Though a major political party backs her, Gulfport’s own Jennifer Necole Webb says her strongest base of support comes from individuals who appreciate long-term bipartisan policy solutions.
She is one of two Democratic candidates who have qualified to run for the open Florida House of Representatives District 69 seat in 2018. Javier Centonzio of St. Petersburg is the other Democratic contender. Two Republicans are also vying for the office: Jeremy David Bailie of unincorporated Pinellas County and Raymond M. Blacklidge of Madeira Beach.
“The politicians who tend to get many of their bills passed are work horses, not show horses, and I’m definitely more of a work horse,” said Webb. “I like reading through legislation and state statutes” along with “talking to people to bring them together regardless of partisan ideology. A lot of the best measurable solutions and benefits are in the middle of the range. You’re not just passing a policy, you’re shaping an entire strategy for change.”
Webb also ran for the office during the 2016 election cycle; incumbent Republican Kathleen Peters won the election. This year, Peters is running for Pinellas County Commission, rather than re-election to the state legislature, and Webb is trying a second time.
According to the Florida House of Representatives Redistricting Committee, District 69 covers southwest Pinellas County and includes, in whole or in part, the municipalities of Gulfport, St. Pete Beach, South Pasadena, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Kenneth City, North Redington Beach, Redington Beach and Redington Shores; and the unincorporated places of Tierra Verde, Bear Creek, Lealman and West Lealman. (For District 69 map, visit tinyurl.com/ybrv5ul6.)
In the academic and private sectors, Webb said she has gained experience in looking at the whole picture, defining a problem, identifying a solution and helping people across the finish line. She is currently the founder and managing partner of Publicus, Inc., a civic innovation, public relations and business solutions consulting firm.
“The best way to impact change is at the local level,” she said. “It gets really messy if you go up to Tallahassee and have the legislature try to handle an issue like short-term vacation rentals.”
Webb explains that she has been working to bring stakeholders from different communities together to have difficult conversations about differences.
“Framing the problem leads to common-ground solutions,” she said. In the case of short-term rentals, “We don’t need regulation from Tallahassee.”
Since 2016, Webb says she has “been more engaged by showing up in more places so that people understand I am the candidate that earnestly wants to represent families and businesses.”
She comes from a public service approach to politics.
Her dad died a week before her second birthday. As a result, her mom, grandmother and a group of nuns raised her and got her involved in public service projects in her home state of Louisiana.
“The nuns were instrumental in shaping how I understand public service,” she said. In a short-term way, that involved things like putting bikes together with the nuns for homeless kids to receive as Christmas presents.
For the long-term, she said, “I learned that every child deserves parents who can make a living wage and provide for their own family. It’s about dignity and having a safety net. I was always very aware that if it weren’t for my mom’s family, we would have fallen through the cracks because my mom was a secretary. I’m the oldest child of a single mom.”
The adults in her life as she was growing up were a mixture of both Republicans and Democrats. Some were Catholics while others were Southern Baptists or Methodists.
“I get along with a lot of different people because I have a lot of different folks that I’m related to,” she said.
When Webb was 10, her mother remarried. Her step-dad’s uncle was the Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry in Louisiana for 28 years.
“I saw what it was like to be an ambassador at the state level promoting farmers and ranchers,” she said. “And, how his office was responsible for protecting the wetlands.”
When she is not meeting with people, she makes time to go hiking in the woods or to take walks on the beach.
“Most of the time, I leave my phone behind,” she said. “Every time I go to different places to explore. The fun is being in nature.”
Webb and her spouse, Cynthia Wurner, own a single-family home near the business district of Gulfport.
The state primary election is Tuesday, August 28 and the general election is Tuesday, November 6. Representatives serve two-year terms.
For more information about Webb, visit electjenniferwebb.com/home.