Saying the timing was right, longtime Columbus Councilor Skip Henderson is ready to run for mayor with six successful citywide campaigns to his credit.
Henderson, 58, made his announcement in the community room of the Citizens Service Center Thursday afternoon with about 75 supporters gathered around him.
During his announcement, Henderson said he expects crime to be a central issue in the campaign to replace Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who can not seek re-election after eight years because of term limits.
“Every government’s stock priority should be safety for its people,” Henderson said. “And there are folks in the community who don’t feel safe. Now, those ripples go out and touch a lot of different shores. It touches housing. It touches workforce development. It touches building jobs so that these folks that get the jobs can have a good liveable wage.”
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The group attending the announcement included family, friends, four current Columbus councilors — Evelyn Turner Pugh, Judy Thomas, Mike Baker and Gary Allen — and one retired councilor, Jack Rodgers.
“What it says is we are more than willing to support his candidacy,” Thomas said. “It is a good thing for the city of Columbus. It is not a foregone conclusion that council will support one of its own.”
Turner Pugh agreed, calling Henderson a caring and humble individual.
“He does not shoot off at the mouth,” Turner Pugh said. “He gets the information and does his homework.”
Henderson has been elected to six Columbus Council terms, facing opposition each time. His first race was 1996, when he defeated Columbus eye doctor Stephen Hollis in a runoff. He won re-election last year with 59 percent of the vote over Columbus attorney Teddy Reese.
Because the mayoral election will fall in the middle of Henderson’s four-year term, he would have to resign if he officially qualified in March to run for mayor. Qualifying for the city race will be March 5-9, 2018. The election is scheduled for May 22, 2018.
In making his announcement, Henderson admitted that it’s “kind of early,” with qualifying more than five months away and the election nearly eight months off.
“One of the reasons is there have been a lot of questions in the community — ‘Is he running, is he not?’ — and it was beginning to be a distraction to other people in the community,” Henderson said. “We felt compelled to let people know we are going to be on the ballot next year.”
Henderson, a lifelong Columbus resident and graduate of Columbus High and Columbus State University, considered a run for the mayor’s office in 2010 when Tomlinson was elected, but opted to remain in his council seat.
“It was not a good time for me personally,” Henderson said of the reasons he did not run eight years ago. “My kids were younger, and it just wasn’t right for our family.”
Former Muscogee County School Board member Beth Harris has announced her intention to run for mayor, as has Charles Roberts, a operations analyst lead at TSYS.