No. 20 on the list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians: Brandi Gabbard

Marrying ideology and pragmatism is a Gabbard strength.

St. Petersburg City Council member Brandi Gabbard is uniquely positioned to be a standout leader in the city.

As a Democrat, she fits neatly within the city’s continued leftward shift. She recognizes the need for equity and equality, she’s not afraid to push back on the Republican-controlled Legislature’s seemingly never-ending attacks on home rule, and she’s sensitive to those struggling financially in some of the city’s most challenged communities.

But as a real estate agent, she’s also able to see policymaking from the business, economic and development side.

Marrying ideology and pragmatism is a Gabbard strength. It shows, landing her as one of only three non-mayoral elected city officials to make the 10th annual list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians.

And this year, she gets to wield that strength, with a gavel in hand.

The 2023 City Council Chair, Gabbard was elected without any drama or contention, something not always a guarantee within this body, and something that didn’t go without notice.

“The first drama-free unanimous ascension to Chair of the St. Pete City Council in years shows she can work with everyone and pulls support from across the spectrum,” said Joe Farrell, Vice President of Public Affairs for the Pinellas REALTOR Organization. “She also has the same No. 1 issue as the Mayor, affordable housing, and that alignment is ripe for success.”

As Chair, Gabbard will set the tone for what issues are heard, and when. Already she’s laid out an aggressive agenda for the year, that as Farrell alluded to, will align with Mayor Ken Welch’s housing priorities.

That includes a new policy regulating how the city utilizes its own land, with an eye toward housing first-like policies that will help address the ongoing affordable housing crisis. She said the Council will put thoughtful consideration into how the city utilizes its land, with an emphasis on unsolicited bid processes and the request for proposals process, according to the St. Pete Catalyst.

Gabbard’s innate ability to work well with others, regardless of partisanship, may also play well with a contentious state leadership apparatus. Speaking to the Catalyst, Gabbard said she believed working with the Legislature would be a key way to provide tax credits and other incentives to companies who adopt rental assistance policies for employees, like the city did last year.

That program provides $500 per month to St. Pete employees at the lowest end of the pay scale if they are required to live within city limits. That’s a policy Gabbard first broached in 2018, though it didn’t gain traction until city rents, much like the rest of the country, began to soar following the pandemic.

Gabbard told the Catalyst she’s already had conversations with the Florida Housing Finance Corporation about the program and was told they’re looking into it.

While those issues go hand-in-hand with Gabbard’s livelihood in real estate, she is also passionate about reducing food insecurity, an issue that particularly plagues parts of South St. Pete where food deserts — areas without easy access to a nearby grocery store — are common.

Among her goals are to incentivize grocery stores to open in food deserts. Others in the city have tried, and failed, to make that happen. If Gabbard can find success here, watch for her to move up a few spots on next year’s list.

“Brandi Gabbard is a rising star in Tampa Bay politics. As the current Chair of the St. Pete City Council, and Immediate Past Chair of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, she has become an important voice on a variety of topics, such as housing, insurance and resiliency. Considering the significance of these issues at both a regional and statewide level, her policy expertise and advocacy is — and will continue to be — critical,” RSA Consulting President and CEO Ron Pierce said.


We define the Tampa Bay region as Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco, but can also include Hernando, Polk or Sarasota — if the politicians from those counties impact either Pinellas or Hillsborough.

We define a politician as being in office or running for office.

Being first on a panelist’s list earns the politician 25 points, second earns them 24 points and so on, to where being listed 25th earns a politician one point. Points are added and, voilà, we have a list.

Special thanks go to our experienced and knowledgeable panelists, who were essential to developing the 2023 list: Christina Barker of the Vinik Family Office, Ashley Bauman of Mercury, Ed Briggs of RSA Consulting, political consultant Maya BrownRicky Butler of the Pinellas Co. Sheriff’s Office, Reggie Cardozo of The Public Square, Ronald Christaldi of Schumaker, Barry EdwardsJoe Farrell of Pinellas Realtors, pollster Matt Florell of Vicidial Group, Shawn Foster of Sunrise Consulting Group, Adam Giery of Strategos Group, political consultant Max GoodmanMike Griffin of Savills, Todd Josko of Ballard Partners, Natalie King of RSA Consulting, political consultant Benjamin KirbyMerritt Martin of Moffitt Cancer Center, Mike Moore of The Southern Group, Ron Pierce of RSA Consulting, J.C. Pritchett, pastor of St. Pete’s Faith Church, Darren Richards of Tucker/Hall, Preston Rudie of Catalyst Communications Group, Amanda Stewart of Johnston and Stewart, Bemetra Simmons of the Tampa Bay Partnership, Alan Suskey of Shumaker Advisors and communications consultant Janelle Irwin Taylor. With Michelle and Peter Schorsch.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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