Maria Scruggs touts her experience in St. Pete's District 6 council race
ST. PETERSBURG — Maria Scruggs, one of eight candidates running for the City Council District 6 seat, joked that she's the grandmother of the group of younger rivals, with one exception.
Scruggs, 59, who spoke to the Tampa Bay Times editorial board on Monday, said she would bring preparation and experience to the race along with a track record of getting things done.
"Even though the demographics had shifted" in the redrawn district, which now includes downtown and parts of Midtown and Old Northeast. Scruggs said the Midtown area — a predominantly poor, African-American area — needs someone who understands the specific issues facing the community.
"Downtown is going to be taken care of," said Scruggs, a resident of Midtown herself.
She said that despite the millions of dollars spent in Midtown over the years, there have been no substantive changes. She was critical of outgoing City Council member Karl Nurse, who cannot run again because of term limits.
"Karl's leadership has been resistant to input," she said, adding that she believes Nurse has been more focused on "a political win" for himself, rather than for the people of Midtown.
Nurse responded to all the promises made by the candidates.
"I am comfortable that thousands of people a year give me input as to how I should do my job," he said. "I have 20 things that I am trying to get done before I leave, but that doesn't change the fact that there will be many things unsolved and that there will be plenty of things for the next person."
Scruggs did concede this: "For someone who does not live here (in Midtown) ... it appears that he did a good job." Nurse lives in Old Southeast, while Scruggs said Midtown residents feel hopeless and are upset about the threat of gentrification.
"The fear is real," said Scruggs, who is also president the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP.
She described the 105 or so early childhood centers in Midtown as small businesses that need to be supported in order to provide quality education for children in the area. Scruggs, a grandmother of two, said the Happy Workers Children's Center, where she is chair of the board, employs 21 full-time people.
Scruggs said she would like to see the Tropicana Field redevelopment plans included in the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area. so that revenue generated in a revamped district would benefit Midtown. If that doesn't happen, she said, then the city needs to focus on creating more businesses and genuinely affordable housing for Midtown residents.
Addressing the Tangerine Plaza situation, the city-assisted Midtown shopping center where two supermarkets — a Sweetbay Supermarket and more recently, a Walmart Neighborhood Market — have both failed, Scruggs said the space should remain empty "until there's a specific plan."
"We can't take another failure," she said.
Scruggs, a supervisor with Orange County Corrections, commutes 1,500 miles a week to her job in Orlando. On a good day, that commute is one and a half hours. On other days, she said, it can take as long as three hours.
This is her fourth run for elected office. Scruggs ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2001, for the Pinellas County Commission in 2004 and for St. Petersburg City Council in 2005. Campaign documents show she has raised $4,555 for the District 6 race, so far.
The other candidates in the crowded District 6 race are: James "Jim" Jackson, 72, Justin Bean, 30, Robert Blackmon, 28, Eritha "Akile" Cainion, 20, Gina Driscoll, 46, Corey Givens Jr., 25, and James Scott, 29.
The Aug. 29 primary will determine the top two candidates who will go on to the Nov. 7 general election.
Contact Waveney Ann Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.
Editor's Note: This story was updated with reaction from Karl Nurse on Tuesday.