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Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman: Stalemate with Tampa Bay Rays is city's biggest issue

After a more than two-hour meeting with current Mayor Bill Foster, Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman said he came away with a new understanding of negotiations with the Rays.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

After a more than two-hour meeting with current Mayor Bill Foster, Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman said he came away with a new understanding of negotiations with the Rays.

ST. PETERSBURG — Rick Kriseman frequently blasted Mayor Bill Foster on the campaign trail about the stalled negotiations between the Tampa Bay Rays and the city over a new stadium.

Now, as mayor-elect, Kriseman received a private briefing Wednesday by Foster and top officials on the secret details known only to a few City Hall insiders.

After the more than two-hour meeting ended, Kriseman said he came away with a new understanding and said the Rays stalemate will be the most pressing issue facing his new administration.

"The challenge in going forward with the Rays is significant," Kriseman said in the City Hall lobby. "I knew it was going to be challenging."

When asked if the inside information changed his views on how Foster has handled the Rays, Kriseman said, "It might have."

"It's always interesting to get the other side of the story," he said. "I'm not comfortable answering that until I absorb all the information."

Kriseman said he has reached out to Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, but the two have not yet been able to connect.

Foster called the meeting productive and vowed to work closely with Kriseman until he takes office Jan. 2. He pledged to keep Kriseman up to speed on important matters.

"We were friends before the campaign," Foster said. "We re-established rapport. It will be a smooth transition. We've gone from campaigning to governing."

The meeting also touched on the search for a new police chief and how to move forward with plans to replace the Pier.

Kriseman announced he would make Assistant Chief David DeKay the interim police chief when Chuck Harmon retires Jan. 6.

With tourist and snowbird season under way, Kriseman again said he will consider opening the area around the Pier to walkers, bicyclists and fisherman. Foster closed the Pier at the approach in May.

Kriseman said he supports Foster's plan to gauge residents' opinions about what they want at the Pier. An initial poll is being worked on to ask residents what kinds of amenities they want to see at a new pier.

Kriseman also addressed the buzz swirling through City Hall. Many longtime administrators fear he will ask them to leave.

His message to employees: "Be relaxed and not nervous about your jobs. I'm not looking to create havoc."

Kriseman is expected to announce a "major hire" for his administration today.

His transition team wouldn't provide any details Wednesday, but last week Kriseman said his first hire would be the person who will oversee economic development in the Midtown area.

Contact Mark Puente at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow on Twitter @markpuente.

Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman: Stalemate with Tampa Bay Rays is city's biggest issue 11/13/13 [Last modified: Thursday, November 14, 2013 12:27am]

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