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Wagman says Go Davis might have to go; other candidate views

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayoral candidate Scott Wagman said Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis, the city's top liaison with the African-American community, likely will be out of a job if Wagman wins.

Davis, the homegrown former city police chief, has been St. Petersburg's primary contact with black neighborhoods in Midtown under Mayor Rick Baker and generally has been credited with building relationships in the area.

"I'm not sure we can afford this kind of emissarial position right now," Wagman, 56, a first-time candidate, said during a meeting with the St. Petersburg Times editorial board Monday.

Wagman, a real estate investor, is the first major candidate to suggest he would replace Davis. At a candidates forum in May, Wagman called Davis a "legend in the community" but avoided questions about his future in city government.

"The incoming mayor has the option of retaining current staff or making other arrangements," said Davis, who makes $152,736 as deputy mayor for Midtown economic development. "I know I have something to add, and if a candidate wishes to retain me, I will work as diligently as I have worked for previous mayors. If they wish to make other decisions, I'm sure we'll talk about it."

Wagman's announcement is among a series of policy and philosophical revelations made by a handful of mayoral candidates meeting with the Times editorial board last week.

Business owner Larry Williams, 64, said improving schools and coming to grips with discipline problems need to be major priorities for city leaders.

"I would not consider moving a business here or moving to this community if I had children without asking how the schools are. And how do you right now say that you would bring your kids here and put them in a public school? That's a difficult situation," said Williams, a former council member who advocated on behalf of public education while in office.

Former City Council member Bill Foster, 46, said the Police Department has not been as aggressive as it could be. "Some of the minor offenses are not pursued with vigor."

Pressed for examples, he said burglaries, prostitution and drugs need more attention.

Former City Council member Kathleen Ford, 52, said she supports Pinellas Hope, an outdoor county homeless shelter, but would likely shift public dollars to shelters in the city.

City Council member and mayoral hopeful Jamie Bennett, 57, said he will not immediately fire any employees if elected in November.

Corporate executive Deveron Gibbons, 36, said he would aggressively recruit businesses to move their headquarters to St. Petersburg.

Ed Helm, meanwhile, said his primary focus would be helping small businesses create living-wage jobs. Helm, 64, is a retired lawyer.

Restaurateur John Warren, 60, said that more than 70 percent of the people he talks to don't like coming downtown because of parking enforcement. He would advocate for more surface lots so people don't have to feed meters.

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or Political editor Adam C. Smith contributed to this report.

Wagman says Go Davis might have to go; other candidate views 08/01/09 [Last modified: Sunday, August 2, 2009 11:10pm]
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