Many St. Petersburg residents have a familiar face representing their interests in Washington, D.C., and Congresswoman Kathy Castor is making a concerted effort to reintroduce herself to the community.
Castor and her team invited local stakeholders to ThriveDTSP Wednesday for a swearing-in ceremony and open-house event celebrating her new district office at 136 4th St. N, Suite 201, in downtown St. Petersburg. A dedicated staff is now onsite to assist with immigration and IRS issues, social services, veterans’ benefits and general concerns.
Florida’s 14th Congressional District shifted boundaries last year, to the dismay of many citizens and area officials. Castor now represents all of Tampa, downtown St. Pete and portions of Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties.
“It is so fantastic to be back in the Sunshine City,” said Castor. “One of the reasons that my team and I thought it was important to have a ceremonial swearing-in (here) … is because I wanted you all to bear witness to the fact that I am wholly committed to lifting up the people of St. Petersburg and representing them with my whole heart.”
The Democratic congresswoman previously represented the city from 2007 through 2017. Her district’s latest configuration now includes all of eastern St. Petersburg – from Feather Sound south to Greater Pinellas Point – with 34th Street serving as a demarcation line.
Voters recently elected Republican Anna Paulina Luna to represent the redrawn 13th Congressional District, vacated when former U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist decided to again run for governor. That district now includes the westernmost portions of St. Petersburg and nearly all of Pinellas County.
Despite the omnipresent partisanship in national politics, Castor did not criticize the redistricting process or her new colleague. Instead, she wanted attendees to know that she had “a good visit” with Luna during the recent national swearing-in ceremonies.
“We’re looking forward to collaborating and working together on behalf of St. Petersburg,” added Castor.
She called the city a “very special community” and noted that “there are so many things going right.” However, Castor relayed that she still sees significant needs and a divide among residents.
She said about 13% of people in District 14 live in poverty, and 23% of households include a person with a disability. In addition, nearly 10% of her constituents are military veterans, which she said is one of the highest percentages in the country.
As such, Castor stressed the importance of opening an office in an entrepreneurial hub like Thrive DTSP rather than having team members tucked away in their own building.
“We wanted them to be an integrated part of the other nonprofits and small business organizations so that we can collaborate and learn and grow together,” said Castor. “Because when I’m in Washington D.C., and I might not be readily available, these are the folks that are going to serve our neighbors – day in and day out.”
One local addition is Jamison Carnegie, recently hired as the new St. Pete-based field representative. He previously served as executive director for Mout Zion Human Services.
Castor called 2023 an implementation year and said she would fight to bring resources to the area following the recent passage of “historic” legislation. According to an accompanying fact sheet, she helped secure $2.3 billion in federal grants for her district last year.
About $132 million was through Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act grants, and Castor said local officials must repair the city’s water and wastewater systems. She said the legislation would help accomplish that goal and that she would ensure St. Pete is “early in line” to receive funding.
Castor also plans to support transportation and economic development initiatives for residents in South St. Petersburg. In addition, she said the Inflation Reduction Act would provide discounts on home appliances and weatherization improvements, something she believes can help mitigate the area’s soaring housing costs.
“But to be effective, I’m going to need your help and advice all along the way,” said Castor. “So, just being here today gives me another shot in the arm to serve the Sunshine City and make sure that we’re building greater prosperity, friendship and love across this community.”
St. Petersburg constituents can make an appointment with Castor’s team by calling (727) 369-0201.