In a manner of speaking, Michael Fridovich has come full circle in his travels: he grew up in Florida and now he’s come back home to the Sunshine State. He moved to Gulfport from St. Petersburg three years ago because he had made friends in Gulfport. “I got tired of driving back and forth,” he jokes.
“It’s my first time back in Florida in 15 years,” he tells us. Before that he lived in Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana, Michigan, California, and the Cayman Islands. He went to junior high school in south Florida and lived in both Miami, Coconut Grove and Fort Lauderdale.
Here’s some basic information about the new councilman, who ran unopposed for Ward Four.
Mr. Fridovich has sold real estate, worked as general contractor, owned a restaurant, and owned a scooter rental business in the Cayman Islands.
He shares his home, which he rents from his brother, with two cats – Frida and Bukowski. He’s single, having divorced “centuries ago” and he has no children.
He was raised as a reform Jew but calls himself “very secular.”
He says he wants to be on council because he views it as “a culmination of everything I’ve done in life. I have a degree in Urban Studies from Georgia State and I have almost a Master’s Degree in History.
“I started a neighborhood federal credit union in Atlanta. I’ve been on the ground floor of two presidential elections and 35 state, local and national elections, either working as a volunteer or in the advertising part of it. There was one or two paid situations. I was vice president of Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce. I am the ex-vice president of the ACLU-Dade County [now Miami-Dade], and I sit on the grievance committee of the Florida Bar Association,” he says. He’s also a published poet – in the late 1970s In These Times paid him for one of his political poem.
Mr. Fridovich served his country in Viet Nam.
“I was with the 3/21 196 LIB,” he says. He calls himself “a truck driver for the infantry. When people ask me what I did in Viet Nam, my answer is ‘I stayed alive’.”
With that mouthful of a resume, he says, “I’ve done a lot of things. I live here now. I want to try to give something back. I think my experiences in life and in business can be beneficial. Gulfport doesn’t need changing; it needs tweaking.”
How would he “tweak” Gulfport?
“I just want to look at the issues as they come and try to figure out if they can be fixed, or how to fix them, or whatever the case may be,” he says. He’s already working with City Manager Jim O’Reilly on some of his ideas.
“We need to find a way to work closely with the city of St. Pete,” he says. “We need to try and find ways to attract new businesses that don’t deter from the quaintness of Gulfport [on 49th Street]. We need more mom–and–pop businesses; I’d like to see them go in and make art studios, if that were feasible.”
He lives on the corner of 54th Street and 11th Avenue South. While he doesn’t agree with some that the city needs surveillance cameras along 49th Street, he does agree that something needs to happen to decrease crime.
“I have a problem with a privacy issue, and who’s going to monitor the cameras? Is the Sheriff’s Office going to monitor the cameras? Are we going to hire people?” he asks, but stresses that he doesn’t want to underestimate the issues on the Gulfport/St. Petersburg border: “I do think the 49th Street corridor is the most important corridor in Gulfport. We have four ways to Gulfport. It’s the one corridor we can actually do something about and therefore we have to find a way to bring in businesses and people to look at it without bringing in large chains.”
So what’s his answer?
“I want to move the police department to the community center,” he says. As for funding? “We do have funding: moneys at 1%. We could either take out a bond or borrow money. We could borrow enough money to work on part of the sewer system, make the necessary improvements at the marina, and improve landscaping throughout the city. It’s not like we’re paying five, six, twenty percent for interest. We’re not going to go into debt; money is very inexpensive right now.”
Two weeks ago, he rode an overnight shift with the police.
“They’re professional, they’re responsible, and they do a wonderful job. Crime is what it is; unless you’re going to erect walls and live in a bubble, you’re going to have crime. What you need to do is have a community that when you see something, report it,” he says, adding that he doesn’t favor cameras.
He also wants Gulfportians to know he has an open mind and is willing to deal with everyone.
I'm willing to listen to all sides of any argument. I don't want people to think its a one-sided discussion,” he says. “I am willing to listen to anyone. I am not coming into office with a pre-agenda.”
Councilman-elect Fridovich will take office at the first city council meeting after the March 12 election.