ST. PETERSBURG - While campaigning door-to-door in Old Northeast recently, Carolyn Fries heard from a resident who complained of drug deals and late-night noise from the house next door.
Fries went home and researched the city's nuisance abatement codes and, a few days later, hand-delivered the resident a letter detailing how to report and follow up on complaints to the city.
Fries, who describes herself as a wife, mother, mechanical engineer and entrepreneur, said she grew to love helping people solve problems while she served as president and treasurer of Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association. Now, she wants to apply those skills citywide as the District 4 representative on City Council.
She said her priorities are improving public safety and growing the city's economy.
With her husband, David Fries, she has started several small technology companies and understands the challenges small businesses face. The city's focus should be helping existing businesses and attracting new ones, Fries said.
Unable to match the fundraising efforts of some of her opponents, she has focused on door-to-door campaigning. As well as concern about safety and the city's pier, residents want to know that neighborhoods will be maintained, Fries said.
"With the city focusing on the south side, there are other areas of the city that feel like they have been neglected," she said.
Fries, 45, grew up on a horse farm in northwest Indiana, where she was often required to pitch in baling hay and other work. In her free time, she would dismantle and reassemble her toys, a mechanical bent that led to her earning a degree in engineering from Purdue University. She was the first in her family to attend college.
"I wasn't your normal little girl," she said.
City Council races are nonpartisan, but Fries said she can appeal to centrist voters who see her main opponents as too extreme.
When questions were recently raised whether two of her opponents met the city's residency requirement, Fries declined to make it a campaign issue.
"I didn't want to win that way," she said.
Family: Married to David; children Zachary, 21, Connor, 19, Thea, 16, Harrison, 13
Occupation: Program manager
Education: Engineering degree from Purdue University
Civic experience: Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association president and treasurer, Council of Neighborhood Associations leadership program; John Hopkins Middle School PTSA, Rotary Club of St. Petersburg
Should the city use red-light cameras? No
Will you vote to stop the Lens? Yes
What to do about the Rays? "The Tampa Bay Rays should honor their contract through 2027, and we should work with them to improve attendances."
Campaign donations raised: $6,667