ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Mayor Rick Kriseman delivered his farewell address from a location that’s become symbolic of the city’s economic growth: the St. Pete Pier.
“St. Petersburg is in fact faring well,” he told a crowd of friends, supporters and city workers gathered at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille.
When he swore in as St. Pete’s mayor eight years ago, Kriseman said the “time had come to emerge from the shadow of the city across the bay, to become a center of commerce and a driver of economic development in our own right, and we’ve done that.”
In addition to the achievements of revamping the downtown pier district and building a new police headquarters, the outgoing mayor told 8 On Your Side he hopes the culture of St. Petersburg has changed for the better.
“To become a city that’s more welcoming, that’s more tolerant, that’s diverse, that celebrates equity, that creates opportunity and lifts everybody up no matter where you live in the city,” Mayor Kriseman said.
There are still challenges for his successor Ken Welch, Kriseman said, like housing affordability and the effects of climate change and sea level rise.
Kriseman took office as the Sunshine City was still rebounding from the Great Recession and he leaves City Hall amid yet another wave of COVID-19.
During his farewell event, Mayor Kriseman learned that Mayor-elect Welch had tested positive for COVID-19 and that the city’s first African American mayor will be sworn-in virtually on Thursday. Kriseman wished Welch a “quick and speedy recovery.”
“This omicron is just so contagious,” Kriseman said, “but at least if you get it you can minimize the impact of it if you get vaccinated and boosted.”
One of Kriseman’s final moves as mayor was selecting a Miami-based development group to transform the Tropicana Field site.
“Because it is time to move forward with the redevelopment of that site with or without baseball,” he said during his address. “Look, we all love the Rays, but they don’t own the site. The people of St. Pete do.”
Mayor Kriseman told 8 On Your Side he still believes St. Pete is the best place for the Rays to call home, but if the team decides to move, he said that should not be outside the Tampa Bay region.