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With Just Getting Started, Deputy Mayor and City Administrator Dr. Kanika Tomalin is “telling the St. Pete story” through one-on-one conversations with change-makers. With many exciting plans and projects on the horizon, St. Petersburg’s upward trajectory remains strong. “So much has been done, but here’s the secret: We’re just getting started.”

07/18/2020 | Episode 03 | 24:37

Just Getting Started: Making change and moving forward

Ep. 03: Making change and moving forward

With more than 20 years in public service, Stephanie Owens is a changemaker. As chair of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority Commission, she is putting her considerable community-strengthening talents to great constructive use in our city. Owens served as an appointee of both President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton, where she held senior positions in the White House, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, and the Environmental Protection Agency. She and Dr. Tomalin discuss the Housing Authority and its role in the city's Strategic Housing Plan, and how they will wok together in a post-COVID world. She also discusses her longtime - and ongoing - association with the League of Women Voters, and why voting by mail may be essential this election year. Please note, since this recording was made, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an appellate court’s decision to temporarily block Amendment 4, making it unlikely that hundreds of thousands of Floridians will be allowed to cast a ballot in the state’s primary next month — and possibly in November’s presidential election.

Key Insights

  • Owens sings the praises of the Housing Authority's new CEO, Michael Lundy from Birmingham, Alabama.
  • She doesn't like the idea of the SPHA as a "stand alone entity," and asks "How do we weave all that the Housing Authority does into the fabric of this city?"
  • The redevelopment of the Jordan Park neighborhood is a priority for Owens' SPHA. "We will definitely be ramping up our decision on how to move forward."
  • "Public housing isn't meant to be a permanent residence," Owens says. "It is a bridge. And it's our role to help our residents move on."
  • If there's a silver lining to COVID, she says, is that business owners are discovering that tele-working is a viable altwernative to going into an office. And this might lead to more and better affordable housing.
  • Dr. Tomalin points out that the Housing Authority can use a few more commission members drawn from community members intertested in the ongoing dialogue. "There's a plsace for their passion," she explains.
  • July 20 is the last day for voter registration, Owens points out - an important day for those demanding change.
  • The League of Women Voters is working diligently on a vote-by-mail campaign. Voting by mail, Owens says, "is a matter of prevention and preparedness."
  • Dr. Tomalin: "Once you decide that you care about a cause, or an issue is catalyzed, really, that's just the beginning. I love that we're talking about this on 'Just Getting Started.'"

"You step off a plane in another country and you're not Stephanie Owens, a woman, an African American - you're Stephanie Owens, representing the United States of America. It was an amazing experience."

"Democracy is not a spectator sport. You have to engage. And we see people on the street, right now, making their voices heard. But we also see the people who come out for a council meeting, with comments they want to make. You have to continue to engage, in order to maker the system work."

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About the host

Dr. Kanika Tomalin is a thought leader, policy-maker, community ambassador, and health advocate.

As the first African-American, female Deputy Mayor and City Administrator of one of Florida’s largest cities, Dr. Kanika Tomalin is a role model for women from all walks of life and an advocate for innovative policies, equitable community revitalization, healthy families, at-risk youth and education.

Her signature initiative, Healthy St. Pete, which launched in 2014, has made community health a priority and impacts the lives of thousands of Sunshine City residents. By creating access to healthy food options, implementing free fitness zones in city parks and adding resources for individuals and families to make healthy living easier – Dr. Tomalin has made a tangible difference.

Dr. Tomalin’s understanding of the critical role health plays as a determinant of overall quality of life was shaped prior to her career in the public sector. She quickly climbed the ranks in the healthcare industry, most recently serving as the regional vice president of External Affairs for the Bayfront Health Network and director of Strategy for Health Management Associates’ 23-hospital Florida Group.


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