The Bill Foster Interview: Complete transcript

More from CL's one-on-one with St. Pete's mayor.

click to enlarge The Bill Foster Interview: Complete transcript - Photo by Shanna Gillette
Photo by Shanna Gillette
The Bill Foster Interview: Complete transcript

CL Contributor Arielle Stevenson sat down for an in-depth interview with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster on Friday February 17. She wrote up the interview for a story published Mar. 1 in CL. Here's the complete transcript of their conversation.

Arielle Stevenson: Can you walk me through a typical day for you?

Bill Foster: Wow, yeah I can. Let me use a visual aid [pulls out iPhone]. Today for example, Friday, is a kind of a light day. I did a radio interview on WQYK this morning at 6:30 a.m., did another one at 8:30 on the MJ Morning Show. It’s his last day,

So what time did you wake up this morning?

I got up at about 5:30.

Is that usual for you?

Between 5:30-6. I had a 9 o’clock appointment, a 10 o’clock staff meeting, 11 appointment, 12 working lunch, 2 budget meeting, that just let out, and now 3:30 with you. After this, I’ll meet with my assistant and go over next week’s calendar. At 5 p.m. going to Wood Fired Pizza to honor their opening and then I am off, this is a Friday. Then I’ll leave there and spend a little time with my family, then it’s back out because I am a celebrity DJ for a fundraising dance party. It’s me, Ernest Hooper, Dick Griffin and somebody from the Bucs.

Where is that?

Gulfport Casino.

So what are you going to play?

I’m doing the ’50s. I wasn’t even alive in the ’50s. Hooper got the ’80s. I would have prefered disco because I can do that. I know the disco songs. I was kind of a geek in the ’70s, I probably could have handled the ’70s pretty well. ’80s, I grew up, and got into Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kansas, Journey, Foreigner.

So what are you going to play for the ’50s?

I don’t know. Pat Boone? I have no idea.

You can play Elvis.

Yeah, Elvis. But I’m hoping they have a list. Is Marvin Gaye in the ’50s?

Yeah, I think so. You can play Chuck Berry and Etta James.

I don’t know who that is.

Etta James? You know Etta James. The song “At Last,” they play it at every wedding.

[He starts singing “At Last”] Oh, yeah, I know her.

So I’ll do that until 11 p.m., then I’ll ride through downtown just to make sure things are still there without me and then I’ll go home. So that is Friday night excitement… Yesterday, I had to speak at a funeral for a former mayor. I got there at 8:30, then I had committee meetings, staff meetings and the Pier workshop, council meeting until 8 p.m. A typical day is at least 12 hours. If I’m not working for 12 hours, then I’ve had a short day. Saturday I have a mayor’s summit which will run from 9 to about 1. So yeah, I work Saturdays. Last Saturday I spoke at the Black History Festival in the morning. The Saturday before I spoke at the CONA goals retreat, so it’s six days a week, at least five of them are 12 hours.

How do you do that?

I never stop drinking coffee, as you can see. I self-medicate with caffeine.

How do you take your coffee?

Black.

Me, too.

While I was in college, it was the first time I was out and alone in Birmingham, AL. I was poor and I decided I could live without sugar and cream. So it was an acquired taste.

What do you think is something people in the community might assume about you?

That they assume?

Yeah.

Assume…assume about me.

Or what would surprise people about you?

I think people assume that I’m kind of a square. And it’s kind of three things. I get three compliments, or at least people think they’re giving me a compliment and I guess they are. People will say, you’re better-looking in person than on TV. You’re not as fat as you appear on TV. You’re a lot more fun than I expected.

Maybe you should include a workshop on how to give compliments?

Yeah. “You’re much better-looking than your picture.” Thank you. Or “You’re not nearly as fat as I thought you were.” The better way to put that would be, “You’re much thinner than you appear on TV.” And then I’d say, “Yes, the camera adds 10 pounds.” And then, people think that I’m not funny. I’m very funny.

Why do you think people think you aren’t funny?

I think a lot of times, because the job as mayor is often not funny. The subject matter that you deal with is very serious. It’s people’s money, it’s their property, it’s their assets, it’s crime, it’s tragedy, it’s public relations. So we deal on a day-to-day basis with such a heavy subject matter that I think a lot of people don’t get to see that side of me.

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