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Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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St. Pete could see top-level personnel changes with new mayor

Less than one week after St. Petersburg voters elected a new mayor, a longtime senior employee has resigned.

Marketing director Beth Herendeen announced this weekend she had accepted a position as vice president of special projects with The Edwards Group. Her department has faced criticism that it did not do enough to attract new businesses to the city. Mayor-Elect Rick Kriseman pledged during the campaign to overhaul the way the city is marketed.

The city has close ties with the Edwards Group, owned by local businessman Bill Edwards. The company is redeveloping BayWalk and runs the Mahaffey Theater for the city. Her new job will reunite Herendeen with old boss, Rick Baker, the former mayor who heads The Edwards Group.

Herendeen said her departure was not predicated by Kriseman’s election.

“I didn’t announce until after the election because some of you might have wanted to make a story out of it,” Herendeen said in an email to reporters. “I was simply given an offer I couldn’t refuse.“

Herendeen is unlikely to be the only high-level executive to depart City Hall in the wake of Foster’s defeat. During the transition period, Kriseman plans to meet with all the city’s top-level executives, some of whom are approaching retirement age, to find out their plans.

Kriseman has already announced that he wants to run the city more professionally and plans to hire a chief of staff and a communications director, a role that largely fell to Herendeen’s department.

His discussions with top staffers will likely include City Administrator Tish Elston, City Attorney John Wolfe, Public Works Administrator Mike Connors and Rick Mussett, the city’s senior administrator for development,

Police Chief Chuck Harmon announced in July that he will retire Jan. 6.

Elston, who was hired by the city in 1998, said she will meet with Kriseman to discuss her future after she returns from a vacation.

“At this point, I really don’t know a lot,” she said. “It will depend on that conversation.”

Herendeen, who earned roughly $105,000, joined the city in 1993 and was promoted to communications director in 2007.

She oversaw a $2 million budget and a staff of about 19. Her department was responsible for press releases and promoting events such as the St. Petersburg Grand Prix and the Saturday Morning Market.

The job of attracting new businesses to the city was largely left to the Planning and Economic Development department, which partners with Pinellas County Economic Development office, Enterprise Florida and the Tampa Bay Partnership.

But City Council members say the city’s efforts lag well behind that of neighboring Tampa in reaching out across the United States and are exploring a possible partnership with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. Under the agreement, the chamber would match any funding the city puts up to hire a marketer and negotiator who could quickly close deals with businesses considering coming to the city.

In a statement, Kriseman thanked Herendeen and said he was sorry to see her leave. It ended with a statement that suggests there will be more administrative changes.

“Our transition team will work to identify great people to ensure a smooth transfer of power between my incoming administration and the talented individuals already hard at work for St. Petersburg,” he said.

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