State Rep. Kathleen Peters is the only one of the three Republicans in the District 13 primary who has held elective office, but to call her a career politician wouldn’t be entirely accurate.
The Northbrook, Ill., native’s political aspirations are the latest on a resume containing an array of ventures, from retail to advocating for at-risk youth. She says she’s a compassionate conservative, and points to extensive work on child welfare and homeless issues as major points of interest, as well as economic development.
Peters, 52, is a 28-year Pinellas resident who was elected in 2008 to the city commission in South Pasadena, a small waterfront city near the Pinellas beaches known for a large retiree population. She had served on the city’s planning and zoning board and had worked for the Clearwater Area Chamber of Commerce. In 2009, her fellow commissioners chose her to replace the retiring mayor, and voters elected her mayor in 2010.
She ran for State House District 69 in 2012 and won.
Her early career doesn’t indicate an inclination toward politics.
She started out in retail and met her husband, Mike, while both were teenagers working at a suburban Dominick’s, a now-defunct grocery store chain in the Chicago area. They soon married, had the first of four sons and moved to Florida, where they opened Captain’s Convenient Mart on St. Pete Beach.
She enrolled at Eckerd College while pregnant with her fourth child.
After graduating, she got a job with the Pinellas County Juvenile Welfare Board and fought for at-risk youth through her work with the YMCA.
“I had been always doing community work relating to my children,” she said. “Child development was a big focal point for me.”
She later served as vice president of public affairs for the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce before some colleagues convinced her to run for office.
“It was really the nudging from other people,” Peters said. “When I see something that’s wrong, I have the compassion to reach out and fix it. I’m compelled to do something about it.”
Peters said her work as a state legislator shows her ability to get things done. Helping St. Petersburg College get state funding to start an orthotics and prosthetics program is among her chief accomplishments as a first-term legislator, she said.
She said she can bring that same quality as a member of Congress, despite starting at the bottom.
As her competitors are, she is in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act, but only if there’s a sensible solution to replace it. She also wants to tackle issues such as flood insurance and tax breaks for veterans, both of which she sees as vital to the economy in Pinellas.
“My focus is getting the state and country back on track through economic development,” she said.