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Bob Kersteen to challenge Herb Polson for St. Petersburg City Council seat

ST. PETERSBURG — As he considers a third try to beat out Herb Polson for a seat on the City Council, Bob Kersteen is hoping to enlist a powerful ally.

Kersteen said Tuesday he's awaiting word from Mayor Bill Foster as to whether he'd get his support in running for District 1, which covers the city's western-most neighborhoods.

"(Foster) said he'd get back to me, and I'm waiting," said Kersteen, 73, who served on the City Council from 1995 through 1999. "He's key. I'm looking for the same wide support he enjoyed (in the 2009 mayoral race)."

Polson said he wasn't fazed by the news. "Bring them on," Polson said. "Both of them. I don't fear either one of them."

Foster said he hasn't decided whether to support Kersteen, who worked on his mayoral campaign.

"He's an old friend," Foster said. "He and I will have more conversations. It is very unlikely that I will actively engage in any council races. (As mayor) you still have to govern, and you still have to govern with those in rulemaking authority. I don't see how my public would be served by my getting actively involved."

"I don't know yet," Foster said after asked in what ways he might support candidates.

Polson, 62, defeated Kersteen for the council in 2007 with 52 percent of the vote. In 2006, he had beat out Kersteen when he was appointed to the council after Rick Kriseman resigned to run for state House.

Polson, who had been the city's lobbyist before getting appointed to the council, had been a backer of Foster's predecessor, Rick Baker. Kersteen, a former engineer and attorney for GTE, had been one of Baker's chief critics, saying in 2007 that any manager with six or fewer employees should be fired. His fiscal conservatism is still going strong, he said. Kersteen's Republican Party affiliation matches that of Foster's, while Polson is a Democrat.

"The council needs more conservative leadership," Kersteen said. "The taxpayers are crying out for better financial leadership."

Yet Polson has clashed with Foster when he felt the mayor was spending money too liberally. He has questioned how Foster has hired his campaign manager, Jim Neader, as the city's sports marketing consultant, without consulting with council. And he voted against Foster's push to spend $100,000 on the Salvador Dalí Museum after already chipping in $2.5 million of city money.

City Council members make $38,914 a year. They serve four years. Each of the eight members represents a separate district and is elected by the entire city electorate. The top two finishers of the Aug. 30 primary will face each other in the Nov. 8 general election.

Half of the council — Polson, Bill Dudley, Steve Kornell and Wengay Newton — is up for re-election this year. Only Polson has drawn a challenger, so far.

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at mvansickler@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8037.

Bob Kersteen to challenge Herb Polson for St. Petersburg City Council seat 01/18/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 9:45pm]
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