After four decades in office, the man who has been called America’s mayor is stepping down in January.
Joe Riley ran for mayor of Charleston in 1975 – telling his wife he would only serve one term. Now nearing the end of his 10th term, Riley has shepherded the Holy City through events such as Hurricane Hugo and the massacre of nine men and women in a Charleston church.
During his time in office, the Charleston native has shown himself unafraid of dramatic gestures and controversial positions. In 2000, he organized a march to Columbia to protest the Confederate flag flown from the State House. In the wake of the shooting in June, Riley condemned the ease of obtaining guns in the United States.
As one of the state’s most prominent Democrats, Riley successfully navigated the ebb and flow of his party’s popularity in South Carolina during his 40 years as mayor. Though he’s taking leave of the political game he played so well for so long, he said in 2011 he sees the party making a comeback — and he left his comrades in arms with some simple words of wisdom.
“"The country, over time, likes leaders that get things done, that do things," he said.
Glen Luke Flanagan