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This week – Friday at noon, to be exact – Mayor Rick Kriseman will deliver a final and virtual State of the City Address from the Palladium Theater, where his prior addresses were delivered to well-attended crowds in less interesting times. Residents should visit the City of St. Petersburg’s Facebook page at the scheduled time, or look for it on YouTube or St. Pete TV following the address.
Remarkably, an annual, public, State of the City Address is a new tradition in St. Pete, ushered in by Mayor Kriseman in 2014. In recent history, at least, such addresses were restricted to paying members at civic lunch banquets if they occurred at all.
Similarly, the swearing-in of the mayor, which occurs every four years, had always been confined to the city council chambers. This, too, has changed. On January 2, 2014, Mayor Kriseman said the following from the steps of City Hall, in front of a historic and diverse crowd bathed in St. Pete’s famous sunshine:
“Traditionally, the swearing-in of the mayor happens upstairs in Council Chambers, a regal room with space for a relative few – space quickly absorbed by family, friends and those closest to the city’s newest elected officials.
While I appreciate that tradition, I thought it was important to move to a space that could host all who care to come – a symbol of my commitment to move forward together as one community, and to do so in the sunshine.
And so today belongs to all of us. The doors of City Hall are open and the journey toward our collective vision has begun.”
Though we are just getting started in so many ways in St. Pete, we recognize our administration, and this era in St. Pete’s history, is now in the homestretch. On Friday, the mayor will speak directly to this, to how far we have come, to the work that remains and the decisions still to be made by him, and to his hopes for the future.
He will address Covid-19 and its impact on our residents and business owners, the need to maintain our commitment to building a culture of health and poverty reduction and our ongoing work to build an inclusive economy, the Tampa Bay Rays’ stadium saga (now in year 13), the success of the St. Pete Pier, sustainability, and our shared vision for the future as documented in StPete2050.
I have had the privilege of watching Rick Kriseman in action, up close, for 18 years, and as our mayor for more than seven. What I have learned from my view in the dugout is that much like our city, he never quits. No one is more persistent or dogged or works harder, and he will do so until that first Thursday in January of 2022 when a new mayor is sworn in.
With our continued focus on best practices related to Covid mitigation, our federal government’s renewed efforts related to vaccine distribution, and a little luck, I suspect the new tradition of publicly attended mayoral addresses will again draw a crowd that day, and be further evidence of our community’s resilience.
Kevin King is the Chief of Policy and Public Engagement in the City of St. Petersburg’s Mayor’s Office.