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Now there’s 4: Beth Connor seeks to replace Steve Kornell in St. Pete Council

Connor said she’s been mulling a run for about 20 years.

Beth Connor is now the fourth candidate in the race to succeed term-limited Steve Kornell in St. Petersburg City Council District 5.

A community activist and nearly lifelong Greater Pinellas Point resident, Connor filed for the seat Monday.

The district covers Connor’s neighborhood, the Skyway Marina district, Lakewood Estates, the Pink Streets, Broadwater and Bahama Shores, among other areas.

Connor currently serves as Environmental Chair for the Greater Pinellas Point Civic Association and is an active member of the St. Petersburg Sustainability Council and the Suncoast Sierra Club.

Connor said she’s been mulling a run for about 20 years.

The time is right, and the city and this area are in need of really proactive solutions right now,” Connor told Florida Politics. “When I see an issue, I don’t sit around and wait for someone else to fix it.”

Connor has also served as the Assistant Director of the St. Petersburg Area League of Women Voters and volunteered with organizations such as the Red Tent Women’s Initiative, which mentors and empowers women.

It’s early days in Connor’s campaign, the election is still a year out, but she already has a broad vision for what she hopes to accomplish if elected.

Among her top priorities are creating a transportation system that works for everyone. Connor had used public transportation in Pinellas County fairly regularly during times when she and her husband shared one car and to attend events where parking might be a challenge.

She’s not releasing specific plans yet, but Connor said she’d work to engage the community on issues important to her district as well as serve as a staunch advocate on behalf of constituents while working with partnering agencies to bring needed services and improvements to the city.

Connor said she’d also focus on smart and sustainable development in her district.

District 5 is unique among the city’s seven districts. Both affluent and low-income neighborhoods mark its boundaries. That socio-economic dichotomy, as Connor called it, makes policy priorities a delicate balancing act, one Connor says she understands after watching the community grow and shift over the years.

“It’s about total mixed-use,” Connor said. “To me, it is storefront bottoms with a mix of merchants who can live above and work below. It’s about affordable housing for all incomes.”

Affordable housing solutions have to work for both low-income residents and middle-class workers, she said.

To accomplish that, Connor said she’d be focusing on bringing a variety of jobs to the area including those in the tech sector.

Connor also said she’d be a staunch supporter for historic preservation.

She also wants to build on Kornell’s success in the Skyway Marina District. Under his leadership in District 5, the area along 34th Street South has begun a transformation from rundown shopping centers with a high number of vacancies to a burgeoning business district growing with new restaurants and amenities.

“We’ve got the bones on the skeleton now,” she said. “But we need the bones, the veins, the epidermis; we need it all. I want to strike while the iron is hot.”

Connor joins a growing list of candidates in the race, which includes former mayoral candidate Anthony Cates III, community activist Deborah Figgs-Sanders, who previously served as the executive director of the Childs Park YMCA and former Juvenile Welfare Board executive Trenia Cox.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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