ST. PETERSBURG — To judge by the letters and e-mails that flowed into City Hall, firing Goliath Davis was the most popular thing Mayor Bill Foster has done in office.
Not a single one of the messages that went to Foster had anything critical to say about his decision to fire the city's highest-ranking black employee two weeks ago.
"Very happy that you let Goliath Davis go," one of the 23 phone messages left for Foster said.
One of the 19 e-mails sent to Foster simply said, "Mayor Foster, Thank you for making the correct decision to terminate Go Davis." It was signed "Phil."
Foster, in an interview, declined to address the calls and e-mails he received, saying he would prefer to focus on the city's future.
Foster announced that he had fired Davis on March 4, saying he had "lost confidence" in Davis' ability to perform his duties as senior administrator of community enrichment. The last straw: Davis did not attend the funerals of three police officers killed in two shootings, but did attend the funeral of an ex-convict who shot two of them.
Davis himself announced his firing later that day in a news conference attended by 150 supporters, including Omali Yeshitela, founder of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement. At the news conference, Davis, a former police chief, said he did not attend the officers' funerals because they reminded him too much of what happened to a close friend and police academy roommate, Detective Herbert Sullivan, the last St. Petersburg officer to die in the line of duty 30 years ago.
In his news conference, Davis conceded that he had often been "a lightning rod" for controversy. Many in the city viewed Davis as the liaison between City Hall and the black community. Others wondered exactly what he did at City Hall to deserve his six-figure salary.
Jeffrey A. Carlson was one of the residents who praisec Foster for his decision via e-mail.
Carlson, in an interview Wednesday, said he had repeatedly e-mailed Foster before the firing to complain about Davis' behavior in regard to the funerals.
"I let him have it," said Carlson, who runs a building services company. To him, Foster's firing of Davis made sense. "He had to do it," Carlson said.
More cheers for Foster's decision came from a retired teacher, several business executives, even a Bayflite crew member.
"I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for your courage in your recent decision regarding Goliath Davis," Bayflite communications specialist Chet R. Lewis e-mailed Foster. "I knew you would do good things and this sir is a refreshing start. I am sure your time with St. Petersburg thus far has enlightened you to this menace, and it takes a strong man to do what you have done."
Some of Foster's support came from outside the city. Elizabeth A. Campbell of Seminole said in an interview that she had never e-mailed Foster before but felt compelled to comment on the firing of Davis.
"Firing Goliath Davis was the best thing to happen to St. Pete since you took office!" she wrote. "The very idea that he would attend the funeral of a man who murdered two law officers in cold blood but not attend funerals of the slain officers is unconscionable. Thank you for having the courage to do the right thing!'
Then she added, "We pray that God will richly bless you and protect you in the days ahead."
Despite the phone and e-mail support, Foster has received sharp criticism for the firing and asked former council member Rene Flowers to set up a meeting with the pastors of churches with largely African-American congregations to talk about the city's future.
The meeting occurred behind closed doors and Foster would not reveal the nature of the discussions.
Craig Pittman can be reached at [email protected]