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Chief equity officer resigns after 23 days

Mark Parker

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Lenice C. Emanuel served as St. Petersburg's inaugural chief equity officer for less than a month before submitting her resignation. Photo: Facebook.

An executive position that took over two years to implement and fill is once again vacant as St. Petersburg’s first chief equity officer resigned 23 days after starting the role.

Mayor Ken Welch announced he selected Lenice C. Emanuel to serve as the city’s chief equity officer Sept. 25. Her first day at City Hall was Oct. 2.

Emanuel submitted her resignation – effective immediately – Oct. 25. “Thank you for the opportunity to serve as the city’s inaugural chief equity officer,” she wrote in the succinct letter addressed to Welch and obtained by the Catalyst. “Wishing you and your team the very best in your future endeavors.”

Emanuel did not respond to requests for comment.

Councilmember Deborah Figgs-Sanders said she and her colleagues learned of Emanuel’s departure Oct. 26. City officials discussed plans to redevelop Tropicana Field and the Historic Gas Plant District later that day.

At the meeting, Welch reiterated the expansive project’s goal is to fulfill long-broken promises to the predominantly Black community that once called the Gas Plant home. Local historian Gwendolyn Reese, president of the African American Heritage Association of St. Petersburg, previously noted that Emanuel’s selection came a week after city administrators and the Tampa Bay Rays/Hines development group reached a redevelopment agreement.

“I think all of this just ties together so beautifully,” Reese said in September.

Emanuel walked away from the cabinet position – and its $185,000 annual salary – less than a month later. She did not return requests for comment.

City Spokesperson Alizza Punzalan-Randle said administrators “immediately” started the process to fill the position. “We wish her (Emanuel) success in her future endeavors,” Punzalan-Randle said in a prepared statement.

“The chief equity officer role supports Mayor Welch’s intentional push for inclusive progress.”

Figgs-Sanders expressed her surprise and disappointment over Emanuel’s abrupt departure. She believed Emanuel could affect positive changes in city operations.

After her selection, Emanuel called the opportunity a “great honor.” She previously served as executive director of the Alabama Institute for Social Justice.

Emanuel said she looked forward to starting a new journey with a community she has “long loved.” She became the first Black president of the Young Women’s Christian Association Tampa Bay in 2010.

Emanuel led the organization until 2015. She then moved to Alabama and helped pass the Childcare Safety Act.

St. Petersburg’s landmark 2021 Structural Racism Study urged city officials to establish a chief equity officer position. However, voters rejected two charter amendments to create and fund the role in November 2021.

Former Mayor Rick Kriseman pledged to continue taking steps to implement the position until he left office in January 2022. Welch announced he created the role in May.

Figgs-Sanders said she “patiently waited” for a chief equity officer and looked forward to forging a relationship with the new executive. “I don’t think this is going to totally slow down some of the changes that need to be made,” she said.

“We just need to be mindful and continue the search,” Figgs-Sanders added. “But yeah, I was really disappointed. I really don’t know what happened, but it was something that our city needed.”

Figgs-Sanders believes a national search could identify someone with a fresh, outside perspective. However, she also stressed the importance of understanding local history and issues.

She said the Gas Plant’s $6.5 billion redevelopment “definitely calls for lived experiences.” Figgs-Sanders believes Emanuel could have provided a “critical” voice for former residents and their descendants through the monumental project.

“She (Emanuel) lived here; she knew St. Pete,” Figgs-Sanders said. “She established a lot of relationships with those who were impacted by the Gas Plant project. I think she would have really been instrumental.”

 

 

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jeanne Roney

    November 1, 2023at11:59 am

    Sad to realize that her position of $185,000. could actually pay for, 3.3 teacher’s salaries, 4.2 Police Cadets, or 2.9 Firemen.

  2. Avatar

    Carol E Workley

    November 1, 2023at5:53 am

    I’m with Thomas Bowley on this one. I want to know how much she was paid to accept this position in the first place.

  3. Avatar

    Darrell Nation

    October 31, 2023at1:39 pm

    I would love to see the community wait for more details before everyone starts slinging mud …

  4. Avatar

    Mike

    October 31, 2023at11:50 am

    It warms my heart to see this person reject the racist lies of diversity inclusion and belonging narratives. Good for her in choosing the right thing by rejecting welchs racist upside down worldview of victimization and a nanny state and subsequently pursuing her dreams. You go girl! Go do something productive.

  5. Avatar

    Chad

    October 31, 2023at11:45 am

    This money could go to something that can actually affect change, and could be used to hire at least 2 police officers. We have 6 traffic cops in all of St Pete. 6! No wonder people drive like garbage! You want to make things more equal? Get more police around town to help stop crime in the poor neighborhoods.

  6. Avatar

    Barry Koestler

    October 30, 2023at11:39 pm

    What is the real reason for this resignation after less than a month? Keep Saint Pete local.

  7. Avatar

    Laura

    October 30, 2023at9:00 pm

    She didn’t even give two weeks notice. Very unprofessional. That was the best they could do after a two year search? This administration’s personnel record is extremely poor.

  8. Avatar

    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    October 30, 2023at8:59 pm

    Exactly what is the job description??? Do we need this position? Will it reduce racism in this City???

  9. Avatar

    Thomas J Bowley

    October 30, 2023at8:37 pm

    As a taxpayer,I would like to know…rather like to see the contract for her employment.
    Namely, how much was the signing bonus and how much pay did she recieve for 23 days. I count 19 workdays from Oct. 2nd to Oct. 26th.
    I suspect there is much more to this story.

  10. Avatar

    Ryan Todd

    October 30, 2023at4:24 pm

    I’m so happy to hear that this position is vacant once again. Voters said “No”, but Welch still funded the position. I’m happy this particular hire realizes St. Pege is a city of equal opportunity and not equitable outcomes.

  11. Avatar

    Michael

    October 30, 2023at10:38 am

    $185k of taxpayers’ money for the salary associated with this role? RIDICULOUS!

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