Residents in unincorporated Pinellas County have a new advocate to represent their needs and interests.

Amy Davis, the former City Manager of Treasure Island, has started a new role as Assistant to Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton. In her new position, Davis oversees areas including Lealman, Ridgecrest and High Point within unincorporated Pinellas County. The role is one of three Assistant to the County Administrator positions, which Burton said act as “mini city managers” for the unincorporated areas.

“The position intrigued me because I felt like I could really make a positive impact,” Davis said. “I get excited about a role where I can make a difference, which is why I chose the public sector to work in.”

Davis, an Ohio native who’s been living in Florida since 2000, previously served in management and finance roles in Largo and Treasure Island. Davis’s appointment as the Assistant to the County Administrator marks a shift toward broader responsibilities, where she will act as a city manager over growing communities like Lealman, a traditionally underserved neighborhood of unincorporated Pinellas County.

Davis’ office is located at the Lealman Exchange community center. Photo: Ashley Morales.

She’s only been on the job for about a month so far, so Davis is still getting the “lay of the land” and becoming more familiar with the areas she now represents.

“The proposed budget was due, so I was getting my arms around it at first,” Davis said. “I’m just trying to take one thing at a time, and now that’s to get familiar with the CRA [Community Redevelopment Area] and the Lealman community. I’m starting here because the Lealman area is a little bit more technical, administratively; for instance, it’s got a budget attached to it. Then I’ll gradually make my way to getting to know the Ridgecrest and High Point areas.”

The Assistant to the County Administrator roles were created in 2019, just a few years after the Lealman CRA was established in 2015.

“I heard from our commissioners and they kept saying, ‘We need to do a better job of coordinating.’ So I brought back this concept and they wholeheartedly welcomed it,” Burton said. “If our unincorporated areas were a city, it’d be the largest city in the county. We have a lot of departments doing lots of different things, but we didn’t have anybody overseeing each area, so we created these positions to be able to listen to the residents, work with our departments that provide different services, pull the resources and really develop community plans and implement ideas.”

Burton added that the Assistant roles were created to support the nonprofit organizations that were already working to serve residents, and the businesses making vital investments into the unincorporated areas. The three positions serve focused areas, helping their county “advocate” get to know the communities on a deeper level.

“They all have their own unique areas and needs, so these roles can be a better voice for us. It gives me eyes and ears on the community, so when they’re coming to us, I can then marshal all of those together to coordinate the resources that we have and make them better,” Burton said.

Davis’ appointment comes at a time when Pinellas County is investing significant resources to create major transformations in the Lealman area, including $84 million in upcoming projects like the Joe’s Creek Greenway Trail and channel restoration project; pedestrian crossing and stormwater drainage improvements on U.S. Hwy. 19/34th St. North; storm hardening and workforce development efforts at the Lealman Exchange; and public art placemaking initiatives.

An artist’s illustration of a reimagined Joe’s Creek, part of $84 million in projects planned for unincorporated Lealman. Screengrab, city documents.

“It’s given the community a sense of purpose,” Burton said. “We’ve been able to leverage a lot of grants by having that type of community focus, so we’re bringing in state and federal resources to make improvements to an area that otherwise, without that community focus, probably wouldn’t have been successful.”

Burton also cited the creation of community events, like Lealman’s Honey and Arts Festival, as unifying forces that are helping bolster a sense of identity in unincorporated Pinellas. Davis said the fact that she’s in her role cements the importance of representing these communities, as Pinellas County leaders work to make sure residents are heard and their needs addressed.

“I think the county is really earnest in their desire to make sure that the unincorporated areas have somebody, outside of elected officials, to help facilitate and get things done,” Davis said. “That’s what I’m really trying to deliver. I want to make sure the areas I’m serving know that I’m here, the county is here, and I can help bridge that communication.”

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