Creating Seamless Cities with Rick Baker

Rick Baker is the former mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida. And Author of multiple books and one of the most intentional and inspiring human beings we have ever had a conversation with! Born in Chicago, Baker is married to wife Joyce. While attending Florida State University, Baker was the President of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity. He also served as the school’s senior class president and president of the Student Senate.

Baker has a background in management and law. Baker received a BS in management, an MBA and Juris Doctor (honors) from Florida State University. He also studied comparative law for a term abroad at the University of Oxford. Baker has practiced corporate and business law for 20 years, serving as president of Fisher and Sauls, P.A., a St. Petersburg law firm. Prior to his election as mayor, Baker served as the chairman of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.

He is also the author of two books, “Mangroves to Major League,” a historical account of the development of the city of St. Petersburg and “The Seamless City,” a summation of Baker’s time as Mayor where he lays out his vision for smart urban renewal.

Insights & Inspirations

  • …we always think about how everything you go through kind of sets you up for where you’re going to. – John Marsh
  • we believe in the model measure, manage, and multiply. It’s kind of a biblical model. It certainly worked with fishes and loaves. – John Marsh
  • Well, what is the number one complaint in the city?” and it came back…”Sidewalk repair? Well, that doesn’t make much sense. I said, Why would that be the number one complaint? How long does it take to fix a sidewalk? – Rick Baker
  • So I decided that the best way I could do that was to put in a measurement process that identified what turned out to be 160 issues that I wanted to measure on an ongoing basis. – Rick Baker
  • I don’t want you to give me this report. I want you to put a system called the city scorecard, and I want you to put it online. And once you get the new monthly measurement, put it online. And I will get my report, mayor, the same way everybody else on the planet gets their report on St. Pete. By going online and checking the measurement. -Rick Baker
  • We need to think about how do you measure what matters to you in your city, and the question of what matters. – John Marsh
  • But the downtown’s the heart of the city. And if your city doesn’t have a strong heart … If it doesn’t have a strong downtown, it does not have a strong heart. – Rick Baker
  • And then we required them to put their parking internal to the property because I hate walking down streets of downtown and looking at parking garages if I can avoid it. And so you try to make it as internal as you can, on the alleys if you can. – Rick Baker
  • “I don’t care if you’re putting a jewelry store. The mayor wants an umbrella out front.” Which means that I wanted tables and umbrellas and sidewalk cafes and I wanted a gathering place.  – Rick Baker
  • So you just work on all of it. And eventually, you just develop this momentum. – Rick Baker
  • So a seamless city is a place that no matter where you’re driving in the city, you never cross a seam, whether that seam is a neighborhood boundary or a major highway, and enter a place where all of a sudden, we don’t want to be. You feel like you need to reach over, lock your door. – Rick Baker
  • So we put our strong, strong focus on the poorest part of the community with the idea that if you have seams in the city, it’s going to divide them. And you shouldn’t do that. You got to work everywhere. And that’s what we did.  – Rick Baker
  • “Well, wait a second. Is this improving the quality of life for the people that live in our city?” And to me, that’s the criteria. If it doesn’t, I don’t care if it’s good politically for me, bad politically for me. If it doesn’t advance the quality of life, we’re not going to do it. And if it does, we’ll do it. And we’ll figure out how to get the resources to do it. – Rick Baker
  • One thing mayors should know is, your building department needs to work. The delay in a project can cost an awful lot of money to people trying to develop in your city. And so you should do everything you can to make the process of developing in the city and getting building permits and all that sort of stuff as easy as possible.  – Rick Baker
  • And one thing I’ve always said is when somebody’s complaining about the building department, about half the time it’s because the building department is not doing something right. And about half the time it’s because the contractor has screwed up and they need to blame somebody to their customer, and so they blame the building department, right? But the trouble is, is I don’t know which is which.  – Rick Baker
  • If you really want to impact your city, you’ve got to impact the way that the developers experience the problem-solving in the city. – Rick Baker
  • …people feel their way to a city’s success. They don’t think their way to it. – John Marsh
  • We know that God loves co-creating. I mean, He gave us trees and He didn’t make tables. He gave us wheat and let us make bread. So He knew that we were going to come alongside Him and create great things with what He gave us. It’s a blessing to do that, and that’s what makes our cities special places. – John Marsh

Information & Links

Closing Questions

What Have I Read that You Should Read?

Where have you been that we should go?