Civic activist Ed Montanari announced on Monday he’s running for the St. Petersburg City Council District 3 race this November, and he says the two major issues that he’ll be running on are business and maintaining the quality of life in the city that has blossomed in recent years.
“I want to continue to be an attractive place for high-paying, high-tech clean and green jobs, but the other thing that we’ve had in St. Pete, and we’ve always protected, is our quality of life,” the 56-year-old said this morning.
Montanari says the city is in a good place, but he thinks he can make it even better by getting involved in the decision-making process at City Hall.
“I have never shirked any sort of type of opportunity over the past 12-14 years in getting involved in a lot of things,” he says. “And I’ve been able to be effective in many cases in getting things done for the city.”
Montanari is one of the most wired-in people in St. Petersburg and has been actively involved with city life for over a decade. Although he may be best known to some as being the vice chairman of the Pier Task Force, which led to the selection of the Lens design that was ultimately defeated by voters in 2013, he wants to make sure people don’t forget his leadership as the head of the city’s task force convened to decide the fate of Albert Whitted Airport back in 2004.
That task force was initially split in half on how to proceed after the public voted in a referendum to strongly maintain the historic airport.
“We were able to come out with a plan that was embraced by the whole community,” he recollects. “We were able to build a new terminal, a new control tower, and we also built Albert Whitted Park.” That was going on at the same time that Mayor Rick Baker brought the Indy racing series to St. Pete, adding another challenge to make the project compatible with a Grand Prix race.
And regarding the Pier?
“The Pier has has been a long and difficult study, and I think we’re going to get a pier built this time around,” he says. “But it’s been hard to get the community behind a concept. You’re never going to please everybody, but trying to get a majority of residents behind a plan that everybody can embrace I think is going to be the key to success.”
Montanari’s family moved to Shore Acres from Falls Church, Va., back in 1976, when he was still in high school. (He attended Northeast High as a senior.) He then pursued his childhood dream of becoming an airline pilot by attended the not-so-well-known Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, graduating in 1981.
From there he entered the Air Force, where he served as a pilot and instructor until 1989. He then parlayed his skills into the job he’s had ever since, as a pilot for American Airlines, where he often travels overseas to South America and Europe.
And during that time he’s served on a number of civic boards such as the city’s Community Planning and Preservation Commission and the Albert Whitted Airport Advisory Committee. He also serves with Pinellas County Economic Development and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Council.
Montanari has ran for public office before. In November of 2007, he narrowly lost, by 300 votes, to Bill Dudley in the District 3 race.
Dudley is one of a majority of Council members who have been resistant to Mayor Rick Kriseman’s agreement with the Tampa Bay Rays that would allow team officials to speak with lawmakers in Hillsborough County about a possible new ballpark.
And Montanari says he’s right with them on that. “I think we can do better,” he says simply regarding the cash offering the Rays and Kriseman came to an agreement on to allow them to roam.
He said he’s glad that Mayor Kriseman accompanied Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on a trade mission to Chile last year, and hopes that city officials continue to travel far and wide to recruit businesses to St. Pete. “I want to see more of that,” he says, and mentions similar recruiting trips that Gov. Rick Scott and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, when he was in office, went on as something to emulate.
Montanari is also emphasizing that he’s going to be “all ears” out on the campaign trail this year, getting to know what’s on St. Pete citizens’ collective minds.
“I want to listen and hear what are the issues that concern,” he says. “I’ve been involved for many years on a lot of different projects, but there’s a lot of things that are out there that people want to see changed in St. Pete.”