Jim Coats, the former Republican Sheriff of Pinellas County from 2004 to 2011, has endorsed Rick Kriseman’s re-election.
This is an interesting get because a) Coats served during the majority of former mayor Rick Baker’s two terms and b) Coasts joins the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association in endorsing Kriseman.
“I had the privilege of working with the mayor during his time in the Florida Legislature and always found him to be accessible, thoughtful and open-minded,” said Coats. “I can attest he is an outstanding public servant with remarkable character. I’ve been impressed by the improvements the mayor has made in the police department including re-branding the department, empowering his police chief and command staff, and making the agency attractive to new employee applicants.”
Continued Coats, “The residents of St. Petersburg will be best served under Mayor Kriseman’s leadership for another term.”
Issues surrounding the St. Petersburg Police Department have emerged as one of the most contentious of the race.
For example, in a recent mayoral debate, Kriseman warned that if former two-term Mayor Rick Baker returns to City Hall, that could be the end of St. Petersburg Police Chief Tony Holloway. Baker, however, denies he would fire Holloway.
“I never said that, never implied it,” Baker said. “I actually met with Chief Holloway. I like him. I just don’t like his boss.”
Baker seems to have tepid support for Holloway, the former Clearwater police chief Kriseman hired in 2014.
In a June debate at the Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, former police Sgt. Al White asked if Baker had an issue with Holloway not living in the city. While Kriseman supported Holloway, but Baker’s response was somewhat less committal.
“The police chief who is protecting our city ought to live with us,” Baker answered.
Holloway also came up at another debate July 10, when candidates were directly asked if they would retain Holloway, Baker was again guarded.
“I like Chief Holloway, but I’ll make no staffing decisions until after the election,” Baker said.
Baker has also been critical of Kriseman for spending city money too freely, particularly regarding a new St. Pete Police Department headquarters and a firing range that would cost 85 million.