Sunday, December 4, 2011

Four More Years

Congrats to Mayor Joe Riley on his recent re-election to a 10th term as mayor of the Holy City. I was but a mere child (well, teenager) when he was first elected 36 years ago. I didn't have much interest in things political at the time, but I can certainly remember a few of the huge changes this city experienced early in his tenure - and how they were met with some resistance by many folks at the time. One of my first memories was the revitalization of the City Market. At the time (1977), the market was very seedy - a lot of warehouses (some vacant) and a lot of bums hanging around the area, even during the daytime. In fact, I wouldn't have even ventured into the area in the nighttime - and wouldn't have had any reason to. My college friend Eddie had a part-time job in one of the packing sheds, and there were some black women selling vegetables in the open air sheds. But those weren't really reason enough to venture into the area, even in broad daylight. Alas, we heard that a "nice bar" was opening in the area - Frances Willard's (named for a tee-totaller during Prohibition). It seemed strange to think of a respectable establishment in that area, but it was great, and before you knew it, several others popped up. And vendors began renting space in the open air sheds to sell all kinds of things from tee-shirts to shot glasses to framed prints. (My sister worked for her boyfriend's father selling glasses and trivets at one of the booths.) Well, hasn't this place come a long way from those days! From there, other projects emerged under the mayor's guidance (and sometimes suggestion) - Spoleto USA, Charleston Place, Waterfront Park, the SC Aquarium, the Official Visitors Center, the Upper King Street Revitalization. I'll stop there, but each of these projects were met initially with reticence by many Charlestonians. But look at where they've gotten us. Thanks, Mayor Riley, for 36 years of your vision in helping to guide this city to the prominence it deserves.

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