ST PETERSBURG – Barclay Harless, civic leader and local community banker, kicked off his campaign Jan. 31 as he runs for District 2 of St. Petersburg City Council.
Harless gathered with supporters at Ricky P’s Creole Kitchen in St. Petersburg to lay out his plan for the city should he be elected.
“The number one reason I’m running for city council: I want to be the councilmen for small business,” Harless said to the crowd. “Here, in our community, small businesses employ the families. They are why people want to come and move to St. Pete.”
District 2 encompasses northern St. Pete and the Gandy area and is currently represented by Councilman Jim Kennedy. Kennedy will reach his term limit at the end of this year.
“I really believe St. Petersburg needs a fresh perspective for our city government,” Harless says. “We’re doing a lot of things right but we’ve got some serious challenges, so I believe we need a fresh perspective.”
Harless says the city’s biggest challenges were front page news in 2016. The construction of the pier, the issues with wastewater and the concern that the [Tampa Bay] Rays will leave Tropicana for a better deal.
“We’ve got the pier; we are $25 million in. That check is written so we have to build it, but should we be spending an additional $14 million earmarked for transportation? I think we need to hold off on that for now,” Harless says. “I think, with that money, we need to focus right now on the wastewater, and we should also focus on transportation.”
The issue that the Rays may leave St. Petersburg is a concern for Harless but he also sees it as an opportunity for the city.
“The Tropicana saga, we’ve got prequels and sequels to this story. I think the city has done the right thing; the Rays are a free enterprise, and they are able to do what they want. I think St. Pete is a major-league city and I think they should stay here, but we do have to think about the cost. If they do decide to leave I think we have a once-in-a-city’s lifetime opportunity to redesign 80-plus acres of our downtown,” Harless says.
An area that is of personal interest to Harless is making sure St. Petersburg remains on a path of inclusivity and equality.
“I went to college here at USF and I had fraternity brothers who were in the LGBTQ community. I have very close friends in the community as well, and I will never stop fighting for them,” Harless says. “I couldn’t see them out on social occasions and then ever betray them through a vote.”
Harless says he is impressed with the work that has been done in the name of equality and couldn’t be prouder of how progressive his city is.
“St. Petersburg has been the model city and for me equality is one of those issues that there is no excuse to not move into the 21st century on,” Harless says. “We have gotten 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Index the last several years, and I think [Mayor Kriseman] has done great things for the LGBTQ community in St. Pete. I couldn’t be prouder of our mayor when it comes to that.”
This is Harless’ first run at political office, but the fifth-generation Floridian worked in the Midtown area of St. Petersburg for State Representative Darryl Rouson during the height of the economic recession.
“This is going to be a long year but I am ready for it. I love walking door-to-door and I’m going to be doing a lot of it,” Harless says. “Listen, local government is where we get things done for our neighbors and our community, so I’m looking forward to getting in there and getting to work.”
In his first week of campaigning, Harless received more than 100 individual contributions to his campaign.
The District 2 election is this November.