The free, family friendly, fifth-annual Mayors’ 49th Street Cleanup on Saturday, October 13 will include opening music by the Urban Gypsies of Florida along with cake and ice cream after the cleanup to celebrate the milestone year.
Traditionally, Gulfport’s Mayor Sam Henderson and St. Petersburg’s Mayor Rick Kriseman join four teams of area citizens on one morning to make a difference with hand-held litter pickers along a section of 49th Street South, which is the two-way road that defines the border between both cities.
The theme of the event is “One street, two cities, one goal – collaboration,” said Margarete Tober, president of the non-profit Gulfport Neighbors, a volunteer organization that works with both municipalities to organize the event. “Residents from all areas of both cities are encouraged to participate. The communities should not be divided by anything more than four lanes of asphalt.”
The most unusual item collected will win the Golden Picker award, she said.
In addition, after the cleanup, the police chiefs from the two cities present a summary of law enforcement goals and achievements in the area over the past year then co-lead an interactive chat session where they answer questions from the public. The Chiefs’ Chat and Community Forum portion of the program is now in its 4th year with Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent and St. Petersburg Police Chief Tony Holloway scheduled to attend.
As a special guest, Luke Williams, the police chief for Pinellas County Schools, is also scheduled to join the chat, said Tober. Williams is the former assistant police chief for the St. Petersburg Police Department and represented that city at the 2017 Chiefs’ Chat. Williams was with the St. Petersburg police force for 33 years, 18 of those as assistant chief, and he joined the school system on March 1, 2018.
The chat “is an informal and relaxed way to learn more about how all of the departments work together,” said Tober.
Festivities are conducted at a central location that will be known as Trolley Market Square, which is under construction. The Gulfport city park, formerly known as Tangerine Greenway, is adjacent to 49th Street South between the two Tangerine Avenues located just north and south of the open green space area.
Registration begins with a light breakfast at 8:15 a.m. followed by the mayors’ welcome at 9 a.m. The cleanup will be from 9:15 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. when the chiefs’ chat begins.
The City of Gulfport sanitation department typically provides supplies like tables, chairs and portable toilets, said City Manager Jim O’Reilly. “We’ll supply what is needed to support the event and to make it a good environment for people who participate.”
The key executives from both cities have “very good communication relationships” that have been established over the years, said O’Reilly. This level of cooperation aids in specifically organizing the annual cleanup and chat along with, more broadly, sharing information and techniques about community-wide efforts like law enforcement.
Both cities are similar regarding the types of services supplied to the public, other than scale of size, said O’Reilly.
“For instance, [Gulfport Police] Chief Vincent says that for every one police officer in Gulfport, there are 20 in St. Petersburg,” said Gulfport’s Cultural Events Supervisor Justin Shea, who also serves as the city’s public information officer.
And the Penny for Pinellas allocations that help to fund municipal improvement projects are allocated about one to 14 compared between Gulfport and St. Petersburg respectively, said Shea.
Both O’Reilly and Kriseman lead their respective cities in roles similar to chief executive officers of corporations.
“I have the ability to call Mayor Kriseman at any time,” said O’Reilly. “The difference between us is, Kriseman is elected.”
In law enforcement, “Chief Vincent talks to Chief Holloway and Chief Williams” when needed, said O’Reilly.
Throughout the morning of the cleanup and chat event, members from a variety of local civic and business groups will be hosting information tables to answer questions and distribute promotional materials. This year, groups include Keep Pinellas Beautiful, Tampa Bay Watch, Plastic Free Gulfport, Gulfport Merchants Association and the Childs Park Neighborhood Association.
“The area is a lot cleaner than it used to be,” said Kriseman in 2017. It’s about “having pride in your community. When people see that we care, they care. I appreciate the partnership between our two cities. We share this corridor but we share a whole lot more than that. It’s great to see us all working together.”
Henderson agreed and said in 2017, “This event is about Gulfport and St. Petersburg taking dual responsibility for taking care of this corridor. It’s a good gesture of people coming together and recognizing that this is something that both cities take ownership of, treat with respect and pride.”