Dr. Kanika Tomalin helped form the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg before serving two terms as St. Petersburg’s deputy mayor; she is now relishing a “full circle moment.”
The Foundation’s board announced Monday that it named Tomalin the nonprofit’s new president and CEO. She emerged from a nationwide search that included extensive community outreach.
Following the announcement, Tomalin expressed her passion for equity – particularly health equity – and how that enables cities and residents to reach their potential. She noted both are critical tenets of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg’s (FHSP) mission and called the opportunity to lead the organization through its next chapter “transformational.”
“Not only as it relates to my career, but the possibilities it holds for our community,” Tomalin added. “I’m extremely excited.”
Tomalin joined Bayfront Health System over 20 years ago, eventually becoming its vice president of strategic planning and public affairs. Proceeds from the city’s sale of the nonprofit Bayfront Medical Center, now known as Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, served as seed funding for FHSP.
The organization launched in 2013 and oversees $164 million in assets to promote health equity by advancing racial and social equity. Its website states that FHSP “acts as a connector, a listener and a source of fuel that accelerates the already powerful work being done” to accomplish that goal in the city.
“I’ve been involved with the Foundation since its infancy,” Tomalin said. “My work at Bayfront included serving on the team that initially conceived of this conversion Foundation when we were determining Bayfront’s long-term future.
“Now, in this full-circle moment, I’ll be able to come back to that good work and help chart the course for the Foundation’s future.”
Tomalin then served as St. Petersburg’s second in command for eight years under Mayor Rick Kriseman. She also spent four years as the city administrator.
She noted that experience provided access and exposure to, and allowed her to lead and craft, systems that guide the city’s quality of life. Tomalin said working with county, state and private sector leaders to establish community trajectories also provided a “wonderful readiness” for her new role.
Due to that experience, Tomalin is already “intimately familiar” with initiatives – and the people overseeing them – that she hopes to advance.
According to FHSP’s announcement, over 175 people shared ideas and priorities regarding a new leader’s ideal qualifications and background. Those included executive experience, integrity, relationship building and community engagement.
Those factors helped shape the nationwide search conducted by Winner Partners. Tomalin said the firm recruited her for the position.
FHSP’s board began their search after Randall Russell resigned in November 2022. They placed him on administrative leave amid unspecified concerns regarding his leadership.
While not speaking to Randall’s situation, Tomalin noted that financial stewardship is a “preeminent priority” for FHSP officials. She also pledged to maintain that commitment.
“I think my history with the Foundation vests me with a deep respect for the importance of this work, how critical it is for the overall goals for our community,” Tomalin elaborated. “And places within me a deep understanding of the source of this money and why we need it to work so hard and so effectively in the ways it is being deployed.”
Tomalin will join FHSP in June and currently serves as Eckerd College’s chief operating officer and vice president for strategy. She noted a strategic focus for the college is bolstering connections in meaningful ways.
She expressed her gratitude for the position and how it allows her to maintain a community presence. Tomalin also relayed her pride in the Foundation’s recently relaunched Center for Health Equity.
The reimagined Center opened in January following a pandemic-induced hiatus. The South St. Pete facility provides space and resources where people from various backgrounds can collaboratively imagine and deploy solutions to increase equity. She credited Marcus Brooks’ “visionary leadership” for the successful relaunch.
“I think there remains an opportunity to align programming that happens in the Center with the strategical goals of the Foundation and the overall needs of the community,” Tomalin said. “It’s been an impressive effort … and I look forward to continuing to work there to elevate that important initiative.”
Tomalin plans to listen and learn from FHSP’s “talented team of experts” once she assumes leadership in June. She believes Carol Martin and Carl Lavender, co-interim CEOs, have excelled at maintaining the organization’s momentum.
Tomalin stressed the importance of stakeholder engagement and wants to ensure they understand FHSP’s next chapter. She also plans to provide a clear view of what the Foundation’s success requires.
“It’s one of the most important roles an executive can play in our community,” Tomalin said. “And it’s my honor to answer this call to serve.”