A Mayor for the Youth


City of St. Pete

Mayor Welch’s priority is “communication,” which is why he implemented “City Hall on Tour,” an initiative to get out into the community.

After over a year into office, Ken Welch has impacted St. Petersburg in a multitude of ways. In August of 2021, before he was elected mayor, I interviewed him on what he planned to do if he was elected to office. Now I sit down with him to discuss the progression of these plans and how he plans to move forward. The focus of this interview was to gain insight into the issues that St.Petersburg High School students are impacted by.

On the Mayor’s website, there is a page detailing the impacts of his first hundred days in office, as well as goals for his next year in office. One of these goals was to instill a Youth Advisory Committee, something he mentioned in our first conversation. Mayor Welch has five pillars that he focuses on Equitable Development, Arts and Business Opportunities, Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, Housing Opportunities for All, Environment, Infrastructure, and Resilience, and most relevant to St. Petersburg High School students, Education and Youth Opportunities. His administration is creating a staff position dedicated to this pillar, “that is how important [education and youth opportunities] is.” Currently, funds for internships and youth employment through the “Barbershop Book Club and the Youth Farm” have been allocated to give youth opportunities outside traditional paths. While the city does not have control over the school system, Mr. Welch believes that the city can “help fill the gap to make sure that children are prepared to achieve in school” through external programs. The city has a goal of creating a “safe place” where students can connect with the opportunities the city is trying to provide. Mayor Welch explained the city is “revamping the Enoch Davis Center,” and there are already 900,000 federal dollars earmarked for community centers like Enoch for southside St. Petersburg. He aims to partner with the private sector so the community center can “become a hub.”

Another prevalent issue concerning students at St. Petersburg High School is the environment. Currently, the city is pursuing grants from the federal Infrastructure Plan for environmental sustainability projects. While St. Petersburg has not yet been awarded a grant, the mayor says they are ‘aggressively’ pursuing them. As well as grants for environmental projects, Mayor Welch believes that “clean, high tech transit,” which is growing in popularity in St. Petersburg due to the newly introduced SunRunner, is vital in the future of sustainability in St. Petersburg. Recently the PTSA decided they would be moving toward a fully Green Fleet. Similarly, the City is moving forward on the Integrated Sustainability Action Plan, one goal of which is to review the sustainability of the city’s facilities, as well as reviewing the fleet of transportive methods. Mayor Welch says that “they’re not at the point now where those vehicles can be efficient and run a long route as an electric power vehicle” but that eventually, “we’re looking at a fleetwide move to EV.”

Mayor Welch’s priority is “communication,” which is why he implemented “City Hall on Tour,” an initiative to get out into the community. The first one was at Walter Fuller, with about 70 people joining for “Coffee with Ken” with local Coffee shop Kahwa Coffee as a sponsor. He said they will be “quarterly with [one] south, one north, and one central.” 

The youth are a huge part of Mayor Welch’s agenda, and he says to students, “We’re in a great city. And as a parent, I was always concerned that St. Pete would be a city where my daughters would want to come back and live. I think we’ve accomplished that now, how do we keep it affordable, how will we keep it authentic to what made St. Pete great? And that’s where your voices need to be heard. While you’re young, people need to be involved, make your voices heard, and get involved in the process in whatever form you’re comfortable with. But your voices need to be heard because this is your community.”