By Shane Nicholson
Mayor Larry Morrissey finally announced last week what had come to feel inevitable: the 46-year-old would not be seeking a fourth term in next year’s mayoral election.
“Well, it’s pretty simple,” he told me in a phone interview Friday. “I’m not running for re-election next year.” And with that, months of swirling rumors went out the window.
It wasn’t exactly the best-kept secret in town by the time the release from his office calling a 3:30 Friday afternoon press conference at City Hall hit inboxes. Multiple sources had told this paper that Morrissey would forgo another shot at Rockford’s top seat, and the mayor’s campaign had not been in fundraising mode for some time.
But even if he had come to terms with the decision months prior, Morrissey was still emotional describing his exit Friday and how he plans to handle the transition to the city’s new top executive.
“I love the job and I love the people I’ve been able to work with,” he said, “but I feel like the timing is right for someone else to move into the job.”
“There’s a mixture of sadness, but I feel very optimistic about the city’s future,” he added. “I’m not planning on endorsing any candidates right now, but I’ll be watching with interest as the campaigns unfold and that could change between now and the election.”
Reactions to the news were mixed, to say the least. Morrissey can still claim a number of supporters in the community but – as with anyone who’s been in such a job for so long – many felt the time for change was overdue. “Thank god,” said one Facebook commentator. “Best news I’ve heard in a long time!” exclaimed another.
But the old devil you know adage comes to mind. Morrissey was, like any other politician with hopes and promises on the public record, far from perfect, and we have the quips and notes and soundbytes to prove it.
But he was a competent leader in a city that has undergone drastic changes during his tenure. Could someone else have done better? Maybe. We don’t know, and that’s the dangerous game we now all get to play in selecting his successor next spring.