Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington, who won approval for a 1-percent sales tax to hire 100 police officers and improve public safety, won’t seek a second term for the office next year, a source close to the mayor said Thursday.
Wetherington, 71, has told close friends he would like to spend more time with his family. He will be 72 in November and 73 by the time he leaves office in January 2011.
Publicly, the mayor said no decision has been made about his political future. “Later this fall, I will make an announcement about my future plans in the office,” Wetherington said Thursday.
A decision not to run for a second term leaves former Mayor Bobby Peters as the only two -term leader since consolidation in 1971. Peters, who also served on Columbus Council, is now a judge in Muscogee Superior Court.
At least one Columbus councilor, Wayne Anthony, confirmed his interest in running for the office. In 2006, Anthony said he would wait until 2010 to consider a run for the office and he is sticking to that plan. “I’d like to continue building on what Mayor Wetherington has done,” Anthony, 59, said. “He has done a great deal to make the city a safer place.”
Wetherington emerged as the winner in the November 2006 election, riding a wave of support throughout the city to upset incumbent Bob Poydasheff. He took office in 2007 and won approval of a 1-percent sales tax last year to improve public safety, make improvements to roads and complete other capital projects.
The city has hired 76 of the 100 police officers and a committee has drafted qualifications and duties for a director to lead the mayor’s Office of Crime Prevention. With a focus on recreation, education, drug and alcohol prevention and intervention, employment and community policing, the director would coordinate programs by community groups to reduce crime. Wetherington has said he’s working to make Columbus the safest city in the nation.
In addition to the public safety improvements, Wetherington played a major role in securing the NCR manufacturing plant and 870 new jobs to Columbus.
Councilor Glenn Davis hadn’t heard about the mayor’s plans but said Wetherington had the support of citizens if he ran for a second term. The mayor has been a great public servant, he said. “Jim is at that age where he basically came out of retirement to serve the public and give back to his city,” Davis said. “In my opinion that equates to sacrifice. It would be selfish of me to see him serve another term knowing there are so many things he could be doing. Certainly, there are a lot of things he could be doing from an enjoyment-of-life standpoint.”
Davis said the mayor has been a role model to him. “I always have the greatest respect for Jim and what he’s done,” Davis said. “He is a role model. I have learned a lot from him. I respect and look up to him.”
Wetherington has served the city for almost four decades. He served 36 years in the Columbus Police Department, including 14 years as chief of police. He also served on the state Board of Pardon and Paroles under Gov. Zell Miller and commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections under Gov. Roy Barnes before returning to Columbus in 2004.Contact Ben Wright at 706-571-8576