ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Michael Ingram, a 20-year-old University of South Florida St. Petersburg political science major, has filed to run for mayor of St. Petersburg in 2021.
What You Need To Know
- Michael Ingram originally filed to run for the city council District 2 seat
- One of his goals is to show that young candidates should be taken seriously
- St. Petersburg has never had a "young mayor" before in its long history
The St. Pete native, who originally filed earlier this year to run for the city council District 2 seat currently occupied by Brandi Gabbard, said that while he will be running to win the office outright, he’s also motivated to show that young candidates like himself should be taken seriously.
“I would love to win this office and represent the people of St. Pete,” he told Spectrum Bay News 9 on Monday. “But I want to get more young people out both running and voting.”
Ingram is a member of Generation Z, considered to be those born after 1996. He would be 21 by the time of the November general election. Although there have been younger mayors in U.S. history, none have led a city as big as St. Petersburg, which has a population of more than 265,000, according to the U.S. Census.
He said his parents were initially a little “uncertain” about his candidacy but now embrace it.
In making the case to elect a youth like himself, Ingram said that previous St. Petersburg leaders have ignored certain issues that they literally knew they wouldn’t be able to see the results from. He specifically cites the city’s infrastructure and sewage problems, which a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 2017 report said had gone on for decades. But that report also criticized Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration for a 2015 200-million gallon sewage spill.
“That’s an issue that I feel that former mayors have pushed off to their successors,” he said, while acknowledging that Kriseman “could have invested more” in alleviating the situation.
Ingram is running on a platform that includes boosting small businesses and doing more on helping the homeless and creating more affordable housing.
“St. Pete, as we all know, has been growing, but that growth can’t be at the cost of leaving people behind,” he said, adding that he has first-hand experience recently as he attempted to find housing for himself. “I feel that new developments really need to set aside some space for affordable housing, and then developments that are already there also should have some affordable housing set aside.”
Regarding the gentrification of downtown St. Pete, Ingram said he “would love to keep St. Pete local.”
“One of the things that I’d love to do is create zoning where there’s a limited amount of space for these ‘formula’ businesses where they just follow the same formula,” he said. “You can’t really tell one apart from another. So that we keep our St. Pete local businesses where they’re accessible. And also that we make zoning that favors these small businesses, instead of building strip malls and the like.”
A supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, Ingram applauds Kriseman and St. Petersburg Police Chief Tony Holloway’s announcement this summer that they would reallocate money originally set aside to hire new police officers to instead pay for a new team of non-armed social workers. Those social workers are now scheduled to begin working in January to handle non-violent calls that go to the SPPD regarding mental illness issues.
Although he was an active candidate for council before switching his candidacy for mayor last month, Ingram said he hasn’t done any fundraising, noting how the public has been caught up with dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 election and not thinking much about 2021.
City Councilwoman Darden Rice and outgoing Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch top the list of potential St. Pete mayoral candidates for 2021, though undoubtedly others will get into the race as well over the coming months.
“That’s why I’ve started so early,” said Ingram.” I know that I am at a disadvantage in being young. And not having been in office before. But I don’t think that’s a deal-breaker.”