Jan 7, 2022 - Politics

Ken Welch is St. Petersburg's first Black mayor

Ken Welch holds his right hand up as he is sworn in, with his daughter next to him holding the Bible. Both wear masks.
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch is sworn in Thursday, with his daughter, Kenya Welch, holding a Bible. Photo courtesy of the City of St. Petersburg

Ken Welch is officially St. Petersburg's first Black mayor, and he's ready to start tearing down boundaries.

What's happening: In his acceptance speech Thursday, Welch recalled his days as a student in the last segregated classes at Melrose Elementary and how it felt to revisit students at that school as the city's mayor-elect.

  • "That's a story of progress," Welch said.

What he's saying: "Yes, this election is historic. But our goal is not to simply make history — rather we must work together to make a difference … Our collective vision will define what progress looks like for our entire city."

Point of intrigue: Welch was also the city's first mayor to be inaugurated via livestream after he tested positive for coronavirus earlier in the week.

  • Welch was sworn-in outside his home with Judge Michael J. Andrews presiding, and his daughter Kenya Welch holding the bible for the swearing-in ceremony.

What we're watching: Welch's first move on the Trop redevelopment, since outgoing mayor Rick Kriseman picked a developer on one of his last days in office.

First order of business: Welch started off by appointing Stephanie Owens as deputy mayor and chief of policy, Janelle Irwin Taylor as communication director, Tom Greene as the interim city administrator and Doyle Walsh as senior advisor.

  • Owens served as an appointee of Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and formerly held senior positions in the White House and the Departments of Health and Human Services. She also led a Clinton presidential task force in Florida and was director of the Federal Interagency Task Force in St. Petersburg.
  • Greene has been St. Petersburg's assistant city administrator since 2018. Prior to that he served as the city’s budget director.
  • Irwin Taylor has served as senior editor for Florida Politics since 2019 and held roles at the Tampa Bay Business Journal and WMNF Community Radio.
  • Walsh served as an aide to Pinellas County Commissioner Janet C. Long for seven years, working with regional leaders on solutions for issues from transportation and climate change to state and federal legislative priorities.
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