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Pinellas County Urban League has a new president

Mark Parker



Nikki Gaskin-Capehart will succeed Rev. Watson Haynes II as the Pinellas County Urban League's president and CEO. Photo provided.

Following an extensive nationwide search, the Pinellas County Urban League’s board of directors selected a known local commodity to lead the organization into a new era.

Nikki Gaskin-Capehart will serve as the Urban League’s new president and CEO. She is the first woman to lead the 46-year-old Pinellas County affiliate that promotes economic empowerment in African-American and underserved communities.

Gaskin-Capehart also fills a significant void left by Rev. Watson L. Haynes II. He led the organization for a decade before his death in August 2022.

“It is an absolute honor for me to be able to walk in the footsteps of my mentor (Haynes),” Gaskin-Capehart told the Catalyst. “And to be able to take the legacy that he left in our community to the next level in serving our community.”

According to Thursday’s announcement, the board, in collaboration with the National Urban League, began a “phased search” for Watson’s successor in December 2022. Gaskin-Capehart’s 25 years of public and private experience set her apart from other candidates.

In a prepared statement, Board Chairman Rodney Willson called her “the intergenerational leader that we need during this important time of transition for the Pinellas County Urban League.”

Gaskin-Capehart echoed that sentiment and believes she can connect younger and older generations. She also noted that her nonprofit, government and entrepreneurial background has enabled her to keep her fingers on the county’s pulse.

Gaskin-Capehart previously served as outreach director for Congressman Jim Davis, deputy district director Congresswoman Kathy Castor and former Mayor Rick Kriseman’s director of urban affairs. She helped address underserved residents’ needs for eight years in that role.

Gaskin-Capehart developed the city’s urban affairs department’s four pillars, which overlap with the Urban League’s mission. Those include opportunity creation, nurturing neighborhoods and families, connecting through cultural affairs and catalyzing commerce.

“I have no doubts she will bring the same spirit of excellence and innovation to her role as CEO of the agency,” Kriseman said.

Similarly, the Urban League fosters economic empowerment through education and job training, housing and community development, workforce creation, entrepreneurship and health. “I think it’s really important to connect the dots between what I did in the city and here – and just keep it moving forward with even more progress,” Gaskin-Capehart said.

The University of South Florida graduate said the Urban League’s history attracted her to the position. Gaskin-Capehart noted that James O. Simmons, its first president and CEO, focused on preemployment initiatives and other issues in 1977 that are still relevant today.

“And I think it’s the perfect time for me to go and lead the organization into its next years of sustainable service,” she added.

In March 2022, Gaskin-Capehart launched The Network of Gifted Consultants (NGC Team). She also served as its CEO and led the Florida Girls Initiative – a statewide network created to help “at-promise” girls reach their potential – through its inaugural year.

Supporting small, minority and women-owned business development will remain a focus in her new role. Gaskin-Capehart also recognizes the need for economic mobility, affordable housing and increased educational opportunities.

She will formally begin leading the Urban League Friday, and Gaskin-Capehart said her “major” priority is long-term strategic planning. She also stressed the importance of community input.

“I want to make sure we hear from the community on what they feel the Urban League should be focused on going into 2030,” Gaskin-Capehart said. “We are here to be alongside of them and help make sure that they have all the empowerment they need to change their lives.”




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  1. Avatar

    Valerie Brannon

    September 8, 2023at8:47 am

    Congratulations Nikki Gaskin-Capehart. Watching and seeing how God has molded you into the beautiful,professional woman you are today has made me and all women proud and encouraged thankyou may God continue to lead and guide you. Love and blessings

  2. Avatar

    Danny E White

    September 7, 2023at3:55 pm

    This is also what ‘support local’ means in broader context! Congratulations to the Urban League Board on this wise selection and to more-than-capable Ms. Nikki Gaskin-Capehart!

  3. Avatar

    Gregory Johnson

    September 7, 2023at3:34 pm

    Congratulations Mrs. Capehart, The Pinellas County Urban League and the entire region of both Pinellas County and beyond.

    She is both a GREAT Natural Leader and a Leader with Community Passion. I wish her all the BEST. I will always be standing on the sidelines to assist Nikki in any way possible.

    I LOVE the Community and all of the People of St. Pete and Pinellas County. It is the BEST Community in Florida and EVERYONE should be PROUD of this appointment of EXCELLENCE.

  4. Avatar

    Carl Lavender

    September 7, 2023at3:28 pm

    Outstanding choice. Home grown Leader. Well respected and admired. Wonderful family. Smart move Urban League Board.

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