Rick Baker: 'I want to have an impact' again

- If you're lucky enough in life, you get to enjoy a job as much as Rick Baker did. "I loved being mayor," he said with a smile. "Being mayor was the best job I ever had."

He was a beloved mayor, too.  St. Petersburg was in trouble when he took over in 2001.  Today, it's beautiful -- the place to be.

"I think it all started when we redeveloped 400 Beach Drive and Parkshore Grill," he said.

The whole nation started to pay attention. The Grand Prix came to town, the Chihuly followed suit, the new Dali Museum, then the resurgence of the Rowdies, and that's just a start.

"When you put a plan together to bring a downtown back and it works, what a great feeling that is," he continued.

He's quick to credit his entire team for that. It took the whole town to pull it together. And there have been great moments along the way that united the city like never before.

Like the Rays' run for the World Series in 2008.

"That was a lot of fun," Baker recalled, "That was an amazing time for the city."

Speaking of the Rays, the former mayor talks about one of the more complex parts of the job: What will become of the Trop?  He smiles, happy to say that's not his job anymore, adding that the city will thrive no matter what.

"I will tell you -- if I had 85 acres of downtown St. Pete, I am sure I could find a great way to bring some great economic development."

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These days, he's president of the Edwards Group with a list of projects a mile long.  Among them, the Sundial, where we ducked into the Locale Market.

He's got something else on his mind, too.

"I am interested in public service again," he said with careful contemplation.

He's always loved public office. But after his reign as mayor, he chose to make his family the priority -- his wife Joyce and children, Julann and Jacob.

"My kids were 4 and 5 when I took office," he said, "So they literally grew up at City Hall."

He swore he would see them through school and be there for the big moments. Now his youngest is a freshman in college and his oldest is a sophomore.

So it's time, he says.

Though he hasn't filed, it is expected that he will run for Congressman David Jolly's seat, who is leaving to run for the spot left open by Senator Marco Rubio -- an election that could put him against Charlie Crist, his once-Republican ally. 

"I want to have an impact," he continued.  "I want to have an impact on peoples' lives, in some way, whatever I get into."

He told me some people get into office to be something; he will run to do something.

By the way, if you're ever at the Saturday Morning Market in the Rowdies stadium lot, keep an eye out for Baker playing the guitar. He says he's been playing a lot of Glenn Frye lately, whose signature is on the guitar he's played for years.

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