No. 21 on the list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians: Kathleen Peters

She got to where she is with a bang, not a whimper.

Kathleen Peters knows what it feels like to be in the limelight, and it’s not always a great place to be.

Since serving on the County Commission, and more specifically post-pandemic, Peters has largely flown under the radar. Nevertheless, collective political memories are long, and a lot of folks may remember that if pushed, this Pinellas County Commissioner has plenty of bite.

Missing out on the list last year, Peters now finds herself at No. 21 on the list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians. Yet Google her name and relatively little comes up in recent news. So how does someone who stays out of headlines get defined by some of the top political minds in the region as “powerful?”

First, Peters is chairing the Commission this year, which means she mostly controls what gets heard on the dais and when.

Second, she got to where she is now with a bang, not a whimper.

Peters was first elected to the Pinellas County Commission in 2018, after serving in the Legislature since 2012 and as the Mayor of South Pasadena before that. Her victory was a big deal for a Republican who had left her position in the House before term limits required it, arguing that the chamber had become hyperpartisan. At the time, she told voters and reporters that she could better serve residents from the less-partisan Pinellas County dais.

At issue, in what seems like a lifetime ago in political years, was Peters’ rejection of some leadership priorities, which ultimately got her deported to political Siberia in the House. Peters openly sparred with then-Speaker Richard Corcoran, particularly over tourism funding and issues regarding home rule. Both were key to Peters’ home community. The political Siberia was a crummy office and lousy placement on the House floor. She gave leadership the figurative middle finger and took off for local government.

Her first win in Pinellas County was an easy one, After raising nearly $250,000, defeating Democrat Amy Kedron with 60% of the vote. Her victory was, at least in part, attributed to her willingness to stand up to leadership in Tallahassee, something independent voters in particular saw as refreshing.

But Peters also established herself early on as a champion for mental health, an issue that easily transcended partisan politics and established Peters as a lawmaker who did what was right, not just politically expedient.

“BOCC Chair Kathleen Peters, aka KP, has many successes in her career as a legislator and as a Pinellas County Commissioner. Her hallmark is bringing stakeholders together to solve important problems for people who need help,” Corcoran Partners Partner Helen Levine said.

Peters vowed to continue working on mental health issues as a Pinellas County Commissioner with that consensus in mind, and she has, including through her work successfully advocating for more than $9 million in funding for the Pinellas County Behavioral Health Coordinated Access Model. The measure, which passed unanimously in late 2022, streamlines behavioral care access for patients.

“Chair Peters has always been a true champion for the citizens of Pinellas County. It’s continued during her tenure as a Pinellas County Commissioner and now as Chair. She’s been an extraordinary advocate for those struggling with substance use disorder and has worked diligently with community partners to provide more access to treatment and education,” said Mike Moore, a lobbyist with The Southern Group.

“Chair Peters is a true pro when it comes to utilizing the strong relationships she’s built on both the state and federal level over the years to assist in accomplishing the goals of the county and her constituency.”

But Peters’ biggest source of influence likely comes from her political affiliation. Republicans flipped control of the Commission in 2022 amid a red wave that never materialized in other states but flooded Florida. The new majority, which the GOP hopes to grow this year, allows conservatives on the dais to move forward with their priorities without having to rely on crossover votes from Democrats.

The new majority led to Commissioner Rene Flowers losing her seat on the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) at the behest of Peters. It was a big move as the agency faces more and more scrutiny among Republicans both locally and in the Legislature.

At the time, Republican lawmakers, led by St. Pete Beach area Rep. Linda Chaney, sought to reduce the number of PSTA Board members to 11. The County Commission would have controlled four seats — all of which would have presumably been held by Republicans — and the Senate President and House Speaker would have had an appointee each, who also would have likely been Republicans. The move failed, but it would have all but guaranteed a conservative majority on the transit Board for the foreseeable future.



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 1 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 2024 list: Christina Barker of the Vinik Family Office, Ashley Bauman of Mercury, Matthew Blair of Corcoran Partners, 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, Ana Cruz of Ballard Partners, Justin Day of Capital City Consulting, 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, Natalie King of RSA Consulting, political consultant Benjamin Kirby, TECO Energy Regional Affairs Coordinator Shannon Love, Merritt Martin of Moffitt Cancer Center, Mike Moore of The Southern Group, political consultant Anthony PediciniRon 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, and Alan Suskey of Shumaker Advisors. With Michelle and Peter Schorsch.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


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