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Kanika Tomalin’s new role tops long list of changes in St. Pete City Hall

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman's second term has begun with a swirl of retirements and promotions at City Hall.

A dozen key staffers were promoted and given raises. A half-dozen high-level officials retired.

The news was announced late Jan. 12 in a press release praising the mayor's hand-picked team for their expertise and thanking the departing veterans for their service.

"My congratulations to those being promoted and my best wishes for a happy and healthy retirement to those leaving," Kriseman said in the statement.

Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin will become City Administrator pending the approval of City Council. Tomalin will also retain her current title of deputy mayor under Kriseman's new lineup.

The council is expected to vote Feb. 1, said mayoral spokesman Ben Kirby. City Council chair Lisa Wheeler-Bowman said she thought Tomalin up to the challenge of holding both positions.

"I think she will do a great job with the background she has," said Wheeler-Bowman, who noted that Tomalin has been attending more council and committee meetings in the past few months.

If she gets the job, Tomalin's annual salary will increase by nearly $4,000 to $185,000.

Gary Cornwell will leave the position of city administrator after four years, capping a 38-year career. He makes $181,033 a year.

In a memo to the council, Kriseman said he was grateful for Cornwell's "steady leadership and wise counsel" through his first term.

Rumors that Tomalin would replace Cornwell have been circulating for weeks. Cornwell told a Tampa Bay  Times reporter on Dec. 14 that he had no plans to leave "any time soon."

The mayor also announced these other personnel moves:

• Chief of Staff Kevin King has a new title:  Chief of Policy and Public Engagement. He will not receive a raise, however.

• Budget Director Tom Greene will take on the role of assistant city administrator, a newly created position. He will make $162,000 annually.

• Liz Makofske will become budget director. She will make $117,500.

• Longtime senior city staffer Mike Dove is retiring as neighborhood affairs administrator. He'll stay on until May in a part-time capacity earning about $16,000.

• Dove is being replaced by Codes Compliance Director Rob Gerdes, who will make $140,000.

• James Corbett will become Codes Compliance Director with a salary of $112,000.

• Leisure Services Administrator Sherry McBee is retiring.
Parks and Recreation Director Mike Jefferis will replace her at a salary of $145,000. Jefferis will continue overseeing the parks and recreation department. No replacement for that department's director slot is planned, Kirby said.

• Nina Mahmoudi will become the marketing director. She will make $96,509.

• Chris Ballestra will become interim Enterprise Facilities Director replacing recently retired Clay Smith. Ballestra's salary will not change.

• John Palenchar loses the interim part of his title. He is now the Water Resources Director. His new salary will be $130,000.

• Anne Fritz has been named Chief Financial Officer. She had been city finance director. Her salary won't change, either.

• New hire John Rodriguez will become government affairs director replacing recently retired Sally Everett. Rodriguez will make $90,000.
Sharon Wright becomes the Sustainability and Resiliency Director. She'll now make $90,000.

• Walter Miller, marina and port manager, also recently retired.

With so many high-earners retiring, Kirby said the promotions still save the city money: $101,042 for the balance of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Wheeler-Bowman said she'll miss the expertise of the retiring longtime administrators.

"Watching Gary in council meetings … He knows everything. He was Johnny on the spot. I'm going to miss that," she said, "and I could call Mike or Sherry with any question and they would know."

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