Former St. Petersburg City Council member Bill Foster joins race for mayor

ST. PETERSBURG — Former City Council member Bill Foster wants to become Mayor Bill Foster. Foster filed to run Monday, joining a growing list of mayoral candidates from the city's private and public sectors.

"Now is not the time for on-the-job training," he said. "Unlike other campaigns, I don't have to cram for the final. From day one, I can take off running."

For months, Foster, a lawyer, had said he planned to enter the race, but he couldn't raise or spend money until he filed.

He wants to make the city safer and tackle the pending economic hurdles St. Petersburg's next administration likely will face.

"The city government impacts its citizens on a daily basis," he said. "Whether its public safety, that clean glass of water, the flushing of the toilet … these are services that people depend on, and the greatest impact comes from the top down."

Foster said he will hold a public event March 2 to unveil his campaign slogan, Web site and platform, which he is calling the Foster Formula. The formula, he said, touches on improved customer service at City Hall, transparent government and public safety. Foster said he also would improve communication between the city's administrative and legislative branches.

Foster served District 3, which includes Snell Isle, for about a decade. He was a controversial figure on the City Council who didn't always go along with Mayor Rick Baker and often voted on the side of his conservative Christian beliefs.

He advocated against overdevelopment of downtown and opposed an ordinance that prohibited sexual orientation discrimination in employment and housing. After he was term-limited in 2008, he continued to take a stand on lightning-rod issues. He voiced concerns that the Tampa Bay Rays' new stadium plan was too rushed when other elected officials declined to comment on it.

He also started a media frenzy about a year ago when the St. Petersburg Times published a letter he wrote to the Pinellas County School Board in favor of exposing students to creationism. The letter linked Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to Adolf Hitler.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

>>Fast facts

Election details

St. Petersburg will hold

a Sept. 1 primary election, where the mayor's chair and five council seats are up for grabs. The general election is Nov. 3.

Mayoral candidates to date: Jamie Bennett, 56, a council member; Paul Congemi, 52, a former builder; Scott Wagman, 55, a real estate broker; Bill Foster, 45, a lawyer; Deveron Gibbons, 36, a business executive; Sharon Russ, 48, a minister; Kathleen Ford, 51, a lawyer.

Former St. Petersburg City Council member Bill Foster joins race for mayor 02/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 9:40am]

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