Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

TOP STORY >> Swaim could run again

BY RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Aldermen wish the Jacksonville mayor, who said in 2002 he wouldn’t run again, would make up his mind.

Jacksonville’s 2006 political races rest on the shoulders of Mayor Tommy Swaim.

When elected for his fifth term in 2004, Swaim said it would be his last, but he is now reconsidering, and a number of aldermen are waiting on the mayor to make a decision.

Swaim has not publicly decided yet. “My wife and I have discussed it, and I’ve discussed it with friends, but have made no decision at this time,” the mayor said Tuesday.

He said four years ago this term would be his last, but back in 2002, he didn’t know that there would be so much unfinished business, such as the new library, the police and fire training center and the joint education center near the air base.

Even though independent candidates for Jacksonville offices don’t have to file until May, Alderman Kenny Elliott says he plans to run again, but he doesn’t know if it’ll be for his council seat again or the mayor’s office. “I’m waiting for the mayor to decide.” Elliott said, planning not to run against the incumbent if he goes for a sixth term.

Alderman Gary Fletcher may also run for mayor if Swaim steps aside. If he runs for mayor it’ll be his third try. “The first time I was 28 and too young, the second time I was controversial,” Fletcher said. Now at 50, he feels neither one of those are a factor. Sounding like a candidate, Fletcher said that revitalizing downtown and getting its own school district are the top two issues facing the city.

Currently, the entire council, plus the mayor, city clerk and city attorney positions are up for reelection.

If Swaim decides to go for another round, Fletcher more than likely will announce for the city council again. “It’ll give me 32 years of service,” he said.

Alderman Bob Stroud, who said he doesn’t plan to sign up forever, does plan another run for another term on the council, adding, “I hope the mayor stays. We really need his continued leadership for the next couple of years,” Stroud said.
Alderman Marshall Smith said he wasn’t sure yet, but most likely would run for another term on the city council.

Alderman Linda Rinker, who has enjoyed her first full term as an alderman, plans to run again. “And I’ll be promoting education every chance I get,” said the former principal.

The other woman on the council, Alderman Avis Twitty, also plans to run for reelection.

Aldermen Reedie Ray and Terry Sansing also look forward to another term on the council.

Alderman Bill Howard also plans to run for the city council again, but his top concern was for Alderman Robert Lewis, who has been in the hospital the past three weeks with his ongoing battle against cancer. “We need to keep him in our prayers and hope he gets well enough to run again, if he wishes.”

For all the council candidates, this year marks the beginning of four-year staggered terms for aldermen.

All Position 1 seats in the city’s five wards will be four-year terms. Position 2 seats will be two-year terms, but in 2008 will revert to four-year terms, meaning only half the council will be up for reelection at a time.