BRADENTON -- After serving Bradenton as public works director since 2008, Claude Tankersley is heading north to St. Petersburg to become that city's public works administrator.
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"I love Bradenton, love the community, love the mayor, council and love my staff," said Tankersley. "I have enjoyed being here and had anticipated ending my career here and was not looking for an opportunity."
Just before the holidays, Tankersley received a phone call from St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who recruited him to take the job.
"When Mayor Kriseman asked me to consider joining his team, the opportunity was very intriguing and I really had to think about it, which I did over the holidays," said Tankersley. "I came to the decision that I feel Bradenton's public works and utilities is strong and stable and we have a lot of good staff members here. I feel like I accomplished some good things and am in an opportunity to leave the community in a strong position."
Tankersley will start his new position in February at $149,000 a year. Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston was not immediately available for comment about Tankersley's departure and a potential replacement.
Kriseman issued a news release Thursday announcing his new hire.
"I am incredibly pleased to have Claude join our team in the Sunshine City and provide our public works administration with new leadership and direction," said Kriseman. "Claude is an experienced, accomplished professional with an appreciation for community engagement. His relationships across our region and state will be an asset to our citizens and the city of St. Petersburg."
Besides holding a master of science degree in civil engineering, Tankersley has had an inside track with various state agencies thanks to his relationship-building skills. But it's the relationships with his staff that he will miss the most.
"Everything we've been able to accomplish is because of this staff," he said. "I'm going to miss them terribly. When I say that I love them, it's true, I really do."
Tankersley joined the city just three months before the Great Recession began hitting municipalities in the pocketbook across the nation. Finding a way to maintain the level of services Bradenton residents have come to expect with about 20 percent less revenue was his biggest challenge for his first three years.
"I feel blessed to have been able to respond to that crisis without having to lay people off," he said. "I have a staff that, God bless them, stepped up to the plate and found a way to do more with less. They stuck with me through many years of no raises and not knowing if revenues would be enough to support staffing levels. This city has a group of people who were and are willing to struggle through hard times."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.