Bill Foster Will Be St. Pete's Next Mayor
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11/04/09 Caroline Cziesla
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

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Bill Foster defeated Kathleen Ford to become St. Petersburg's next Mayor.


photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF (Sept. 2009)

To the Victor Goes the Burg. St. Petersburg that is. With more votes than his opponent, St. Petersburg’s next mayor will be, just as his campaign slogan stated, Foster in the new era.

To the very end of the race, it was hard to tell who would claim the title of St. Petersburg’s next mayor. Supporters said the success of Bill Foster’s win was the result of many hours of hard work. At his victory party, he was a celebrity. After Foster announced “we won,” his fans chanted their affection.

It was obvious, those who supported Foster, really do like him. Karen Mullins lives in the district he represented as a council member. Mullins feels Foster will lead with a vision that is best for the entire city.

Foster and his supporters celebrated last night at Ferg’s Sports Bar on Central Avenue. It was an ideal location because Ferg’s sits in the middle of two structures that represent two of the top issues in the campaign: baseball and police.

Mark Marland, the president of the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association says the PBA endorsed Foster because he shares many of the same crime fighting philosophies.

Marland said Foster’s support for a less restrictive police chase policy was another reason for winning the association’s endorsement.

Foster is making a drastic career change. He has worked for the last 20 years as an attorney with his father in a modest law firm. As mayor, Foster will manage the fourth largest city in the state as the chief administrator. He will be boss to more than 3,600 municipal employees. Foster has been focused on winning – so much that when asked when his new job started, he wasn’t sure. But his wife, Wendy, was. “January 2nd,” she said.

With their arms around each other, Foster gave his wife a kiss and the supporters applauded. Maybe that’s why he won, because according to Watson Haynes and his sister Elnora Scott, Foster is genuine.

Haynes and Scott were both born and raised in the city. They lived in houses that were around before Tropicana Field was constructed. Another deciding factor for them was Foster’s commitment to Midtown, a once neglected part of the city that is transforming into a growing economic community.

For the past two weeks, Foster used television and at least three mass mailings - which may have persuaded undecided voters. Or maybe it was the dictionary definition of his last name that made a difference. Foster – to develop something good.

The now mayor-elect says he knows why he won and credited all the supporters that rallied behind him. Foster realizes that he can’t please everyone, but he’d like to get the 47% of citizens that didn’t vote for him on his side.

Towards the end of his victory speech, a tall, proud figure walked into the crowded room. Foster pointed, and while heads and cameras turned to view, he introduced his soon-to-be predecessor. Foster proclaimed he’ll have some very big shoes to fill.

Literally: Mayor Rick Baker, who endorsed his protégé, wears a size 14. Baker said he’s going to miss it all, however, he felt that Foster will be a great leader.

Almost 30% of the city’s registered voters participated in yesterday’s race. Nancy Whitlock, Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections spokesperson, confirmed to WMNF that this number is within normal range of voter turnout for a municipal election.

Gus Pries, originally from New York, now calls St. Petersburg his retirement home. Pries shared a common sentiment of the evening. He’s glad Bill Foster is going to be St. Petersburg’s next mayor.

Foster mentioned that public safety is an issue that is immediately on his agenda. He plans on meeting with Chief of Police, Chuck Harmon, so community policing can be restored once he takes office.

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