For those who missed Ken Welch's inspiring speech on election night for those who would like to experience it again, here is a transcript.
The Pinellas Democratic Party is incredibly proud of the part we played in electing the most qualified candidate as well as the first African American Mayor in St Petersburg.
Ken Welch's Speech, Election Night, November 2, 2021
You all look wonderful tonight!
This is what our St. Pete looks like...
This is what unity looks like….
This is what progress looks like….
In this campaign, for three years, in Zoom meetings, neighborhood forums, youth summits, in houses of worship and places of business, and yes even while driving Uber and Lyft for 1,000 rides (with a 4.97 rating), we’ve asked a simple question. What does progress look like?
And the answer from the community is clear — across the spectrum of age, race, gender, orientation, faith, or neighborhood — the response from the people of St. Petersburg was consistent with our vision of Inclusive Progress for all and our guiding principles.
Tonight’s election victory confirms the desire of the people of St. Petersburg for leadership that will move us forward, not backward. That’s the definition of progress. Assuring that today is better than yesterday and tomorrow is better than today. And that’s what the people have clearly stated that they want, in this election!
When we asked the people, “What does progress look like?” — from students last week at Campbell Park Elementary to seniors at Westminster Senior Living and every venue in between — the answers were consistent.
• The people said that progress means affordability for the people who call St. Petersburg home. It means affordable rent and home ownership, affordable water bills, transportation options and taxes.
• The people said that progress means safe and healthy neighborhoods — where every child sees opportunity and hope, and health, education and nutrition disparities are addressed as priorities.
• The people say that progress means smart growth that protects our environment, invests in our infrastructure and preserves St. Pete’s character.
• And the people agree with my firmly held belief that facts matter. As our founding father
John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things.”
We will approach every issue Informed by facts, data, science and. importantly, our history. History is important because we must fully understand where we are coming from as a community, to determine where we want to go, and to perfect our path forward.
And importantly all of our work should be built upon a strong foundation of equity, inclusion, diversity and community benefit.
That is how we will build inclusive progress for St. Petersburg.
I want to thank the residents of St. Petersburg for your belief that we live in a great city — but we can be better. To reach our highest potential, we must be better. We must work every day to make sure that our city is great for everyone. From our youth to our seniors, the entrepreneur in the Grand Central District, the Brayboy’s next door at Chief Creoles on the Deuces, the emerging artists in the Warehouse Arts District, and our businesses in downtown and the Gateway area, and every neighborhood, business and community in our great city — yes, that includes the West Side Commissioner Justice. (Note: The mayor-elect later explained that this was a mild ribbing of his good friend, Pinellas Commissioner Charlie Justice: “Charlie and I have a good-natured west side/south side rivalry. He’s a Boca Ciega High School Pirate. I’m a Lakewood Spartan. It’s all in fun.”)
I’d like to thank all of the candidates who ran for mayor and City Council. I also want to thank Robert Blackmon for his phone call a few minutes ago conceding the race. I wish him well. It’s time to move forward.
We are truly in this together, and our collective potential is only limited by our ability to connect every part of our community with access to opportunity and equitable investment. We will listen, and our administration will be In-Touch with the people whom we serve.
We have to enter this work with a clear-eyed view. The work before us will be challenging — we face the same economic, social, and environmental challenges as any other American city. Some issues, like our changing climate and sea level rise, are particularly pressing issues in our city, and affect everything from housing affordability and growth management to transportation.
But these challenges are not insurmountable — we can and will make real progress through prioritizing, resourcing, partnership and the hard work of long-term strategic decision making. We can’t kick the can down the road on the pressing issues — be it climate change, public safety, infrastructure, poverty, or equity. Progress will require honest and sometimes difficult conversations, innovation, and determination. That is the path to progress in these challenging times, and I look forward to our collective work to achieve these goals.
Finally, I want to acknowledge just a few folks.
Any elected official or candidate will tell you that when you run for office, your whole family runs. My family has always supported me, even when our faith was tested. So, I want to thank my wife Donna, daughters Keonna and Kenya, sister Katrina, nephew Tre, nieces Keina and Andressa. And to the hundreds of folks in the Welch, Davis, Brown Mckenzie, Boykins family — thank you for always being there.
Special thanks to our queen, our matriarch, my mother Alletha — she is the beauty and the political brains of the family. To this day, her political instincts and advice is providential. I love you, Ma.
My father was my role model for me — he showed me every day what fatherhood, humility, and public service all about is. 30 years ago, my father ran for mayor. This is his button. When he ran in 1991, he faced death threats — it makes the petty attacks on me during this campaign pale in comparison. Dad’s example, and the example of thousands of other pioneers, taught me what real strength and courage looks like, and the value of perseverance.
As I close, I want to thank you all for your support.
I want to thank a tremendous young leader — Kymbriell Finch — for introducing me. Kymbriell is the granddaughter of former St. Petersburg Police Officer Freddie Crawford of the Courageous 12. Kym, you are taking up his mantle of community leadership. Thank you.
I would not be standing here today as mayor-elect of St. Petersburg but for the grace of God, and in my personal faith I believe that certain people are placed in our lives as mentors and role models. I have personally learned from outstanding mentors since I was a boy — leaders like Vyrle Davis, Perkins Shelton, Lonnie Donaldson, Adele Vaughn Jamison, Ernst Fillyau and Winnie Foster to name a few.
There are many giants still with us. Pioneers like Leon Jackson of the Courageous 12 — who led an historic fight for equality for Black police officers in the city. Gwen Reese, keeper of our history and culture, and Watson Haynes, an iconic leader who continues to lead and inspire. And my mentor and former colleague Commissioner Bob Stewart. There are many others that time doesn’t permit me time to name but thank you all for your example of leadership.
I want to thank our current mayor, Rick Kriseman, for leading our city to new heights. He’s a great leader, and despite the fact that he’s a Florida Gator, he’s a great friend. He’s participating in a Global Climate Summit in Scotland today, and we wish him Godspeed.
To my endorsers — elected, community, faith and business leaders, supporters, volunteers, prayer warriors, friends and voters, thank you for your support, and your hard work. I will need your continued support and collaboration as we get to work — this is the start, not the end of our journey.
Finally, to my team, #TeamWelch, you are the best. You mapped out a plan to reach the voters, and we stayed focused on our positive message of inclusive progress. We knocked doors, called, texted, did our homework and reached the voters through mail, TV, social media and radio.
I’m proud that my team, endorsers, and supporters, reflect our entire community. Black, white, straight, LGBTQ+, Latinx, from different parties, neighborhoods, faith experiences and ages. I’m proud of our partnership, and our unifying goal of progress, equity, and equality for all.
This election has made history in St. Petersburg, and it is my distinct honor to be the first African-American mayor of my hometown. But let me be clear in stating that “making history” in and of itself, has never been the priority of this campaign nor will it be the focus of my administration. One of my guiding principles of governance (available at Kenwelch.com) is community impact, inclusive progress that improves the lives or our residents, the resiliency of our community and links every person with the opportunity to become their best and authentic self — that is inclusive progress and that will be the focus of my administration.
For me “making history” without making a positive impact is an empty achievement. So, our election victory must be followed by a purposeful agenda of opportunity, accountability, and intentional equity for our entire community, and working in partnership with you, and every person and organization who will join our partnership for progress — we will build impactful, inclusive progress for St. Petersburg. Let’s get to work. Thank you.