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Todd Yost, St. Petersburg's new lobbyist, better learn fast

So the city of St. Petersburg has a new lobbyist.

More than 200 resumes were submitted for the government services manager position. There were at least six finalists. In the end, Todd Yost, a city official who didn't seek the position, got the job.

Yost's appointment was announced in a rather curious way. "He didn't contribute money, he didn't raise money, he didn't knock on doors for me," Mayor Bill Foster said. "His involvement in my campaign was zero, zilch, none."

Yost, a 1993 political science graduate of the University of South Florida, has held several city posts since 1994, including director of codes compliance since October 2007. He doesn't have lobbying experience, but Foster said he is smart and has the right intangibles for the job.

So Mike Connors, the city administrator for public works — whom City Council member Karl Nurse has called "the smartest guy in City Hall" — wasn't available? Too bad being smart isn't the most defining quality in choosing a lobbyist. If that was the case, I'm certain the city would be fine.

No offense to Yost, but should Foster have filled the position with a novice at a time when the city badly needs state money, considering its budget shortfall of $12 million to $14 million?

Among the many applicants were some with valuable statewide connections who appeared to be better suited for the job.

Just like the hiring of Jim Neader, Foster's campaign manager, as a $50,000-a-year sports consultant, this appointment seems forced. The former director of codes compliance will now lobby to bring state money here. That is the job former lobbyist Laura Boehmer accomplished for the Jordan School, the Davis Bradley drug treatment center and other noteworthy projects.

I think former council member Rene Flowers, who sought the appointment herself, said it best: "Code compliance, as you know, has nothing to do with governmental relations. (Yost) will be on an extremely steep learning curve."

For the good of the city, let's hope he's a quick study.

• • •

In celebration of the city's centennial of waterfront parks, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker will serve as moderator for a discussion on how the city's history of racial segregation affected who could use the waterfront parks.

"Perspectives on the Parks" is the second installment in a series funded by the Florida Humanities Council. It is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Studio@620 at 620 First Ave. S.

The event will include civil rights historian and USF St. Petersburg professor Dr. Raymond Arsenault, lifelong St. Petersburg resident James Oliver and attorney Jacqueline Hubbard. For more information on the yearlong celebration, visit stpeteparks100.org.

• • •

An upcoming regional expo will raise money to help a local Seminole 4-H club. The second annual Bay Area Horse Expo, Hurricane Preparedness 2010 is intended to help the equine community get ready for the hurricane season.

The event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 15 at 605 E Bloomingdale Ave. in Brandon. This year's format will include lectures, demonstrations and discussion on evacuation routes and shelter. Proceeds from concessions will benefit the Boots and Bridles 4-H Club. For more information, call (813) 643-7177 or visit horseexpo.org.

Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor/community news. Contact her at (727) 893-8874 or sgadsden@sptimes.com.

Todd Yost, St. Petersburg's new lobbyist, better learn fast 04/27/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 7:29pm]

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