By CHERIL VERNON
Palestine Mayor Bob Herrington announced this week he would not be seeking a third term as mayor.
“Before I ran for mayor, I served 12 years on the Planning and Zoning Committee for the city, so all together with my four years as mayor I have given 16 years of public service,” Herrington said during a phone interview with the Herald-Press Wednesday. “There are some things I want to do for myself right now and I believe it is time to hand over the reins to someone else.”
Uniquely, Herrington served as mayor exactly 50 years after his father, the late Johnnie Herrington, served as mayor from 1959 to 1963.
“My father used to say that those who live in the community derive benefits from the community and therefore should give back to the community via public service in some shape, form or fashion,” Herrington said. “I feel I have done that and it’s now time for other people to step up.”
Growing up, Herrington watched his father’s involvement, but never considered running for public office as an option.
“My years on the Planning and Zoning Committee helped me gain confidence and made me realize that a normal, average person could do the job once you learn there is a way and method of doing things and being a steward of the system,” Herrington said.
Herrington said he hopes his legacy as mayor will be taking the city in a slightly different direction.
“There was a big changeover at city hall in 2010 and I believe the end result was better working relationships between city hall and the people who apply for permits compared to in the past,” Herrington said. “We also worked hard to streamline ordinances, making them easier to understand not only for the citizens but for the staff and council members. Why have a 300-page document when 50 pages is sufficient? The city staff are on board and excited about those changes.”
Herrington said he encouraged city staff to suggest changes that needed to be made in ordinances.
“The entire environment is a whole lot better than it used to be,” the mayor said. “That was a group effort, not just me. If anything, I allowed people to reach their potential by instead of me deciding what to do, I stepped out of the way and asked them if they had ideas to bring them out and we would make it work.”
While Herrington had certain goals he hoped to achieve while mayor, other issues came up along the way that sometimes led to different results.
“We made progress and turned things around and I definitely feel better about the direction our city is going. I feel I did the best I could,” Herrington said. “I did have some ideas about what I wanted to do, but was sidetracked with issues that I never dreamed would come up, but that’s what keeps it interesting and diverse.”
Herrington encouraged Palestine citizens to get involved in their local government.
“I urge people to attend city council meetings, or watch the meetings on TV, get informed and get in touch with council members,” Herrington said. “I would encourage people to stay in contact with their city council members more than they do now. It’s great to talk about an issue in the coffee shop, but if it stays there and doesn’t go any further, then we don’t really know what’s on their mind. Make your viewpoint known. If input from citizens is absent, decisions will still be made. Let us hear your thoughts before the decision is made by telling us ‘I support this’ or ‘I don’t support this.’”
On a personal level, Herrington plans to spend more time remodeling his childhood home.
“To me, it’s home. The house needs work and I want to bring it back to life,” Herrington said. “It’s special to me because I grew up there — lots of fine memories and a great neighborhood.”
Herrington also plans to continue his morning radio show on KNET 95.7 FM and 1450 AM after leaving the mayoral office.
“I plan to continue the radio show. The next mayor can have as much time on the show to talk about issues as they want,” Herrington said.
Herrington said he sees a bright future ahead for the City of Palestine.
“Things may develop in 2013 that are very positive. Key people are in the right places and I think good things are going to happen.”
The City of Palestine will be opening up the filing period for mayor and city council seats at the end of this month.
City elections will be held in May.