Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings has formally announced he will not run for a sixth term in office, ending a political career spanning more than three decades.
There was no shortage of applause, glad-handing, and backslapping at Albany City Hall Wednesday morning as Mayor Jerry Jennings, a Democrat, publicly announced what he had previously revealed in an open letter sent to members of the press and city officials Tuesday night announcing his intention not to seek reelection.
“The time has come,” he said. “I made a decision, I weighed everything very carefully.”
While marking the end of this chapter of his nearly four decade career in public service, first as a teacher and administrator with Albany City Schools and then as a common councilmember and mayor, Jennings dispelled any notions of resignation or an otherwise “lame duck” administration to finish his final term.
“I have a lot of work to do over the next 7 ½ months, so don’t think we’re slowing down,” he said.
In his remarks, Jennings thanked the city’s department heads and members of the Albany Common Council. He also summarized his nearly 20-year mayoral tenure, recalling his thoughts in the days following his 1994 inauguration, which followed his surprise election.
“Now what do I do? What do I do now?” he recollected.
“I tried to do what was best for everyone, tried to bring the city together as one neighborhood. We’ve had a lot of great success stories,” he said, citing investment and new citywide initiatives, but with the caveat that, “there’s still work to do.”
Jennings’ announcement came just hours before the full Albany County Democratic Committee was set to meet to designate candidates for several offices up for election this year, including mayor.
Jennings reportedly had received the backing of the Democrats’ candidate review committee at its meeting this past Saturday, but the endorsement of the party’s executive committee was reportedly awarded to Albany City Treasurer Kathy Sheehan, who announced her mayoral candidacy last month.
Former Common Councilor and 11th Ward Democratic Leader Corey Ellis is also a candidate for the nomination.
The mayor was asked if he was disappointed in his treatment by the committee.
“Nah, not really,” he said, calling it “no big deal” and adding that he hadn’t met directly with the full committee but had provided them with information and spoken with individual members about his future plans.
Rumors have been swirling as to who else might enter the race for weeks prior to Jennings’ announcement.
Albany Common Councilor Barbara Smith, who is supporting Sheehan in this year’s primary after endorsing Corey Ellis in 2009, tells WAMC that it’s probably too late for anyone else to successfully enter the race.
“There are so many parts of a city wide campaign,” Smith said, adding that only a “stealth candidate” might be able to start a campaign at this point with a chance at making the ballot.
Asked how she might differ from Jennings if she becomes the city’s next mayor, Kathy Sheehan tells WAMC that the issues facing Albany today aren’t necessarily the problems of 20 years ago.
“The city faces some real challenges,” she said. “We have a structural deficit and we face some fiscal challenges that are very different than what we faced in the past.”
To the next mayor, Jennings offered this advice.
“Just believe in what you’re doing,” he said.
“It’s not an 8-5 job, it’s 24-7,” he added, drawing laughter from officials at the mention of how his staff has aged during his time in office.
“This is one neighborhood, it’s not 15,” he said. “Everyone is the same and that’s how you have to operate.”
While Jennings has presided over several major projects and technological improvements in the city, crime has remained a concern for constituents and is likely to become an issue in the coming campaign.
Jennings is the second longest-serving mayor in the city’s history next to Erastus Corning II, who held the office for 41 years.