ST. PETERSBURG — The hometown mayor is leaving the Sunshine City next month. Outgoing Mayor Bill Foster announced Monday that he is joining the Vero Beach-based Graves Injury Law Group, a firm owned and founded by his childhood friend, Joseph Graves.Foster's last day in office is Jan. 2. He will start his new job four days later.Graves and Foster attended grade school together and played on the same offensive line at Northeast High School."It's a great opportunity," Foster said Monday. "It's something we talked about for 20 years. The stars finally aligned."The announcement might surprise some residents. The hallmark of Foster's mayoral campaign focused on his deep ties to Florida's fourth-largest city.Foster said the decision wasn't a difficult one."Wendy and I both are excited to take this next journey together," Foster said. "Plus, at least for now, St. Pete is still home."Foster said he doesn't plan to move to the East Coast right away. He will commute and will also work to expand the practice to the Gulf Coast. Foster will concentrate on injury law, estate planning, real estate and commercial litigation, the firm said. "We are very fortunate to have Bill joining our law firm," Graves said. "He's an excellent lawyer, and he always finds new and innovative ways to meet the needs of the community."For two decades, Foster practiced law with his father on Fourth Street N. After taking office in 2010, Foster relinquished his practice.The one-term mayor and two-term council member said he is committed to public service. "As a practicing attorney, I will continue to serve the people of Florida," he said. "Whether in Vero Beach, St. Petersburg or any city in Florida, I will use my skills to level the playing field for the under-resourced."Foster was defeated in the Nov. 5 election by Rick Kriseman, who is also a lawyer and a former state representative.Contact Mark Puente at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow on Twitter @ markpuente.