My mom is from Sarasota and my dad is from St. Petersburg. Our previous generations lived in Gainesville, Live Oak and back to South Carolina in the 1800s.
I attended Lakewood High School, a public high school in St. Petersburg. I played football and participated in the band. Go Spartans!
When I grew up I wanted to be a rock star. Glad that I had a Plan B.
A formative childhood experience was definitely my family life. I worked in family businesses, including my grandfather’s woodyard in the Gas Plant District. I worked in my father’s tax accounting business as well. Our family was heavily involved in the church and my uncle Clarence was the pastor at Prayer Tower Church of God in Christ (also in the Gas Plant), for most of my life. My grandfather was impacted by discrimination and only completed third grade, but he was strong in his faith and work ethic. He and my grandmother, Gussie, put all four of their children through college. He set the standard for perseverance, faith and determination.
The people who’ve inspired and shaped me the most have been my parents, grandparents, aunt and uncles. Also, the leadership of my church and educators and community leaders, including the late Watson Haynes and the late Vyrle Davis.
The greatest honor of my life is being a father to Kenya and Keonna.
I have a puppy named Sunni. I promised my daughters we would get a dog after the mayoral election. She is a mixed breed that we found at a shelter.
Some people might be surprised to learn that I’m an avid Harley rider and I play several instruments, including guitar, saxophone and drums.
My pump-up song is “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince.
The keys to my success thus far have been the four Ps: pray, plan, prepare, perform. Also my mom’s advice: Always tell the truth, that way you never have to remember what story you told to whom.
My most humbling experience was being elected the 54th mayor of my hometown.
To be St. Pete’s first Black mayor is an honor, but my focus is on impact – ensuring inclusive progress for our community through leadership, policy and programs. We all do better when we all do better.
My proudest accomplishment as mayor of St. Pete is being in touch with the community — from kids to seniors, our city employees and stakeholders from every background. We hold community conversations and strive to build consensus on our priorities, including housing affordability, safe and healthy neighborhoods and equitable development. When we are able to have honest interactions, I’ve found that most people want the best for our community and understand that the concept that inclusive progress is additive, not subtractive.
I’m also proud of our response to the housing challenge. We’ve supported hundreds of units of affordable housing, created new partnerships for affordable home ownership and set the standard for the use of federal funds, receiving recognition from the Florida Housing Coalition for using the largest percentage of American Rescue Plan Act funds for housing in the state.
Missed former Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s InterView? Check it out here.