By LEONORA LaPETER
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 9, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- Maria Scruggs-Weston, one-time homecoming queen, narcotics agent and public housing administrator, now wants to be mayor.
Weston becomes the second woman to enter the race, joining Kathleen Ford and nine other candidates competing for the seat being vacated by Mayor David Fischer.
The 43-year-old, who for the past year has run a breast cancer awareness program for St. Anthony's Hospital, hopes her diverse professional experience will give her a leg up in the race.
"My platform is unique," Weston said. "I'm proposing to take a more hands-on approach to issues that everyday folks deal with, whether they be black, white, blue, green. What impacts the quality of life here in the city of St. Petersburg?"
If elected mayor, Weston said, she hopes to create a planned strategy for addressing economic development, neighborhood development, education, health and even transportation, among other issues. Among her more unique ideas, Weston would like to see the creation of a community-based health facility that would address health disparities among blacks; funding of additional staff for the city's Neighborhood Partnership Office; and the development of "achievement centers" that would serve as anchors for economic development in poor neighborhoods.
She would support partnerships between local government and agencies to address community ills. She thinks the city should work with health organizations to address the high rate of suicide among black males.
A native of St. Petersburg and a resident of the 13th Street Heights neighborhood, Weston lived at the Jordan Park public housing community as a child. She attended local high schools and was the first black ever elected homecoming queen in Pinellas County at an integrated school -- Northeast High School -- in 1975.
She has worked for the state attorney's office in Orlando, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Juvenile Welfare Board and the St. Petersburg Housing Authority, among other places. She said she ran into race and gender discrimination at FDLE and the Housing Authority. She was fired from both organizations and has a gender and racial discrimination lawsuit pending against the Housing Authority.
Weston, who is divorced and has a 12-year-old daughter, said she has wanted to run for mayor ever since she participated in Fischer's campaign for re-election and led an effort to get out the black vote in the last mayor's election.
"You can't make the system change from the bottom up," she said.