ST. PETERSBURG — After pledging to make rejuvenation of the city’s poorest neighborhoods a top priority, Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman on Thursday named a longtime hospital administrator as his deputy mayor and charged her with reducing poverty.
Kanika Tomalin, regional vice president of Health Management Associates, which owns Bayfront Medical Center, will join Kriseman’s administration when he takes office Jan 2. She will be the sole deputy mayor with a citywide purview but is tasked with helping the city meet its Agenda 2020 plan to reduce poverty 30 percent by 2020.
“She shares my commitment to advancing an agenda of equality, of opportunity, of innovative solutions to our city’s most pressing problems,” Kriseman said. “I know of her love for this city.”
In hiring Tomalin, Kriseman may have pulled off a coup in finding a deputy mayor welcomed by both the city’s black and business communities. Her appointment fills the void left since Mayor Bill Foster in 2011 fired Goliath Davis, the deputy mayor who oversaw economic development in Midtown.
“She’s the deputy mayor for the City of St. Petersburg, not for Midtown, which is superb,” said Jeff Copeland, a black community activist who worked on Foster’s 2009 campaign but backed Kriseman this year.
Meanwhile, Tomalin’s background in health care will reassure the business community and give the city a better understanding of the needs of its medical corridor, an area just south of downtown that includes Bayfront and All Children’s Hospital.
St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Steinocher served with Tomalin on the business committee for Greenlight Pinellas, the county’s initiative to expand transit and build a light-rail network.
“She has one of the brightest, most strategic minds of anyone I’ve met,” he said. “She has a great reputation with everyone in the community.”
A former TV and print reporter, Tomalin served in a variety of positions at Health Management Associates and, before that, at Bayfront Medical Center, where she was vice president of strategic planning and public affairs. She has a degree in journalism from Florida A&M University, a master’s in business administration from the University of Miami and a doctorate in law and policy from Northeastern University.
She also serves on the boards of several local organizations, including the Pinellas County Urban League and the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership.
Tomalin said her experience planning and producing policies for HMA’s 23 hospitals in Florida would be invaluable in her new role.
“I’ve worked professionally in that role for more than a decade, shaping the policies that not only affect Bayfront but absolutely our community and health care throughout the state,” she said.
Rejuvenation of the city’s poorest neighborhoods became a thorny election issue for Foster, who was criticized for not doing enough to help the city’s poorest residents.
In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 5 election, Foster opened a campaign office in Midtown and announced he would hire an administrator to oversee economic development in Midtown.
Those moves came too late to shore up his support in those neighborhoods, which voted heavily for Kriseman.
Davis, who is Tomalin’s cousin, welcomed her hiring. He said he and Kriseman have not discussed him coming to work for the new mayor.
“I think people throughout the city will be elated that someone of her character and her talent will be joining the administration,” he said. “That’s not just limited to Midtown.”
Kriseman also plans to appoint a chief of staff and a communications director while keeping the city administrator position. He said he will announce other new hires closer to taking office Jan.2