Ken Welch officially sworn-in as St. Petersburg's 54th Mayor
Welch’s first actions include creating an Office of Strategic Initiatives
St. Petersburg Mayor Kenneth T. Welch is sworn in Thursday with daughter Kenya Welch holding the bible during the oath of office.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — Kenneth T. Welch became St. Petersburg’s 54th and its first African American Mayor Thursday morning.
The inauguration marked an historical moment in St. Petersburg. Welch was one of the last St. Petersburg residents to attend school under segregation policies, attending kindergarten and first grade at Melrose Elementary. Now, he’s the city’s first Black Mayor, marking an historic moment for the city as it seeks to further progress for all who live, work and play here.
“As a child of the civil rights era, I grew up in the areas of our city where my family lived not by choice, but by sanctioned discriminatory practices that defined where African Americans could live in our city,” Welch said. “But during the Great American Teach In in November, I returned to Melrose and spoke to students in the classrooms of two great teachers, Delia Michelle Doss and Natalie El Amrani. I spoke to those wonderful and engaging students as Mayor-elect of our city! That’s a story of progress.”As a result of testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, Welch was sworn-in outside his home with Sixth Judicial Circuit Judge Michael J. Andrews presiding. City Clerk Chan Srinivasa and City Attorney Jackie Kovilaritch were also in attendance. Welch’s daughter, Kenya Welch, held the bible for the swearing-in ceremony. Kenya was able to participate in the ceremony because she also tested positive for COVID-19.
The Welch family has a long history of working to make St. Petersburg a better city for future generations. Ken’s father, David Welch, was the first African American man to serve on the St. Petersburg City Council. His father also ran for Mayor in 1991.
“Today we embrace the people’s desire for a community where every person is valued, every idea is considered based on its merits, and where a common vision is forged, based upon progress that is inclusive, innovative, informed, intentional and in touch with all,” Welch said in his inauguration address.
With history now made, the important work of governance begins. Welch will now get to work creating an Office of Strategic Initiatives, creating a City Council marketing position, making interim and permanent leadership promotions and, among other initiatives, looking into creating a new crosswalk at Chief’s Creole Cafe to address concerns levied during Community Conversations meetings.
In the coming days, weeks and months, Welch plans to undertake important work in the Deuces to ensure the promise of equitable development in the former Gas Plant district is realized, that all neighborhoods become safe and healthy places to raise a family and that city environmental policy mitigates the impacts of sea level rise and climate change.
As a father, Welch is committed to ensuring the young person searching for an apartment doesn’t face rents that consume half their salary; as a son, he vows to fight for security in retirement as the cost of living continues to grow; and as a leader committed to small business, he aims to ensure all those struggling to maintain businesses in the second year of a pandemic are able to thrive.
“When we listen to each other, and work to truly understand our viewpoints, we grow stronger collectively by building on our individual knowledge and strengths. When we do that, we will move past silos, prejudices and petty politics and we will be able to build an inclusive path forward,” Welch said. “The conversations may not be comfortable, or easy. But as we demonstrated at our Community Conversations last month — it can be done, in fact, it must be done because we are in this together.”
Welch plans to build on the successes of his predecessor, Mayor Rick Kriseman.
“Our city has become an incubator for new business and technology start-ups; a pioneer in innovative problem solving; a leader in creativity and cultural growth; a hub for medical and marine science research and discovery; and a thriving example of the live, work, play and retire lifestyle. You have positioned our city for even greater progress. I want to thank you and First Lady Kerry for your leadership of our city,” Welch said to his predecessor.
The work is just beginning. Collaboration with City Council will be a crucial part of the city’s success.
“As a step toward building a stronger working relationship, I have asked County Commission Chair (Charlie) Justice and City Council Chair (Gina) Driscoll for a joint meeting of the County Commission, the City Council and the Mayor’s office to discuss items of mutual interest, including our partnership with the Tampa Bay Rays. They have accepted, and I’m looking forward to this meeting with our partners,” Welch said.