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By BRYAN GILMER
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 7, 2000
ST. PETERSBURG -- Chris Eaton runs a company that takes groups of North Americans to Latin America to do construction and other humanitarian projects in impoverished areas of foreign countries.
The 42-year-old president and owner of Bridge Builders says he came to realize that a main benefit to people who go on such a trip is that they return home with a heightened awareness of needs around them and how they might be able to help.
After personally taking trip after trip to places such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Argentina with church groups and people from other organizations, Eaton decided that he could better solve problems in St. Petersburg if he were elected to the City Council.
"My professional life has been committed to service, much of it in the area of international development, but always with a sense that international development helps us understand how to develop here at home," he said.
Eaton will make his first run for office by seeking the City Council seat Kathleen Ford will vacate when her term expires next March. Ford is running for mayor. Douglas Neil Every, another political newcomer, also has filed to run for the seat.
Eaton is single and lives in the Old Northeast. His office is in the Euclid neighborhood. If elected, he would represent some of the richest neighborhoods in the city, including those of North Shore.
But beyond meeting the needs of his district, he says he would spend a great deal of time listening to residents of some of the city's poorest neighborhoods to understand how the city can raise the standard of living there, he said.
"The quality of (every part of) the city affects everybody," he said. "It is reflective of the quality of life in the city as a whole. What I want is for the City Council and the city to follow through with what they say they are going to do."
Eaton said he is good at building consensus, and he thinks he could use that skill to cultivate a more harmonious relationship among City Council members and between the council and the city administration.
"We have to work together for the betterment of humanity," he said.