ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor-elect Bill Foster announced the first major decision of his administration on Monday:
He's giving Tish Elston her old title back.
Elston will become city administrator when the new mayor takes office on Jan. 2. But Foster is changing her title, not her job. She'll continue running St. Petersburg's day-to-day operations as she has for the past decade.
She was first appointed city administrator in 1999. When Mayor Rick Baker took office in 2001, he changed her title to first deputy mayor/city administrator.
"I think a lot of emphasis has been placed on those titles in the past," Elston said. "I'm not sure the titles are as important as the work that gets done."
She'll also chair Foster's transition team even as she stays on as deputy mayor. Elston said it'll be her job to schedule meetings for the new mayor.
"We're just giving the mayor-elect a couple of weeks to have some conversations with key staff in the city, cabinet members, department heads and also with City Council members," she said. "We also want to expand in the following weeks to all aspects of the community."
Elston, 61, has been a St. Petersburg resident since 1973. She spent 14 years with Hillsborough County before joining city government in 1988. She was budget director for 10 years.
Foster, 46, a lawyer and former council member, promised during his campaign that he would eliminate the city's three deputy mayor positions — but just the job titles. He vowed to keep the three administrators on at City Hall in some capacity.
Aside from Foster's campaign pledge, Elston said her first real inkling that she'd be staying on was during the new mayor's election night bash at Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill.
The new mayor hugged Elston and told her, "Put your resume in the shredder." A Monday morning meeting with Baker and Foster made it official.
"I'm very happy from the perspective that I think I can lend stability during this period of transition," she said.
Foster did not return repeated calls for comment Monday.
Elston said she didn't know the mayor-elect's plans for the city's other two deputy mayors: Deputy Mayor for Midtown Economic Development Goliath Davis III and Deputy Mayor for Neighborhoods Dave Metz.
Elston said she didn't discuss her salary with the mayor-elect. All three deputy mayors make more than $150,000 a year.
Jamal Thalji can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8472.