The Suncoast Tiger Bay Club hosted elected officials to help celebrate its 44th year as a non-partisan public square for civic discourse at its annual Year in Review.
During Tuesday night’s event at Sea Salt St. Pete, the organization’s leadership also announced its new officers. Rev. J.C. Pritchett II made Tiger Bay history last year as he became its first Black President and will now serve as executive director.
The club’s leadership elected former Pinellas County School Board member Nicole Carr as the new president. Mayor Ken Welch addressed attendees and noted his final task after a busy day was to read over four proposals for the “transformative” redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District and Tropicana Field.
“I’m amazed at those proposals – and we’re going to bump Tampa out of the picture soon,” said Welch to the crowd’s delight.
“But that’s going to allow us to address so many issues; whether it’s minority contracting, paying homage to the history of the Gas Plant, where I grew up, our need for office space and housing – all those things can happen from that.”
Welch said that while new challenges arise, St. Petersburg is starting to meet his parents’ aspirations. Despite the partisan conflicts permeating state and federal government, he believes city leaders still come together to get things done.
Newly elected State Rep. Lindsay Cross noted her extensive background in environmental science and nearly two decades of community involvement. She believes the bay and park system are vital assets for the city’s quality of life and can propel workforce development and STEM (science, technology, education and mathematics) programming.
Another focus during her time in office, said Cross, is ensuring access to affordable medical care. That includes addressing behavioral and mental health challenges “from our younger members of society, all the way up to our senior citizens.”
The representative – whose District 60 encompasses parts of downtown, Lealman and Pinellas Park – relayed that she attended an insurance summit in Orlando earlier that day. State leadership announced Tuesday that legislators would meet next week for a special session regarding an industry on the verge of collapse.
“I’m doing everything I can to educate myself and hear from constituents about their personal experiences with homeowners insurance,” said Cross. “So, that will be our first task, and it’s a really big one.”
Tiger Bay’s Year in Review
Suncoast Tiger Bay’s goal is to foster a better understanding of pressing public issues. It is one of 17 clubs statewide and takes pride in promoting non-partisan grassroots civic engagement in St. Petersburg.
The organization, founded in 1978, started its 44th year recovering from pandemic-induced financial difficulties and board disagreements. Despite those challenges, Pritchett called it “a great year” for Tiger Bay.
“After two years of Covid, we have had new members who are younger, black, brown, gay, Jewish, tall and short,” he said. “We are the public square for this region.”
At the onset of 2022, explained Pritchett, the club’s leadership set a course that led to growth, relevancy and “money in the bank.”
He reflected on several significant meetings throughout the year, from January’s State of the Bay event featuring Welch and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor to a meeting with the Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg and Brian Auld – where they discussed the team’s future. Pritchett added that Tiger Bay’s successes came without an executive director and “very few” volunteers.
Moving forward, he said the club no longer automatically bills members annually. An updated, new-look website will go live by Jan. 1, and meetings outside the St. Petersburg Yacht Club will continue and focus on building relationships.
In addition to Welch and Castor, Pritchett said Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard is participating in this year’s State of the Bay, held Jan. 3 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. If the club hopes to continue serving as the public square, concluded Pritchett, its “leadership example has to be different than what we see in other areas.”
“I don’t think the club could have survived this year without the hard work, commitment and dedication of J.C. Pritchett,” said Carr in her first public remarks as president. “We were left with three board members standing and J.C. carrying the heaviest of the weight.”
The 2023 Suncoast Tiger Bay officers include:
President – Nicole Carr, former Pinellas County School Board member.
Vice President – Amy Shore, director of development for R’ Club Childcare.
Secretary – Veatrice Farrell, executive director of Deuces Live.
New board members – Attorney David Moran and Ben Shirley Jr., regional director of economic self-sufficiency for the Department of Children and Family Services.