Build a parking garage? Not on her watch

Jonah Hinebaugh | USFSP
Brown parlayed 30 years as a volunteer into a seat on the City Council.

USFSP Student Reporter

GULFPORT – There is a large room at the back of Christine Brown’s home where she and her husband store canned goods and other nonperishable food items.

But this is no ordinary pantry.

Alongside the food are hard hats, safety vests, flashlights, safety goggles, gloves, sleeping bags and a portable toilet – items Brown and her husband might need if a disaster strikes Gulfport.

Brown, 57, is a volunteer in the city’s Community Emergency Response Team, one of numerous volunteer roles she has played over the last 30 years.

All that volunteering led eventually to a seat on the Gulfport City Council, where she has served three two-year terms representing Ward 2, which covers the southeast quarter of the city.

Now she is seeking a fourth term in the March 12 election.

Brown makes public safety a priority in her campaign. She also wants to continue upgrading sewers, streets and sidewalks, remove derelict boats from the nearby bay and hold the line on taxes.

The city has only one fire truck, which doubles as an Emergency Medical Services vehicle – a seeming shortage that some have criticized.

But Brown counters that Gulfport Fire Rescue “operates under a statewide mutual aid agreement” signed by all 67 counties. If there is an emergency requiring more than one truck, a nearby fire department will dispatch a vehicle and crew, she said.

There has also been criticism about a shortage of parking in the downtown area. Other candidates have suggested building a parking garage, installing parking meters or paving over some of the city’s green space.

Brown says that the city has been addressing the parking concerns. It plans to examine what is working and what is not, then consider other options.

“As a community, we should encourage other modes of transportation such as biking, walking or even carpooling,” said Brown in an email. “The one thing I do know is that I will never be in favor of paving green spaces for parking or building multi-story parking garages.”

Brown graduated in 1979 from Lakewood High School, received an associate degree in 1990 from St. Petersburg College, a bachelor’s in mathematics in 1992 from Eckerd College and a master’s in education in 2013 from the University of Florida.

She teaches math for college readiness at Boca Ciega High School.

Her husband, Louis Worthington, is a sixth-generation member of a Gulfport founding family. Their daughter, Elizabeth, attends Florida State University.

Like her parents, Elizabeth has long been a volunteer around town.

Each year, to mark Elizabeth’s birthday, Brown and Worthington hold a mullet fry, a celebration that draws family, friends and neighbors.

Instead of gifts, Elizabeth asks for canned goods or money for donation to the Gulfport Multipurpose Senior Center.

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