Holliday is out of the race


If there were gaming parlors in Greensboro that took action on the mayor’s race, bookmakers might have put the odds on Keith Holliday’s candidacy at even money. Sure, he’s a popular figure in the city and likely would have won handily his fifth term as Greensboro’s No. 1 citizen – in the last election he ran unopposed.

But then there’s this: Holliday’s city council has been under repeated fire this last term as a police scandal unraveled and a report concerning a shooting between quarrelling political groups that happened in 1979 divided the council along racial lines. The past two years have seen a surge of new media in the city – including a burgeoning blogosphere and this publication – that came with criticism from new corners and an increased demand for transparency.

Plus he still holds a day job as a banker.

So Holliday’s press conference at the Depot last week could have gone either way, but as it stands only those who bet against him will collect.

Holliday, who took office in 1999 after two terms on the city council, was the right mayor at the right time. During his tenure the area has seen the collapse of the textile industry, the Project Homestead scandal and the aforementioned Truth and Reconciliation Commission, all of which served to create pressure between different interest groups in the city. Also, during Holliday’s time in office, the city ran out of water. The formation of groups like Action Greensboro and Downtown Greensboro Inc., and the issuance of corporate incentives to lure business like FedEx and HondaJet to the region did much to balance the scales.

But Holliday’s greatest talent was to fill the role of consensus builder, a skill in much demand as the city experienced developmental growing pains over the past eight years and the disparate voices needed to know they were being heard.

But different times demand a different mayor. Our reinvigorated downtown is now bustling with projects and also empty storefronts after several retail businesses failed in the last 12 months. Latino and Asian populations continue to grow but have yet to attain adequate representation on our government boards. There are issues on the table: living wages and same-sex partner benefits and eminent domain. There is still not enough water.

Which brings us to the future.

Our next leader should be less of a listener and more of a doer – one who will still take the concerns of the citizens to heart, but will be unencumbered by the desire to make nice and instead push an agenda that will take the city to the next level in terms of its development.

We are ready for a tiger, a dynamic mayor like Mayor John Hickenlooper of Denver, a restaurateur who cleaned out political insiders in city government, or Atlanta’s Shirley Franklin who, while slashing the city budget, took a personal salary cut and established 22 miles of green space in her city.

No doubt that in the wake of Keith Holliday’s announcement there will be many candidacies that will surface. As we evaluate them, we will be asking ourselves if they have what it takes to help this city turn the corner.