ST. PETERSBURG — Less than 24 hours after his decisive victory, Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman started putting his own stamp on the city announcing the formation of a transition team and promising that he will consider partially reopening the Pier.
But his first priority is likely to be finding a new police chief. Kriseman said at a city hall news conference Wednesday that he will work with outgoing Mayor Bill Foster to find a replacement for Chief Chuck Harmon, who is retiring Jan. 6. He also plans to talk with Tampa Bay Rays owners about their desire to leave Tropicana Field soon after he is sworn into office Jan. 2.
In a hint that he may shake up city hall, Kriseman also plans to interview all of the city's top administrators, some of whom are approaching retirement age. He also said he will appoint a chief of staff and a communications director, positions that he said are needed for a city as large as St. Petersburg.
“I want to make sure we're professional,” he said. “We're going to look at the whole organization chart.”
During their campaigns, both Foster and Kriseman said they would conduct a national search for a police chief. But Kriseman favored hiring an outside firm to conduct the search, which Foster said could be conducted in-house.
“It's important that we're working together on this,” Kriseman said. “I don't anticipate he will hire someone before I take office.”
The Pier has been shuttered since June 1. Kriseman said he would not favor reopening the inverted pyramid building but that the area around the building, known as the pierhead, could be opened for anglers and cyclists until the city makes a final decision on a replacement.
“I hate seeing that fence, that barrier there,” he said. “I don't like what it represents.”
Kriseman scored a comprehensive victory over Foster on Tuesday getting 56 percent of the vote and placing first in precincts all over the city, including some in the city's northeast, considered to be Foster's stronghold. Overall, Foster won only 22 of the city's 92 precincts.
The new mayor's transition team will be led by co-chairs Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich and Andrew Hayes.
Scruggs-Leftwich, a professor and policy analyst, is a former deputy mayor of Philadelphia and served as executive director of the Urban and Regional Policy Group under President Jimmy Carter. Hayes is an architect with experience in planning and will serve as president of the American Institute of Architects Florida chapter in 2015.
Hayes said his first task would be to analyze how the city can move forward on The Pier and begin to break the impasse with the Rays, who want to explore options beyond playing at Tropicana Field until 2027, as its contract with the city dictates.
The Pier is seen as a crucial component of the city's waterfront, while Kriseman has said if the Rays leave, the area around Tropicana Field could become a major business district.
“These two issues have an impact on the infrastructure of the city,” Hayes said.
Kriseman said he will announce more members of his transition team in the next two weeks and that co-chairs will make weekly briefings until Kriseman takes office.
“We'll be talking about the first 100 days and moving forward,” Kriseman said. “I want to hit the ground running on Day 1; that's really important to me.”