ST. PETERSBURG - Richard Eldridge doesn't have a campaign website and has raised just $165 for his City Council campaign. A personal loan accounts for all of that.
Yet, the 51-year-old taxi-driver, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor four years ago, said he has a better idea of the needs and desires of the city's working people than his opponents in the City Council District 4 race.
Eldridge has worked as a waiter at the Vinoy Hotel, a hot-dog vendor at Tropicana Field and sold insurance and vacuum cleaners door-to-door. Despite earning a degree in biology in 2011, Eldridge has only been able to get work as a taxi driver. He rides the bus to get to work, where he puts in 12-hour shifts. On a slow night, he might just earn $40.
City leaders often have no idea of the impact of their policies, such as plans to relocate bus shelters away from Williams Park to reduce drug use by homeless people, Eldridge said.
"The working people need those buses," he said. "I can't imagine a few criminals costing someone's ability to get to work."
Eldridge admits that he doesn't have many ideas for how to grow the city's economy and create jobs.
"I think the city is doing a great job," he said.
He would, however, like to see a private company take over running the city pier.
Eldridge's inexperience was obvious at a recent debate when he stumbled over questions about the city's water and sewage systems.
When asked to cite his civic experience, Eldridge points to his seven years as a marine and blood donations.
A resident of the Crescent Lake area, he said he plans to bring the principles, integrity and loyalty he learned while serving his country to city government.
"If I think if it's the right thing to do, I'll do it, even if it costs me grief," he said. "The important thing is we get on there and make sure the people are well-represented.
Family: Two grown children
Occupation: Taxi driver
Education: Biology degree from University of South Florida
Civic experience: U.S. Marine and blood donor
Should the city use red-light cameras? No
Will you vote to stop the Lens? Yes
What to do about the Rays? "This shouldn't even be up for discussion. I don't think what they have is that bad."
Campaign donations raised: $165