For the first time in the history of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, four people of color hold high power chair positions.
- Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, St.Pete City Council Chairman
- Rene Flowers, Pinellas County School Board Chairman
- Kenneth Welch, Pinellas County Commission Chairman
- Darryl Rouson, Pinellas County Legislative Delegation Chairman
These four leaders say together, they've been able to tackle issues head-on in the black community.
One of the issues is struggling schools. There are three low-performing schools in Pinellas County --Azalea Middle, Lakewood Elementary and Fairmount Park Elementary -- that could soon be run by a private company if they can't turn things around.
Flowers has been working with the district to help faculty and staff understand the struggles these students face. She grew up at Jordan Park, a public housing complex, so she knows firsthand issues students deal with in and out of school.
She’s made change by physically taking teachers of so-called “failure factories” around the schools community, so they have a clear understanding of the challenges these children are confronted with.
Flowers says, always having breakfast as an option despite the student being late has been a change she fought for. Often a child walks to school, and can’t make it on time.
Having diversity in local leadership, Flowers says, is important.
“Four is not a huge number when you look at the number of people serving in political office, but when you look at 1964-1968 for the fight for civil rights, It is a move forward,” says Flowers. “When individuals were at the table and the person who they were talking to were not people of color. So, now you have someone across the table who is a person of color.”
There are new high-rise apartments and condos in St. Pete being build but they're expensive.
Wheeler-Bowman has been fighting to make homes more affordable. She supports $15 million from the Penny for Pinellas fund to be allocated to affordable housing all over the city.
On March 22, St.Pete City Council leaders and the Cities housing department will have a “committee of the whole” (COW) to discuss affordable housing.
She too, is excited to break barriers and represent her community.
“To sit and think that years from now my grandkids will be able to look back and say 'Hey, that was my grandma, she made history' “, says Wheeler-Bowman.
Lastly, we've told you about the car theft epidemic.
Local leaders said the answer to stop it was more funding for programs helping at-risk youth.
Recently, the city of St. Petersburg announced a new grant program that offers money to non-profits all around the city making a difference.
These four leaders have been just some of the local leaders pushing for more funding for these programs.
On Wednesday, they will be holding an event to help minority small business owners learn how to do business with Pinellas County schools, the county and the City of St. Petersburg.
It will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at Lakewood High School Library, 1400 54th Ave. S.
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