St. Petersburg Candidates for Mayor Talk from the Heart

10/21/09 Caroline Cziesla
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:


Imagine going for the same job interview several times a week for nine months. In early November, the hiring process will be complete and one individual living in St. Petersburg will land their dream job. The candidates for mayor, Kathleen Ford and Bill Foster, sat down, one at a time, Wednesday evening with the future employer – about 100 residents of St. Petersburg.

Unlike other forums, Wednesday’s was more like a job interview held at Pinellas Community Church. The pastor of the church, Mark Canfield, had an objective. He wanted an honest conversation and answers from the heart. It was an opportunity for Ford and Foster to candidly discuss their personal values and goals. There’s a lot of responsibility for this job. The annual salary for the position is $158,355.

Kathleen Ford was first to speak. Ford, who is the oldest of six siblings, said she credits her parents as well as a college professor for shaping her into the person she is today.

Ford expressed the word “service” when asked for one word to classify humility and leadership. She explained that part of the reason for choosing her profession in nursing as well as law was to serve. The next question focused on the principles Ford uses when dealing with personal or work conflicts and how she applies them.

Although the initial questions were intended for introspective on the candidate’s character, Ford’s answers often segued into the ongoing debated issues such as the baseball stadium. Ford felt that fiscal responsibility is the one issue that isn’t being discussed enough. She was asked to express her feelings towards those citizens with traditional family values who may be opposed to an event like the Gay Pride parade.

Should she be elected mayor, at the end of her term Ford hopes to reflect on St. Petersburg as a city where the unemployed are back at work, business districts are thriving, neighborhoods are working with community police officers, the city is greener, and marine science programs are expanding.

After a handshake, Ford left for the evening. Then the exact same questions answered by Ford were addressed to Foster. However, Foster divulged more personal detail about himself. He described the three individuals who shaped him into the man he is today. The first two mentioned were Foster’s father and his father-in-law. He credited his wife as being his motivation.

Foster shared that his best character trait is being able to listen and the one word he chose to define leadership and humility was “love.” Foster often reflected before answering each question and after a long pause, he revealed the principles that guide him when handling situations involving conflict.

How does Foster feel about human right’s issues and how would he address the issues of the gay community? Due to the adult nature of the Gay Pride parade, Foster does not plan on attending. However, he intends on being everyone’s mayor without discrimination of any kind.

Should Foster be chosen mayor, he hopes to have transformed St. Petersburg into a safer city, where the investments include the people who live there, by improving employment, education, vocational training, and quality of life.

And with a handshake that finished with a hug, Foster completed his interview and stuck around to meet all the bosses he might soon be working for.

The election is being held on November 3rd.

Full disclosure, this reporter attends the church that hosted the forum.

Kathleen Ford

Bill Foster

Note, the web version of the report is longer than the version that aired on 10/21

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