ST. PETERSBURG - With political heavyweights such as former Gov. Charlie Crist lending their support, no City Council candidate can match Darden Rice's political connections.
Rice, who is running for the District 4 seat, has earned endorsements from U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Castor, three county commissioners and both the local firefighters and police unions. She has a clear lead in fundraising, serves on the governing board of Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and is a former president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the League of Women Voters.
Despite those connections, she has twice failed in bids for public office, losing a City Council race in 2005 and a County Commission battle in 2008.
"I have a long and proven record of volunteering in public service," Rice said. "Public service, in the elected sense, is the natural next step for me. That's why I remain involved."
If elected, Rice, 43, said she would regularly meet with business leaders to find out what the city can do to help companies grow and create jobs.
"The No. 1 duty as a council member is to advocate for job creation," she said. "We have to be informed and connected advocates. I think it's important for us to look at everything through the lens of how it builds our local economy."
Her other goals include increasing community policing and introducing universal curbside recycling. St. Petersburg is the only one of Florida's 50 biggest cities not to include recycling pickup in its basic trash service.
In her role on the PSTA board, she is also backing the November 2014 referendum to replace PSTA's property tax with a new penny sales tax, which would also pay for a new light-rail network.
"Transportation is the issue that links to growing the city's economy and creating jobs," she said.
A third-generation St. Petersburg resident, Rice likes to kayak and paddle-board at Fort DeSoto in her spare time.
She describes herself as a practical idealist.
"I've always been driven by my values," she said. "Those values have defined what I've worked on in the community the last 20 years."
Family: Lives with her partner
Occupation: Communications consultant
Education: Bachelor's degree in history from Eckerd College
Civic experience: Board member of Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, former president of local League of Woman Voters, member of St. Petersburg Charter Review Commission, former Florida director of Gulf Restoration Network
Should the city continue with red-light cameras? No
Will you vote to stop the Lens? Yes
What to do about the Rays? "I believe we should work proactively and cooperatively to find a way to keep the Rays in St. Pete without committing taxpayers to the financial burden of paying the bill for a new stadium."
Campaign donations raised: $56,225