ST. PETERSBURG — The race to be the next mayor is officially on.
Speaking to the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club on Wednesday, Mayor Bill Foster declared his candidacy for August's primary election.
While the declaration wasn't a surprise, Foster plans to file paperwork with the City Clerk at 10 a.m. today.
Two potential mayoral candidates at the luncheon— businessman Scott Wagman and former state Rep. Rick Kriseman — declined to say if they will enter the contest.
In a 20-minute speech, Foster didn't outline visions for a second term.
Instead, the conservative Republican lauded city employees for their work in what he described as a "brief State of the City" speech.
The city's economic health, Foster said, is on the rebound.
He pointed to the 2,000 new building permits issued last year, which exceeded the value of permits in 2011 by $100 million.
Foster took questions from Tiger Bay Club members about the controversial plans to replace the Pier with the Lens, the possibility of light rail in Pinellas County and the budget.
One member asked when Foster and Tampa leaders will end the stalemate over a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Foster reiterated he isn't doing the "Tampa and Hillsborough County thing" by allowing the team to look across the bay.
He said he's willing to work with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn to drum up corporate support for the Rays.
In response to a question about water taxis running between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Foster said he "absolutely supports" the idea as long as private vendors buy and operate the vessels.
Mark Puente can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.