Rev. Watson L. Haynes II is a household name and an unwavering voice for justice in St. Petersburg and throughout Pinellas County. Long before he was president and CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League, Haynes was a community activist and leader working for greater access to equitable education and fighting against drug addiction. If you're a reader of the Weekly Challenger, you've likely seen his guest editorials on more than a few occasions. Now, seven years into his position at the PCUL, Haynes sees no end date in sight to the good work his organization is doing. He's determined to leave a profound and lasting legacy in his native city.
Years in St. Pete
My entire life.
Organizations involved in
I’m involved in everything from being a member of the St. Pete Chamber board to working with Eckerd College. Various organizations within Pinellas County.
What gets you out of bed every day?
Why St. Pete?
Because I love St. Pete. I’ve had opportunities to move from St. Pete but something just demanded that I stay. I’m here to do things – to serve.
What is one habit that you keep?
Reading. I read a lot, buy a lot of books. I’m not allowed to go in book stores anymore. My wife will go with me to the mall and if I look at a bookstore she says, “Do not look and do not go.” Being a minister I do a lot of biblical study.
Who are some people that influence you?
I grew up in a neighborhood where when we were kids, my sisters and I and my brothers, had to go and take Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner out to the elderly people in the neighborhood. If you take food to an elderly person, you know you’re not going to go and leave immediately. We learned service just by that simple rule – serve those who cannot serve themselves. Get as much information and advice and counsel from them. So I was counseled by elderly people most of my life. You can name some of the leading people in this community who are now deceased who had an influence in my life.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
I’ve always lived by teamwork, loyalty, and professionalism.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
What I knew three years ago is that if I put the additional time and effort, the organization would grow…I’ve always worked, since I was 14 years old. I knew that if I was not in Pinellas County, I would not be doing as many hours as I do. That’s because you don’t have to worry when it’s somewhere else but I’ve learned that whatever the challenge was, it didn’t become a challenge to me. It was just something to conquer and move forward on.
I’m going on a cruise, that will be the third vacation that I’ve had in my entire life. The cruise seemed to be the one that would keep me from showing up in the office or keep me from sitting up at night doing things. I plan on not bringing anything except a few exciting reading materials.
My next is to continue to do some of the things I’m doing. The CEO at the Miami Urban League is 83. He’s been in the Urban League Movement for 53 years. I said, “When are you going to retire?” He said, “Here’s my formula, if I go to work for three days and I don’t like it, I’m retiring.” So I said, I like that. I like his formula.
My next step is to continue to grow this Urban League to an independent corporation to the point where it can call its own shots.