Whether it be the Pier District or talks of redeveloping the Tropicana Field site, St. Petersburg City Administrator Alan DeLisle has been working behind the scenes on all of it.
DeLisle, who started his role in 2014 when the Rick Kriseman administration ignited, is charged with maintaining oversight of the development occurring in the city and communicating with the city council on zoning, planning, next steps and also becoming fully involved in the most catalytic projects from the Pier District to the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina and more.
However, DeLisle’s time with the city is coming to a close. His last day will be Jan. 5.
Prior to serving under the Kriseman administration, DeLisle spent over 25 years in the economic development and public policy field. He has specialized in public–private economic development partnerships.
In a one-on-one interview, DeLisle reflected on his career in St. Petersburg, the mark he is leaving behind and what he hopes the city will continue to prioritize:
St. Pete Catalyst: What led to your decision to depart from your role? I understand you have a residence in North Carolina.
Alan DeLisle: I always knew I was going to serve out the terms of this administration and step aside after that. It was part of my plan. It’s no secret that my wife has health issues. We came to Duke University Hospital for special treatment for her. I previously worked in Durham for eight years in economic development, I know this area very well. I will continue to have a residence in St. Pete and Durham. I love both places. My two daughters are in Durham. It’s important for us to have a place in St. Pete because it is a great place we will continue to enjoy. Durham is very similar to St. Pete in many ways – it’s very inclusive, eclectic and artsy, and stays true to its grassroots.
What may you do after you leave office?
The team Kriseman put together was the best team I’ve ever worked with in my career. I’m looking at a lot of projects right now. I’m in discussions with developers and different cities are calling me. I’m a deal junkie; I love good deals, putting the puzzle together. I also love public-private partnerships. When cities can execute P3s, those deals have a better return for investment in the community.
What’s a typical day like for you?
You talk with 20-30 people and sometimes have intense conversations with developers. You have internal meetings with the mayor, deputy, mayor, and staff – you’re really managing every second of every day. I typically would get to emails first thing in the morning or toward the end of the day. There’s a lot to think about in economic development, you have to make sure all those functions are working. You also have to interact with the council members and the public to be prepared to explain or prove why you are backing a project.
Do you have advice for the next City Administrator?
My only two cents is I wish the person is well-qualified, by that I mean certified in the field with lots of experience. It’s a very sophisticated landscape in St. Pete right now. The city needs someone who understands the profession of economic development and understands the politics.
What is an accomplishment of yours that you reflect on often?
The obvious one is The Pier. We did something special, it has won 18 awards and was a great public-private partnership. The Teak restaurant and Doc Ford’s agreements and partnerships are something we are very proud of in how we made that work. Two other accomplishments that jump out: One is the Mahaffey Theater and the agreement we’ve made with them. The other is the St. Pete Works program. In Durham, I was the executive director for the board and I knew that subject matter very well. When I came to St. Petersburg, we said we wanted to create a program like that for the St. Pete CRA district and identify residents from the CRA who needed employment. We connected them to employers throughout the city, not just those within their district. We’ve connected over 460 people to opportunities.
How do we conquer some of the city’s greatest challenges when it comes to development and economic vitality?
Clearly, 22nd Street South is a very important commercial district. Developments from Sankofa, the new Carter G. Woodson Museum, the redevelopment of the Manhattan Casino and Tangerine Plaza are huge along with a streetscape project for the area. I know the new mayor will be focused on this. We did approve the Community Benefits Agreement Program so that will come into play at some point. Once the first project is regulated under that, it will kick off that ordinance. Additionally, before I leave, I have put together rules and regulations on how to manage, for the new administration on work to be done for the CBA. We also need to continue on business retention. Kriseman spent a lot of time and effort on retention in keeping Jabil and Raymond James here, but also has to retain medium-sized companies and small businesses.
What are some unticked boxes you’d hope for the city to accomplish?
The redevelopment of Tangerine Plaza is one I hope gets going in the near future. We’ve made some good progress on it and it’s up to the new incoming administration to determine its fate. The St. Petersburg Municipal Marina is another and it has to be dealt with in one way or another. The infrastructure is going to cost a lot for the taxpayers. We have put forward a private-public partnership for the Marina. I totally disagree with those saying the private entity would privatize it. Then there’s the Trop redevelopment – the 800-pound gorilla in the room. It will drive the future economy of St. Pete. The mayor has selected a tremendous developer [Midtown Development]. Any economic development professional would salivate over that opportunity if the city handles it right in the near future. The longer the city waits on that project, the longer there will not be any benefit on the economic fiscal return. The developer selected has $22.5 million worth of community benefits in their plan. I’ve never seen a better deal with my 35 years in this profession. That’s just where professionalism needs to come in and really look at this deal.
How do you perceive the future of the Rays if they were to build a stadium in Tampa?
I wish Tampa well if they put something together that makes sense to them. Kriseman took the heat years ago when he supported the Rays looking at Tampa. They looked at Tampa for years and it fell flat and the mayor was comfortable with the Rays staying in the region. This is the easy part for Tampa – getting people interested, getting support from the business community – but the hard part will be making a private-public partnership work. The P3 has to be perfect. The Rays are going to have to be a lot more reasonable than they’ve been. Today, cities aren’t pouring a lot of money into sports teams. This would have to be a true P3.
Closing remark: “I had a great experience working for some great, very smart people. I’ve learned a lot and made some mistakes that I learned from at the same time. I hope that there are more employment opportunities for your young average resident St. Pete than there were eight years ago.”