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‘Super citizen’ Beth Houghton changes lives, blazes trails in St. Pete

Margie Manning



Beth Houghton with her husband, Scott Wagman (left) and Mayor Rick Kriseman

Beth Houghton has blazed a trail for women leaders in St. Petersburg, while leading programs that have changed lives for families and children throughout the community.

Her accomplishments were recognized Thursday, when Mayor Rick Kriseman presented Houghton with the key to the city, an honor reserved for those who have had a tremendous impact in the community.

Houghton is CEO of the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County, former CEO of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic and former chief financial officer and general counsel at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. She is vice chairman of the Moffitt Cancer Center institute board of director, and chairs the Moffitt hospital board.

She is former chairman of the board of Great Explorations, the Houghton-Wagman Children’s Museum in St. Petersburg, which is named in honor of a $1 million gift from Houghton and her husband, Scott Wagman.

“Her dedication to families, to children, to healthcare in general is truly unrivaled,” Kriseman said during a City Council meeting. “No list of super citizens would be complete without Miss Beth Houghton.”

Related: Beth Houghton on her new role at Juvenile Welfare Board – and why its focus drew her in

Houghton was named CEO of the Juvenile Welfare Board in 2019.

“Beth has been a strong advocate for children’s issues and underserved families, creating strategic partnerships and overseeing the funding of high quality programs that benefit hundreds of children and families in St. Petersburg,” Kriseman said. “Last year the city and JWB collectively invested $4.2 million into our teen programs. This investment allowed us to hire certified teachers and behavioral specialists to assist program participants in homework and  tutoring, academic goal setting, school projects, youth development activities and enrichment overlay programs during non-school hours and offer employment opportunities to high school youth. As a result of this partnership we have seen a consistent improvement in teen’s FSA Florida standardized assessment scores and decreased unexcused absences and suspension rates.”

She was CEO of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic from 2011 to 2019. Under her leadership, the organization expanded its reach and helped to provide food, shelter and healthcare to more than 55,000 people on a monthly basis, Kriseman said.

Houghton was in the C-suite of hospitals long before it was common for women to be in executive leadership, said Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, whose own professional background is in healthcare. Tomalin previously was a regional vice president at Health Management Associates, the former owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.

“You’ve blazed so many trails and I feel fortunate to stand, I won’t say in the shadow of your greatness because there’s nothing about you that casts a shadow, I’ll say in the benefit of your light,” Tomalin said.

When people talk about women in leadership, Houghton is one of the first people that comes to mind for Council Vice Chair  Gina Driscoll.

“Your life and your work have inspired so many women including me and I thank you for that. You are someone that I look up to, that I admire and that I hope that as you move on to even more great things that you do, that I will find more ways I can help you,” Driscoll said. “Leaders like you don’t just look for people to follow you. You look to bring up other leaders with you.”

Houghton both inspires and motivates, said Council Chair Ed Montanari.

“Just your personality and the way you operate is like a force multiplier, we would say in the military, because you get so many people that have been with you and part of what you are leading on,” Montanari said. “You are a legend here in St. Petersburg, Beth, and thank you for leading. We need more people like you.”

Surrounded by her family in the City Council chambers, Houghton said it was her privilege to work with thousands of employees and volunteers.

“This is one of those few times you get to tell your children and grandchildren what community service is all about and that somebody actually cares about those long meetings and long phone calls,” she said.


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