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CONA is back and they’re listening – tell them what your St. Pete neighborhood needs

CONA is back and they’re listening – tell them what your St. Pete neighborhood needs

Large group of CONA volunteers stand in front of house they helped paint
Volunteers from CONA, with new President Aron Bryce near the center in the black shirt, gather to work on a Campbell Park resident's home.

One of St. Pete’s most enduring political machines recently received a transfusion of new blood. West St. Pete Native Aron Bryce was elected president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA) in January and he has recruited a team of volunteers to return CONA to its former glory. The work isn’t just happening around conference tables. They’re out in the community, helping improve neighborhoods, issue by issue, and sometimes house by house. 

Bryce is quick to credit all the volunteers supporting CONA’s efforts. “We have the most diverse board in CONA history and growing membership that is increasingly more representative of the diversity St. Pete looks like today. CONA’s Executive Committee is made up of some truly talented and dedicated public servants.  I am truly grateful for the team I have.”


a group of people gathered together for an info session
CONA St. Petersburg learns about Healthy St. Pete, the Parks Department, and library services during a meeting

Giving voice to residents across St. Petersburg

Today’s residents might be forgiven if they aren’t familiar with CONA’s long history in St. Petersburg. CONA formed in 1955 as an organization made up of leader’s from St. Pete’s many neighborhood associations (not to be confused with homeowners associations). In a broader sense, CONA grew to serve as a way to help neighborhoods organize and address their unique challenges and also give voice for the neighborhoods when advocating before city government. It also became a training ground for future elected officials who learned how the city operated while serving with CONA. The organization wasn’t without the same controversies that dogged the city, particularly as it pertained to the influence of St. Pete underserved communities. 

There have been times when CONA’s endorsement was a powerful tool in city politics. Over the years, CONA has advocated for some of the things that residents now might see as commonplace, such as curbside recycling, brick streets, and park improvements. From issues as small as sidewalk repair, to big topics like the Pier and the Trop, CONA has provided a platform for citizen voices. 

representative speaks during a celebration at a local park
Aron Bryce of CONA St. Petersburg addresses a crowd during the Historic Kenwood Founder’s Day Celebration at Seminole Park

Improving St. Pete one project at a time

Aron Bryce wants to see CONA rise again and he and his board are leading by example. They’re getting their hands dirty, and, in some cases, covered in paint. On April 13, about 20 volunteers assembled at a home in Campbell Park to repaint an elderly resident’s home for free. 


The house in need was selected by the Neighborhood Team (also known as the N-Team) a group of city employees who, along with volunteers, identify and assist people who are having difficulty in keeping up with home maintenance. CONA requested a project in Campbell Park because it is a CONA priority to improve engagement with southside neighborhoods. 

Three CONA volunteers pain a green house white.
Three volunteers from CONA paint a house selected by the city’s N-Team.

South St. Pete community celebration in the works

“It ended up being a 1930s home that’s only ever had two owners. We had almost twenty people show up and it took us three or four hours,” Bryce said, adding, “I recognize the history between CONA and some of the neighborhoods and I will continue to work to bring them back into the fold and give them a seat at the table.” 

Bryce and his team have been attending neighborhood meetings across the city. The CommUNITY Picnic concept that succeeded at Azalea Park on the city’s West Side in 2023, will expand to the first annual South St. Pete CommUNITY Celebration, which will take place at Lake Vista Park on Saturday, November 9th from 3pm-6pm.

Revitalizing CONA

CONA’s next outreach event is the CommUNITY Listening Session in partnership with Justice Over Everything on May 14, from 6pm-8pm at the Center For Health Equity at 2333 34th Street South. The event, spearheaded by CONA Vice President Dr. Byron Green, aims to engage residents and community leaders in dialogue about creating a more inclusive and equitable city, with focus on ways to take meaningful action. Participants will have the opportunity to share their perspectives, experiences, and ideas for positive change. For more info and to register click here.

Bryce wants to see CONA’s recent successes repeated throughout the city. He’s spoken at more than a half dozen other community meetings, with more on his calendar. Not even thirty years old, Aron Bryce is a reminder of prior city leaders who came from the ranks of neighborhood organizers. “It is my goal to modernize, reorganize, and revitalize CONA and at the same time uplift our neighborhoods. I hope to develop a plan for CONA’s long term success and fully re-establish the organization as the voice of St. Pete’s neighborhoods.”


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