In a passionate, nine minute speech, Covington Mayor Kim Carter announced Monday night that she will not be running for reelection this November.
Though she felt the city had accomplished much during her single term in office, she said she would not run for reelection when some fellow council members were actively working to oppose her and weaken the power of the mayor.
"Rather than seek common ground, we have some council members who daily question the authority of the mayor and who wish now to amend the city charter to secure more weakening of the power of the mayor," she said. "Some folks worry about who gets to pick the next city manager, worry more about that than that the transition is smooth and the city remains in seasoned, reasonable hands of stewardship beyond Mr. Horton.
"I find it hard to imagine campaigning for another four years, when the reality that the outcomes of what I would campaign on are dependent on this council. And I quite frankly have lost a bit of faith in the wisdom of some actions, and so; therefore, I announce tonight I will not be seeking another term as the mayor of the city of Covington."
Acknowledging that the council had become a divided body, and that personal issues played into that division, she said she hoped the city would be able to move past that after she leaves office.
"I can only hope that with my exit, the council will set aside personal agendas, and turn to doing what is best for all of the citizens of Covington. My heart is extremely heavy with sadness. The journey that we started four years ago is only started, and we've got so much left to do," she said.
However, despite a desire to continue that work, Carter said the actions of some council members made it clear that she would struggle to achieve any of her goals.
"Council meetings have sometimes become the opposite of team work with surprise motions, premeditated agenda amendments, prearranged votes, some whispered conversations and a general refusal of some to discuss the business of the people in the light of day," she said.Among her proudest accomplishments, she listed the lowering and stabilization of electricity rates and the addition of affordable housing, including a $9 million private senior affordable housing complex.
She also focused on her efforts to make government more transparent and accessible by publishing agendas a week in advance of council meetings, allowing two public comments sections during meetings and listing her cell phone on the city's website.
In lieu of being mayor, Carter said she will devote more time to her accounting and bookkeeping business, BusinessWorks Solutions, and return to a normal life with her husband, Maurice.
Carter had not officially announced a bid for reelection, but had told The News previously she was planning to run.
The only mayoral candidates to declare so far are Ronnie Johnston, a semi-retired entrepreneur, and Bobby Sigman, a real estate agent and former city councilman and state representative.
Mayor Carter's full speech: (the subheads, "The Good Times" and "The Bad Times" subheads have been added by The News, to represent the two halves of Carter's speech, using her own analogy of "A Tale of Two Cities.")
The Good Times
You know it's been four years since Keith and I took office and Janet was re-upped again and it really passes very quickly. Almost in the blink of an eye. If anyone ever wants to see how fast time flies just serve in elected office.
One of the proudest most thrilling nights of my life was the evening of Nov. 6, 2007 when I won the election. And campaigning, while it was hard and exhausting, I was extremely grateful and am still extremely grateful to serve the city where I was born and raised. Little did I know then that getting elected was going to be the easiest part of the job.
It's been a blur over the past four years, and I am reminded of Charles Dickens opening line in "A Tale of Two Cities," where he says "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
The best times have been the moments that we took bold steps as a group. We took steps to secure the prosperity and well being of this great city.
We signed long-term electrical power agreements that lowered our rates from the worst in the state to the middle of the pack and sometimes better. We secured a $9 million private investment for an affordable senior housing complex. And all told we've secured some roughly $20 million in private investments and partnerships over the last 2.5 years to continue to our work to with the (Covington) Redevelopment Authority and to further advert real estate prices. We're spurring revitalization.
The war on poverty that President Johnson started some nearly 50 years ago may be never ending, but I feel very certain that we have fought and won so many battles here in Covington over the last four years. And in the end, that's all we can do is to do our best and try. The best times have also included actions to make government more transparent, fair and accessible to all.
We began televising our meetings, published the agenda a week in advance. We changed our agenda so that citizens' comment can come first, and not only do they have one time to speak, they have two times to speak.
The day I took office, my personal cell phone number is on our website and is on my business card and people are still shocked to this day when they get a live human being that's the mayor that answers the phone and not a voicemail or assistant.
We've also streamlined our government and begun to operate more like a business where possible. We've cut some $20 million from our budget over the last four years and have made a great, great use of technology, and those were all good items and I'm very proud of that and very proud to have served with you all in making that happen.
The Bad Times
But sadly these have been some bad times too.
I've said in my campaign, and I say it every time I'm asked to speak, I'm not a politician, I am a elected official and I am a public servant, first and foremost.
But anyone that's been paying attention to events inside this chamber and outside this chamber the past few years has witnessed many tensions and seen the struggles.
No one up here or in the city government will deliberately do harm to the city or its people. But there are some that are more concerned with controlling the reigns of political power than ensuring that the ends achieved make us worthy of that power.
Council meetings have sometimes become the opposite of team work with surprise motions, premeditated agenda amendments, prearranged votes, some whispered conversations and a general refusal of some to discuss the business of the people in the light of day.
We spent months - months - crafting a strategic plan only to have the council adopt the plan and then immediately vote away several core elements without explanation or acknowledgement.
We go through the motions of teamwork but there is an agenda that seems to supersede one or more people here.
For some, winning the argument, any argument, seems to be the end justifying all means. And I will be the first to readily accept and welcome differences of opinion, strong debate and dissenting voices, in fact, that's the basis for all good government and all good business.
But deliberate attempts to deny the people we serve an open, transparent, honest and reasoned discussion of the actions is a serious violation of the open, transparent city government I campaigned for four years ago, is something I cannot live with and is something as mayor I am powerless to stop.
The mayor's authority to lead and represent our city to the rest of the world is not drawn from the words in this charter book or our ordinances. The authority is derived from this council and the city leadership that is united by a clear vision, a common purpose and a shared commitment.
When teamwork fails, the ship cannot sail.
Rather than seek common ground, we have some council members who daily question the authority of the mayor and who wish now to amend the city charter to secure more weakening of the power of the mayor. Some folks worry about who gets to pick the next city manager, worry more about that than that the transition is smooth and the city remains in seasoned, reasonable hands of stewardship beyond Mr. Horton.
I find it hard to imagine campaigning for another four years, when the reality that the outcomes of what I would campaign on are dependent on this council. And I quite frankly have lost a bit of faith in the wisdom of some actions, and so; therefore, I announce tonight I will not be seeking another term as the mayor of the city of Covington.
I have never been one to shy away or run away from a challenge, but sometimes when obstacles are members of your own team, it's a no-win situation and it is sad to see our government at all levels lose so much civility.
The last thing I want to do is to make this personal or disrespect a single person here. We have all made deep personal sacrifices to serve. But sadly some of this has become personal, and when the vital task of leadership is lost in a sea of petty squabbles, the business of our people suffers.
I can only hope that with my exit, the council will set aside personal agendas, and turn to doing what is best for all of the citizens of Covington. My heart is extremely heavy with sadness. The journey that we started four years ago is only started, and we've got so much left to do.
Poverty remains a daily burden on our people and the weight which holds us back economically as a community. But we are making progress and we have.
Our county's economy still staggers as others in our region recover. And I want to make this very clear: the city of Covington is poised to provide the sparks of a sustained recovery. We have very bold plans crafted by very, very smart people, and the means - financial and otherwise - to make great things happen.
But plans without a unified commitment to act are useless. I believe deeply in the course this council has charted with Mr. Horton and his leadership team. I believe it wholeheartedly, but it's clear every day that we will not ever get there like this. And, so it is my time to leave.
I have a business that I have long neglected that is in the need of much attention. My husband Maurice and I have a home life that we have both pushed far back on the back burner, and it's time for a normal life again.
Still I remain committed as ever to doing all that I can to bringing prosperity and quality of life to all the people of Covington. I will find a time and place outside the government realm where I can make a difference. I sought the office of mayor because I believe actions speak much louder than words. It is our duty to do our part in service and not sit smugly taking pot shots at those who make the effort, and I thank all of these folks up here for making the effort. My passion to serve remains, but this particularly journey has run its course.
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve and to work with so many fine people. I pledge my support to help with the transition to the new mayor, whomever that may be. I've made mistakes, as we all have, but I will ensure that I've never given anything to this job less than my very best effort.
And, until Dec. 31, I will remain for the rest of my days in this office, your humble public servant. Thank you.