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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Foster stays away from politics in second high-profile appointment



ST. PETERSBURG -- In his first high-profile appointment since naming his campaign manager as a $50,000-a-year sports consultant, Mayor Bill Foster said he returned no political favors in tapping Todd Yost as the city's new lobbyist.

Yost, the city's director of codes compliance, was named Thursday the new Government Services Manager, a post formerly held by Laura Boehmer and, from 1985 to 2006, by City Council member Herb Polson.

"He didn't contribute money, he didn't raise money, he didn't knock on doors for me," Foster said. "His involvement in my campaign was zero, zilch, none."

In picking Yost, however, Foster did have to pass over at least three people who did help in his campaign.

The city received more than 200 resumes for the job opening. Internal Services Senior Administrator Dave Metz said he then made recommendations to Foster. Finalists included Steven Kurcan, Grady Pridgen's former vice president of development; John McBride, the former legislative affairs director for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation in Tallahassee; and Brooks Rainwater, the director of local relations for the American Institute of Architects in Washington, D.C.

Three others were finalists as well, including Nicholas Hansen, who served as one of Foster's campaign consultants; former City Council member Rene Flowers, who supported Foster on the campaign trail; and Joseph Triolo, a rehabilitation officer with the city's housing and community development department who held a fundraiser for Foster last year.

Were they victims of timing, a selection that Foster wanted to veer away from so soon after it was learned he named Jim Neader as a consultant?

"I don't think he was worried about politics," said Hansen. "I think he picked the best person. I was honored to be considered."

"I helped with a fundraiser, but I wouldn't say I was really involved in his campaign," Triolo said.

"My help with Bill had nothing to do with the job, which I didn't even know about when I helped him," Flowers said.

But while Hansen had good things to say about Foster's final pick, Flowers and Triolo hardly endorsed Yost.

"I was a little surprised, but that's who the mayor wants, he gets to do that," Triolo said.

"It's going to be challenging," Flowers said. "Code compliance, as you know, has nothing to do with governmental relations. (Yost) will be on an extremely steep learning curve."

Foster said even though Yost doesn't have experience in Tallahassee or lobbying other governments, he does have the intangibles for the job.

"He's smart," Foster said. "He's innovative and a good communicator -- those are the raw qualities I was looking for."

The job pays between a range of $59,152 to $88,728.  Yost's current salary is $83,569, which he will earn in his new job, Metz said.

Yost, who couldn't be reached, started as director of codes compliance in October 2007. A University of South Florida political science graduate in 1993, he's held several jobs with the city since starting in 1994. They include administrative assistant in community services/sanitation; recreation supervisor; facilities operations supervisor at Bayfront Center; capital and special projects coordinator of downtown facilities; contracts coordinator for internal audit; and systems analyst for the Oracle computer support team.

-- Michael Van Sickler, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:32pm]


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