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Candidate kicks off early run for mayor

Kathleen Ford hopes to get a feel for the city by jogging into various neighborhoods and talking issues with residents.


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 15, 2000

ST. PETERSBURG -- Mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford already is taking her campaign to the streets. Literally.

The city election is not until March, but Ford, who announced her candidacy on Sept. 1, said she wants to start early and get an up-close feel for the city.

Wearing sneakers, shorts and T-shirt, Ford has started running through neighborhoods, waving to motorists and introducing herself to residents in their yards, at bus stops or taking walks.

A sign pinned to the front of her shirt says "Kathleen Ford for mayor -- running for St. Petersburg."

The "running" element will be her campaign theme, Ford said. The former University of Virginia track athlete started about two weeks ago and has been jogging the city's perimeter in segments of about 4 miles each.

As the campaign progresses, she plans forays into other parts of the city.

Ford said the idea, somewhat akin to Lawton Chiles' walk through Florida during his 1970 U.S. Senate campaign, developed during her campaign committee meetings.

"We were talking about the issues, and a way to bring about community awareness about some of them," she said.

"There's always the tension between neighborhoods and our commercial district. When we get out on the streets, with feet to the pavement, that's when you start to see what those issues are."

Ford started the trek on 34th Street N at 38th Avenue and headed west. By early this week, she had plunged south to Pinellas Point's pink streets and was beginning to wind northward.

Neighborhood friend Maureen Stafford accompanies her. On occasion, Don and Lorraine Margeson, who are neighborhood activists along the 34th Street corridor, ride alongside on mountain bikes.

Neighborhood Times went along twice. The city's varied character emerged, from the street grit thrown up by vehicles on 49th Street S to Tampa Bay sunrises along the city's southeastern shoreline.

One route went from 58th Street S a few blocks across the Pinellas Trail to 49th Street S, then south to 23rd Avenue S, east to 37th Street S. It ended behind Ceridian Benefits Services at 34th Avenue S.

Another run started at Bay Vista Park at the end of Fourth Street S and wound through Bahama Shores, the Little Bayou area and Coquina Key before ending at the Chattaway Restaurant at Fourth Street S and 22nd Avenue.

People at first seemed puzzled about being approached. After Ford introduced herself, most warmed up and offered polite responses.

"I've had good comments as I've run through the areas. I think a lot of folks really love their neighborhoods," Ford said.

On 37th Street S, Ford stopped to talk to a group of women waiting with their children for a school bus.

They said the city had moved equipment at their children's playground and were upset that their complaints had gone unheeded. Ford said she would look into it.

Lorraine Margeson said the campaign committee hopes the street-level interaction will raise issues and encourage discussion of them.

"How do we make people care about the whole city? How do you join us together and make everybody care at least a little?" Margeson asked.

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