Thursday, Nov 20, 2014

Russ wants to help South St. Pete youths, neighborhoods

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ST. PETERSBURG - By the time Sharon Russ was 20, she was a single mother with three boys.

"It was really hard. I wanted better for my children," she said. "I had to struggle to bring my kids up."

The experience has made the 52-year-old determined to help women from making the same mistakes and to provide assistance for those who do. Last year, she formed the Gianna Molla Pregnancy Center, which she hopes can get city assistance to provide counseling and education for teens.

She is also running for the City Council District 6 seat to improve the quality of life for residents in her South St. Petersburg neighborhood.

Ross said she sees too many girls in poor neighborhoods who do not realize how getting pregnant will affect their lives. If elected, she said she would work to improve education for girls by seeking more resources for preschool programs. She would also like to see better sex education programs to reduce the teen pregnancy rate.

"Our city is doing a poor job of breaking that cycle," she said. "If children are educated they can come back and create jobs."

Russ also plans to hold more town hall meetings in her district to hear from residents about their issues and that she has a better understanding of the problems facing most residents.

"You got to have a feel for the community," she said. "I got political because I needed to survive; when I try and rent a house I get a slum lord."

Russ has twice run unsuccessfully for office. She ran for mayor in 2009 but dropped out before Election Day. A 2004 bid for the Pinellas County Commission also was unsuccessful.

She has been arrested twice, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.

In 1995, she was arrested in Tallahassee for resisting arrest following a traffic stop, a misdemeanor charge.

In 1998, she was arrested in St. Petersburg on charges of aggravated assault with a weapon. The State Attorney's Office ultimately dropped the charge.

When asked about her arrests by a reporter, Russ accused him of targeting her and threatened to sue if the arrests were included in a story about her candidacy.

In the St. Petersburg case, Russ said she was wrongly arrested after a woman threw a drink on her when she entered a grocery store and then lied to the police.

"They threw it out because she had no witnesses, and it didn't happen like she said it did," Russ said.

A Republican in a mainly Democratic neighborhood, Russ said people mistake her passion for anger. She frequently speaks at City Council meetings lambasting council members whom she accuses of focusing too much on the downtown. She is also skeptical that federal grants awarded to the city to improve its poorest neighborhoods are being spent in those areas.

"It's ridiculous how these neighborhoods look in 2013 when the city has been allocated so much money," she said at a recent City Council meeting. "How many will be able to come downtown and enjoy the amenities that the 1 percent enjoy?"

codonnell@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-7654

Twitter: @codonnellTBO

Sharon Russ

Age: 52

Family: Three children

Occupation: Student and community organizer

Education: Some college

Civic experience: Former member of local Republican Party executive committee

Should the city continue with red-light cameras? No

Will you vote to stop the Lens? No

What to do about the Rays? "I think we need to come to an agreement where this team can be supported better."

Campaign donations raised: $570 (as of June 30)

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