Ken Welch sworn in as the 54th mayor of St. Petersburg

Ken Welch sworn in as the 54th mayor of St. Petersburg

Ken Welch was officially inaugurated as the 54th Mayor of St. Petersburg.

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.”

Ken Welch participates in virtual inauguration

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.

“A key part of improving our City Services is listening to the people who do the work,” said Welch during his inauguration speech. “To the more than 3200 employees of the City of St. Petersburg, I want you to know that you are valued. It is my goal to provide you with the tools you need to set the standard for public service among city governments. And we will also listen to your recommendations for improving our operations, efficiency and customer satisfaction.”

Welch has a longstanding history in St. Petersburg

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. 

Welch plans important work in the Deuces District

Welch made it clear he is ready to do the work in the Sunshine City.

“As a step toward building a stronger working relationship, I have asked County Commission Chair Justice and City Council Chair Driscoll for a joint meeting of the County Commission, the City Council and the Mayors 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.” 

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. 

“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.

Celebrating the power of partnership

Welch ended his speech:

“The power of our partnership is in our collective capacity for progress. And working together, we will move our city forward, every day. We Are St. Pete, and as my father would say – it’s time to get to work…May God Bless You and May God Bless the City of St. Petersburg.”

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