(Updated) Meeker era to end: Mayor won't run for a 6th term | Citizen | Indy Week
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

(Updated) Meeker era to end: Mayor won't run for a 6th term

Posted by on Tue, Apr 26, 2011 at 10:04 AM

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Mayor Charles Meeker has a press conference this morning at 10. He'll announce that five terms as mayor is enough and he won't seek a sixth. Meeker was first elected in 2001, defeating incumbent Paul Coble and ending a decade of conservative leadership in Raleigh under ex-mayor Tom Fetzer and then, for two years, Coble. Meeker's motto was to "lead from the middle." During his tenure, downtown Raleigh came back to life with the reopening of Fayetteville Street and construction of the new Raleigh Convention Center. The opening next weekend of the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM Raleigh) on West Martin Street in the warehouse district is another feather in Meeker's cap and evidence of his steady, if quiet support for the arts. Meeker was also a reliable pro-developer vote, backing such ill-fated schemes as the 42-story Soleil Center at Crabtree Valley along with winners like the North Hills redevelopment.

Meeker supported bus and rail transit alternatives for Raleigh, but during his 10 years in office, transit advanced very little due to conservative opposition at the county level. He did help initiate the downtown R-Line.

When he steps down in December, his 10 years in the post will tie him with Avery Upchurch (1983-93) for longest-serving mayor of Raleigh.

We've reported previously that City Councilor Nancy McFarlane, an independent (unaffiliated voter) who's been a Meeker ally during her two terms in office, will seek the mayor's post. No Republican candidates have emerged as yet, nor Democrats for that matter. McFarlane is hoping to do what Meeker did — run from the middle but be an acceptable choice for most Democratic voters. We'll see. Her launch is in two weeks, I'm told.

(Update 4: Things are moving — one Randy Stagner has a Council candidacy website; he doesn't say, but I believe he's looking to be McFarlane's replacement in District A.)

(UPDATE: McFarlane isn't making a formal announcement yet. But I'm hearing that it won't be two weeks — more like a couple of days. Without a party base to run from (or run on), she needs to fill the vacuum before someone else does. Meeker was asked if he'll endorse someone in the mayor's race. Not yet, he said, but once the field is set, he may make his preference known. I didn't attend the press conference, but a good source took notes; I'll follow up with a bit more in a few minutes.)

(UPDATE 2: OK, the bells are ringing. Two sources say McFarlane will announce tomorrow morning. A major fundraiser is on tap for mid-May.)

(UPDATE 3: Meeker, ordinarily a study in self-control, "was as emotional as I've ever seen him," a friend says. He said his favorite moment as mayor was watching the old civic center get blown up and, as it was leveled, the wonderful view opened up again on Fayetteville Street from Memorial Auditorium to the State Capital. Yeah, that was a good one. Regrets? The Lightner Center; the issue of a new public safety center must be addressed soon by City Council, Meeker said. He'll be remembered by the press for downtown revitalization (true—see above), he said, but Meeker thought his most enduring work was in the planning area (new Comp Plan, new zoning code in the works, greenways expanded, parks bonds passed and executed) and in sustainability — with Raleigh named recently by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the best mid-sized American city for sustainable environmental practices. His advice to a successor: The mayor has no real powers except through consensus on the City Council — ergo, you have to find the middle and bring other councilors to it.)

***

(Update 5) And the city staff loved him. Official press release is below the fold. Before you look, how many mayors has Raleigh had under its current form of government?

Mayor Meeker Not Running For Re-election

Mayor Charles Meeker announced today that he will not run for a record-setting sixth term.

“Being Mayor is like being in a race. I’m on my tenth lap and it’s time to hand off the baton to another runner,” Mayor Meeker said during a morning press conference at his office in the Avery C. Upchurch Government Complex.

Mayor Meeker was first elected to the office in 2001. His five two-year terms as mayor ties him with the late Avery C. Upchurch as Raleigh’s longest serving mayors. Mr. Upchurch served the City as mayor from 1983-1993.

Mayor Meeker is the 16th person to serve as mayor of North Carolina’s capital since Raleigh adopted the council-manager form of government in 1947. Prior to his election as mayor, he served on the City Council from 1985-89 and from 1991-95.

During Mayor Meeker’s 10 years of service as mayor, Raleigh has been widely recognized as one of the best cities in America in which to live, work and play. Mayor Meeker advocated for downtown development, including the reopening of Fayetteville Street to vehicular traffic and construction of the Raleigh Convention Center, the four-star Marriott Hotel that connects to the convention center, City Plaza and the Raleigh Amphitheater. He is also a supporter of creating a light rail system connecting Raleigh to Durham, Research Triangle Park and Chapel Hill

In addition, Mayor Meeker has been in the forefront of making Raleigh a leader in sustainability. In his State of the City address on March 14, the mayor said more should be done to make Raleigh an even “greener” city. On April 12, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce awarded Raleigh one of its 2011 Siemens Sustainable Community Awards for “a range of factors including its commitment to developing a ‘green economy.’” Raleigh was honored as the mid-size community.

Among Raleigh’s sustainability efforts:

· Raleigh is a national leader in being prepared for the rollout of plug-in electric vehicles in the coming years. The City has installed three public charging stations for plug-in electric vehicles since last November, and is planning a total of 30 stations by December;
· Raleigh became America’s first LED City four years ago. It has expanded the use of LED lighting in and around City-owned buildings. The City’s energy savings from using the LED lights amount to $165,171 annually and overall savings, including maintenance, totals $226,611 per year. The LED lights also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1,286 tons per year ;
· The City has enacted a standard for energy efficiency using the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for City-owned buildings. The Raleigh Convention Center is one of the nation’s two convention centers to receive Silver certification. The City’s transit operations facility, scheduled to open in May, is vying for the top rating level —- Platinum LEED certification;
· Development of solar photovoltaic array projects to produce clean and inexpensive energy; and,
· A green building training certification program for the public.

An attorney, Mayor Meeker is a partner with the firm Parker, Poe, Adams & Bernstein L.L.P. He has been active in community affairs in Raleigh since 1975, the year he moved to the city after receiving his law degree from Columbia University. He is married to Dr. Anne McLaurin, a member of the Wake County Board of Education.

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