By Jim Bleyer
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman led his cadre of dedicated city workers this week, calmly and methodically shepherding the West Coast Florida community of 261,000 through one of the worst natural disasters to hit the area in recorded history.
By marshalling city resources to assist beleaguered residents and providing frequent updates, Kriseman showed the quiet leadership that marked his first term as leader of the fifth most populous city in Florida.
His firm management of a monumental crisis contrasted sharply with the chaotic episodes occurring in Tampa and Clearwater.
In Tampa, Mayor Bob Buckhorn declared a curfew, citing the fear of looting rather than public safety, only to be contradicted by County Administrator Mike Merrill who said the city of Tampa did not have the authority for such a move. In addition, Tampa residents were roiling over what they deemed a lack of concern if not threatening notice from the city’s Solid Waste Department:
Meanwhile in Clearwater, power outages caused two sewage spills. Lack of foresight and preparation were more likely factors than bad luck. And in downtown, the Church of Scientology probably did more to mitigate Irma’s devastation than any local governmental entity.
Back in St. Pete, Kriseman asked residents of the Sunshine City for “patience and kindness” in the aftermath.