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Mayor fills key positions following departures

Mark Parker

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Mayor Ken Welch speaks during a Sept. 8 press conference at the St. Petersburg Police Department. Screengrab.

A city representative confirmed Wednesday morning that St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch will announce high-profile appointments to his administration today. 

The new hires follow resignations from his communications director and second-in-command nearly two weeks ago amid bullying allegations. Welch will only fill one of those roles, as he announced his intention to eliminate the position of deputy mayor – formerly held by Stephanie Owens – in a Sept. 8 press conference

According to a press release obtained by the Catalyst – which was later verified by St. Petersburg Police Department spokesperson Yolanda Fernandez – Jordan Doyle Walsh will become interim chief of staff. Welch previously said that person would oversee intergovernmental relations, strategic communications and policy initiatives, report directly to the mayor and work closely with City Administrator Rob Gerdes. 

After nearly 20 years, Erica Riggins is leaving her job as a morning news anchor with Spectrum Bay New 9 to become the city’s new public information officer. Janelle Irwin Taylor formerly served as communication director and announced her immediate resignation Sept. 1 due to claims of a hostile work environment. 

“I’m incredibly excited to announce these impactful appointments to our administration,” said Welch in a statement. “Their decades of work in the community will prove invaluable as we continue our mission towards inclusive progress.” 

In addition to Walsh and Riggins, Aliza Punzalan-Randle will serve as managing director for communications and community engagement. She has spent over two decades as a nonprofit executive and became chief development officer for the St. Pete Free Clinic in Feb. 2021. 

Shelly Loos will assume the role of director of stakeholder and community engagement. She is a former marketing executive who also managed political communications and floor operations at six previous Democratic National Conventions. 

“Collaborating with the community and key stakeholders is imperative to ensuring transparency and accountability at all levels of this administration,” said Welch. 

An eight-year veteran of local government, Walsh is no stranger to the mayor’s office. He formerly served as a senior adviser to Welch and participated in his campaign and transition team. 

Punzalan-Randle is a Leadership St. Pete, Leadership Knoxville and Tampa Bay Public Leadership Institute graduate. According to the release, she has also served on several area boards and advisory councils, such as the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, Pinellas County Urban League, Rotary Club of St. Petersburg and the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) Citizens Advisory Committee. 

Riggins won an Emmy for Outstanding Live Report, a national Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Documentary and the Pinellas County Urban League’s President’s Award. She is also an advisory board member for the Heart Gallery of Pinellas and Pasco Counties, a Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services program that helps find foster children permanent homes. 

According to the release, Loos also worked on Welch’s transition team and former President Bill Clinton’s Presidential Inauguration Committees. She also served as an aide in the Florida Legislature. 

“I look forward to working alongside our current and new team members to serve the people of our great city,” said Welch. “Continuing our partnership to build the St. Petersburg of the future while honoring those who were so instrumental in shaping our past.” 

 

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