomplished in 2023. Welch noted the Gas Plant’s term sheet arrived on schedule, they lowered millage rates, implemented innovative housing solutions and rallied to help residents affected by Hurricane Idalia.

He also credited the thousands of residents who participated in community forums. Welch said St. Petersburg’s stakeholders showed the “power in partnerships.”

“We need to continue to have honest and transparent conversations, whether it’s an issue like equity or education,” he said. “And we really need to have some candid conversations on the impact of sea level rise.”





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  1. Avatar

    Ryan Todd

    January 3, 2024at9:51 am

    Ken Welch continues to widen the chasm between himself and the citizens of St. Pete. He is out-of-step with us on the Trop redevelopment, the Moffitt development, Alfred Whitted, and his quest for equity.

    Kill the Trop deal and Recall Welch!!

  2. Avatar


    January 3, 2024at12:14 am

    Ken Welch is a career politician dedicated to redistributing wealth through any means possible. He truly believes he can reinvent the human condition and force everyone into his model community of woke folks happily sharing everything they have and subscribing to his belief that racism is worse than it really is, that equity will solve all problems and that diversity is Nirvana.
    He simply forgets that humans have individual thoughts and opinions about all that and, try as he might, he will never succeed in forcing economic and cultural socialism upon the citizens of Pinellas County (where he sat on the board of commissioners) and now as mayor of St. Petersburg. Unfortunately elections do have consequences and he does have a powerful cabal behind his aspirations. He is every bit as autocratic as Trump and is successful in selling his brand to the suckers among us who believe he will bring them something for nothing.
    Actually his goal is to take from the successful and give to those who have not accepted responsibility and accountability.
    That is why we need “an office of community impact director.” Ha!
    “Welch also plans to raise awareness of the generational project’s career opportunities for residents.” Ha! Quite the self-styled social engineer. Well, “We” voted for him, “We” get what we deserve.
    “But we have to make sure we’re focused on maintaining that accessibility for everybody.” Sure we do, because those that can’t will be given, whether they work for it or not.
    As long as Welch is mayor, we will never “have honest and transparent conversations.”

  3. Avatar

    Steve D

    January 1, 2024at10:39 pm

    Uh… what about what cities are supposed to do… namely… cleaning the streets, removing graffiti, and filling potholes. During the holidays, we heard a group of visitors compare the filth of St. Pete to Baltimore and Detroit. Trust me…. That wasn’t a compliment!

  4. Avatar

    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    January 1, 2024at8:01 pm

    I agree, SunRunner was a huge waste of funds. I have no idea what to do with it. The busses can be used to transport to the new Rays stadium if SunRunner runs its course.2024 will be challenging but I believe the Mayor is ready to lead.

  5. Avatar

    Laurell Leverock Kimbrough

    January 1, 2024at6:01 pm

    Hard to focus on new projects when the Sunrunner project annoys me everytime I am driving east/west. I rarely see anyone using it. I don’t know how much that cost the taxpayers but I would never have voted for it.

  6. Avatar

    Katie Ramsberger

    January 1, 2024at4:37 pm

    Please curtail the condo tower building. Can the city infrastructure handle all this construction? It’s out of control.
    Really , let’s concentrate on workforce housing for folks that have jobs in the community and not out of state folks who want to vacation here. It’s not good for the community long term and will be difficult to retain a work force.

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