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Mayor Damon offers thoughts on decision not to run for re-election

EDITOR'S NOTE: Mayor Larry Damon offered the following explanation by e-mail when I asked him about his decision not to run for re-election. It is reprinted with his permission.

When I ran for office in 1997, I wanted to accomplish several things. To
mention just a few, I wanted to institute modern management practices at
City Hall, especially in the areas of budget development, financial
operations and performance accountability. I also wanted to get
Redevelopment under control, have it pay its debt to the City, stop the
City's interference at the Plaza and let commercial market forces take over
its revitalization. I also wanted to begin restoration of our decaying
infrastructure (e.g.,the Swim Center, streets, etc.).

These are just a few examples but, to my great satisfaction and with the
help of a lot of dedicated people, it seems that most of what I wanted have
either happened or are in progress. Of course, I did l not realize the
level of management turnover it would take for these things to occur, but I
will say that I am VERY pleased with the performance of our new City
Manager. I truly believe that after four years of hard work, we are
positioned for a renaissance in El Cerrito.

Evaluating the progress made, it seems that many of the people and
organizations that were initially ambivalent or opposed to me have been won
over. Possibly, this is a result of my moving more towards the middle.
Upon becoming Mayor, I did this believing that the person in the "middle
seat" has to be more of a facilitator than an advocate. Unfortunately (or
maybe not), some of the extremists that previously supported me feel this is
seditious. Support from that sector has divided a little. Nevertheless, and
considering all this, I am advised that with an expanded support base, being
an incumbent Mayor with plenty of name recognition, having the resources to
mount an aggressive professionally run campaign and the free time to walk
precincts at least twice, there is a very high probability that I would be
re-elected. This is all great, except for one thing. I don't want to.

Why? Several reasons. I am very pleased with all that has been
accomplished over the last four years. I have been told that many of the
changes which put El Cerrito on a new course would not have happened if I
had not been elected in 1997. This is very comforting. With such comfort,
however, comes reduced incentives. The course change has been made and,
while a lot of implementation work remains, this kind of work does not
present the challenge that attracted me four years ago. Besides, we have
several excellent candidates waiting in the wings, including Letitia Moore
and Bea O'Keefe.

Then there is the issue of changing personal priorities. At 65, a person
looks a lot more carefully at what they want to accomplish than does a
person at, say, 45. Where younger people on their way up might be driven by
recognition and accolades, these priorities become less meaningful later on.
Like all young people, I enjoyed many such things while marking my mark in
the engineering, management and research world. I have found, however, that
the standards of achievement in local politics are not that high. And,
while being referred to as "the Honorable" and "Mayor" might seem
significant, the title I now enjoy the most is "Grandpa". Like most
"Grandpa's", I have learned my lesson. Children don't wait. My own kids
got away from me while I was consumed with career and doing the Council job
right requires the same level of commitment. I am not going to make the
same mistake twice. As a result, my personal priorities have shifted to
being the best Grandpa EVER (even better than my own).

Of course, I will continue with some level of involvement (much to the
chagrin of those whose penurious attitudes would run the City into the
ground). I also believe that the free hand which comes with being out of
office will allow me to more effectively counter some of our
anti-development nuts or those who otherwise discourage investment in El

Regards, Larry Damon

Run dates: 2001-07-02 - 2001-07-23

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