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Community Voices: An open letter to Mayor Rick Kriseman

Sean Schrader

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Mayor Rick Kriseman visited the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus earlier this week. Photo by Mark Parker.

Welcome to the Catalyst’s Community Voices platform. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details.

Dear Mayor Kriseman,

Thank you for making an addition to your “Faring Well” tour: the University of South Florida St. Pete campus. It doesn’t seem like eight years ago that your tenure as Mayor was just about to commence. Although it’s saddening that your leadership for St. Petersburg is coming to a close, it’s exciting to reflect on your hard work in this community and realize the legacy you will be leaving both here, and across Tampa Bay, and your visit this week to USF St. Pete helped put that into perspective.

I consider myself pretty lucky to have the opportunity to inhabit the trifecta of cities, as I live in Clearwater, go to school in St. Petersburg and attend many events in Tampa. Aside from a lot of driving around, which can be difficult at times, visiting each city allows me to understand its significance in this community, and more importantly the role it plays in providing support to those who call it home. It can be hard to sum up in a few words, but St. Petersburg offers such a unique opportunity to live and work in the same city, while promoting inclusivity in the process.

For example, my freshman year, I had the opportunity to Intern for Congressman Charlie Crist at his downtown location. This was an invaluable experience, getting to understand the inner workings of the federal government, and how the work I did related to my major of business management, all while being less than 10 minutes away from USF St. Pete. I have many friends and colleagues that travel many miles each day to get around from work, to school and back home, and for me to have this opportunity so close was wonderful.

It also does not hurt that many great ice cream shops on Beach Drive are within walking distance of USF St. Pete, so I can have the ice cream, and walk it off.

As I and many other students prepare to graduate and enter the workforce, it is reassuring to know that opportunities exist within this community for our talents to best be utilized.

Bike riding has always been one of my favorite hobbies, as it’s great exercise, and you have an opportunity to immerse yourself directly in the environment. However, not everyone feels the same way, and in many cities, multimodal transportation has never made the transition from concept to reality. In St. Petersburg, through the implementation of the Complete Streets program, it has ensured that transportation is not only done by car, and more importantly, it provides access for those who may not have a car and prefer to walk or bike instead. I think this program is especially exciting for a college community, and at USF St. Pete, through the Complete Streets Program, it ensures that access to downtown is very seamless all while promoting safety in the process.

There is a wealth of knowledge that you can obtain in the classroom. However, I have always believed that getting opportunities to understand a career firsthand allow for the knowledge you’ve attained to be applied in the real world. At USF St. Pete, many opportunities have existed throughout your tenure for students to interact with you directly, whether that’s been through speaking with students in political science courses or hosting students for the Day at City Hall event. Your willingness to be actively involved on this campus, and with students, is admirable, as it is helping to support our next generation of leaders.

Although this in my senior year at USF St. Pete, when I started as a freshman, I did not have much interest in student government, or student affairs. However, as the Covid-19 pandemic came into full effect, I thought I could make a difference through service in student government, and also connect students into the Tampa Bay community. Although I’ve had the opportunity to interact with you at several Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meetings, and through your tour to the campus, I hoped it would give a chance for students to understand the impact you are leaving here in St. Petersburg, as well as how you’ve demonstrated leadership.

I’m very happy to report your visit has sparked youth interest in St. Pete, and an interest to help make a positive difference for others.

Thank you for your willingness to lead St. Pete over the past eight years. Through the exciting and challenging times, it has been quite a journey, but above all else, thank you for including USF St. Pete in that journey.

Sean Schrader is a University of South Florida Student Government Senator.

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